A short stint in the military

Published 12:54 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

After taking a break from college to serve in the military a local man went back to college to finish his education.

Hughie Hughes was attending college when he decided to enlist in the Army in October of 1942. Even though others suggested he continue with his college education, his guilt prompted him to continue with his enlistment.

“I was one of the few men in college and I had two brothers over there,” Hughes said.

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Once enlisted he was sent to Fort Levenworth in Kansas and then conducted basic training in Arkansas. The score he earned on his entrance exam lead military officials to ask Hughes if he wanted to attend meteorology training in Chicago. However the school was closed so he chose to be sent to mechanical engineering training instead, he said.

For seven and a half months he served with the Mechanical Engineering Division before being sent to the 13th Armored Infantry Division. Since Hughes played football in high school and college he was in good shape. The army took note of his stature and instructed Hughes to carry mortar shells and set up motor weapons. Then in December of 1944 he was sent to New Jersey to prepare for an overseas assignment.

In 1945 he arrived at the South Harbor in England and was taken to Calais, France where he and the rest of his division set up camp at a large mansion to ready themselves for combat.

The men moved on from the mansion to take over an area that made 88 mm guns, weapons capable of destroying a half track and scattering and killing many men.

“They’re the most deadly things they had,” Hughes said.

During the advance on that area the division lost a Lieutenant’s half track, but the men were more concerned about another loss.

“We were worried cause we lost a case of champagne,” Hughes said.

After they successfully took control of the area they were sent to central Europe before heading to relieve the Fourth Armored Division, which was supposed to take over Berlin. However a Soviet Union advance took care of Berlin so Hughes’ Division was sent to Bavaria. There the division found and released about 4,000 prisoners of war, mostly consisting of American and English aviators, Hughes said.

In a later mission the division needed to cross the Inn River, but the Germans had already blown the bridge up. Over the night a pontoon bridge was set up, providing a place for the division to cross.

His final overseas mission was a trip to the Lucky Strike Camp in France. From there he was sent stateside in July of 1945. Once he was back in America he was supposed to be trained for the invasion of Japan. During that time he and his wife, Gladys, married on Aug. 5, 1945. They will be married 63 years this year, Hughes said. A day later an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, eliminating the need for an invasion of Japan.

With no need to go to Japan he was ultimately sent to California where he was assigned a desk job, processing American Soldiers, Hughes said.

In March of 1946 Hughes was discharged from the military. Under the G.I. Bill he went back to college to continue his education. He received a bachelor’s, master’s and then his doctorate degrees in Educational Administration. After working at a number of educational institutions he took a job at the University of New Orleans where he stayed for 19 years before retiring in 1985.

While he was working for the University of New Orleans he and his wife bought a home in Hide-A-Way Lake in 1976 as a summer home. When the couple retired nine years later they made that home their permanent place of residence.