CLEARWATER — Army Cpl. Max Marchuk was in the dentist's chair Dec. 7, 1941, when the planes struck Pearl Harbor.
By the second aerial attack, Mr. Marchuk was standing on a hillside with a machine gun, firing into the sky. Getting back to the dentist to get his cavity filled would take three years.
Mr. Marchuk, who would carry his wartime experiences though an orderly life as an appliance salesman, died Sunday, at Barrington Terrace, an assisted living facility. He was 88.
The son of Russian immigrants who lived in New Jersey, Mr. Marchuk never finished high school, working instead for the Civilian Conservation Corps and then enlisting in the Army. He was promoted to master sergeant and served as a platoon leader in Guam and Okinawa, where he engaged in hand-to-hand combat and trained soldiers in the art. He told his brother Walter, a Navy veteran, about losing all but three men in his platoon, of being attacked with bayonets, of eyeball-to-eyeball fighting in jungles.
He was discharged in July 1945, about the time he met Doris Bureau at a military base. He married her that year. Mr. Marchuk and his brother took a refrigeration course under the GI Bill and started an appliance business in New Jersey.
The brothers went their separate ways in business after a few years, with Mr. Marchuk working for himself in appliance sales. Through those years, Mr. Marchuk seldom talked about his war experiences. Nor did he accept three Purple Hearts or bother to pick up a Bronze Star he was due, his brother said.
"He said, 'Everybody got hurt. It didn't mean nothing to me,' " said Walter Marchuk, 81.
Family members describe Mr. Marchuk as a loner who "had a charming side" but did not go out of his way to socialize. After he retired and moved to Clearwater in 1974, he filled out crossword puzzles and went to Derby Lane three or four times a week.
"He walked a straight line," said daughter Gloria Patterson. "I think he thought everybody else walked a straight line, too." He donated to veterans organizations but did not join them.
In recent years, more war stories began to pour out of Mr. Marchuk, his family said.
"He told me about experiences of how his men were slaughtered one by one, how he killed so many Japanese," his brother said. "He said that the war was fought so badly that at times, he didn't even know why he was there. I guess it weighed on his mind."
Doris Marchuk developed Alzheimer's disease several years ago. Mr. Marchuk insisted on caring for her, refusing to let health care workers into the home, his family said, saying that they might steal from him.
"I think he was being strategic in his own way," said Patterson, 61. "But in reality, it was paranoia."
Doris died in 2009. Mr. Marchuk moved to Barrington Terrace, where he at last found a measure of companionship.