My Mom, who is a very good writer, wrote the following the year after my step father passed away.
Exactly 60 years ago tomorrow.
On the morning of November 12, 1944, as part of the 6th Armored Division, 21 year old Private First Class Bill Hughes was part of a crew of young men manning a Sherman tank east of the Nied River near Remilly in Northeastern France.
It turned out to be the wrong side of the river.
The morning was damp and foggy, much the same as we’ve been experiencing this past week in the Willamette Valley. He has said that it felt pretty lonely on that side of the river, as they were the lone tank that crossed a pontoon bridge before it was blown up.
He was sitting inside the tank at his post as loader, looking through a periscope. As they swung around, he saw, through the periscope, a German soldier, with the German version of a bazooka on his shoulder, stand and aim at their Sherman tank.
Bill was hollering at the gunner to “get that son-of-a-bitch,” but with the tank turning, the gunner could not find his aim. As the bazooka was fired, Bill could actually see, through the periscope, the shell coming at them.
It hit the tank, piercing it’s exterior, and shooting hot shrapnel throughout the interior.
At the same time, the tank hit a land mine, and came to a screeching halt. He was conscious throughout, but not able to get himself out of the tank. Another crew member pulled him out the hatch, and he tumbled down into the hole excavated by the land mine. He remembered looking at his right leg which was turned in a totally unnatural position and thinking to himself, “that doesn’t look good at all.”
It was the beginning of the rest of his life. His road to recovery was long with many months of hospitalizations, and many surgeries. On May 7, 1946, he was honorably discharged from the army at O’Reilly General Hospital in Springfield, Missouri.
What lay ahead of him was a lifetime of learning, adapting, and perseverance. He was never bitter, never complained that his life didn’t turn out as he had envisioned as a young man. He just adapted, and did it very well. He was a veteran, a hard worker, a good father, and a wonderful husband.
So I’m extending my Veterans’ Day celebration one more day, and will be raising my flag in the morning to especially honor Bill Hughes.
— Veterans Day 2004
Extended Veterans’ Day
by Julia Hughes ©