Richard E. Hunton
"I", 378th Infantry Regiment
I was drafted on October 9th, 1943,
while I was working at the United States Naval Observatory
as an instrument maker.
Because of my sensitive position I was deferred for
six months. Finally, the deferments ran out about April 1944.
I was inducted into active service at Fort Meade,
there I went to Camp Blanding, Florida, where I took my
basic training for the next seventeen weeks.
Basic training was extremely vigorous.
I started out in a heavy weapons company, but
fortunately after two or three weeks of that I was
transferred to an intelligence and reconnaissance company.
That was a lot easier than lugging around machine
guns and mortars all the time.
a month or two in the new company the captain came along
and told us that there were more riflemen being killed
than I and R so they made us riflemen.
It was real encouraging
to hear that. They
were recruiting more cannon fodder.
After several more months of vigorous training,
which included what was supposed to be a 25-mile march but
ended up being a 30-mile march.
we finally made it through basic training and went home
for a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation before we
were taken Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. We stayed there a week
or ten days before we finally were taken down to New York
City about the 2nd of November of 1944.
We loaded onto the Queen
Mary and were put down into the bowels of the ship.
It took us about four or five days to get to Europe
since we were zigzagging about every five miles to keep
from being blown up by submarines.
landed at Greenock, Scotland, a small town about twenty
miles west of Glasgow.
We made it to Le Harve, France where we got off the
boat using rope ladders.
We used these ladders to board a landing craft of
some sort. By
this time it was pitch dark and we got into the landing
craft and headed for the beach.
We got off the boat onto the beach and immediately
got out of there. We
walked through Le Harve, France, which was still smoking
and burning from a previous shelling.
From there we loaded some trucks and then 40 and 8
railroad cars. Those are the dinky little box cars that could hold forty men
or eight horses, but we had forty-two men. We traveled all
the way from Le Harve, France all the way up to a little
peninsula called Givet, France, just about two miles from
the Belgium border with a stop about t every ten .
There were a lot of funny things that happened
along the way, even though it was extremely uncomfortable.
Meals were C-rations.
We had three kinds then: beans,
hash and stew, but they were all cold and tasted just
about alike. Very
took trucks from Givet and went down into Nancy and Verdun
and some of those other World War I places that were
famous during that time.
We got down to a little place called Boinville-sur-Nied,
and joined the 95th Division.
That was on November the 24th or 25th,
1944, and I finally joined I Company, 378th at
a little town called Niedervisse, France a day or two
started walking up through several little towns that I
can’t think of the names of.
I remember lying along the sides of a battered
little road were a number of horses and cows, ripped and
bleeding as a result of the previous day's
fierce fighting. Many
had been completely disemboweled by nearly direct mortar
and artillery hits. One
day about this time we started getting enemy fire.
Our company commander said we had gone over to
Kreutzwald, which is right on the German border, but there
wasn’t supposed to be any German soldiers there.
We were there just to reconnoiter the place, but
all of a sudden we started to get shot at from every
angle, so we got out of there. We kept moving up over the next several days to a place
called Falck and Dalem.
We went up and liberated some other towns north of Falck and
Dalem until finally about November 30th we came
to a large hill called the Sauberg.
This hill was supposed to be very important to the
defense of the Saar River, which was only about four miles
away. We had
a terrific fight going up that hill.
When we got to the top there was a dense fog, you
couldn’t see ten feet in front of you.
We almost starved to death because we couldn’t
find the chow truck, well maybe not starved, but we were
pretty hungry. Late
at night, about eleven o’clock or so, the company
commander said dig a fox hole and get in it,
we’re going to spend the night. So
we got out our tools and started chopping on that stuff,
but it was nothing but frozen rocks.
We just had to sleep out on the open ground under
half of a tent shelter while the Germans bombarded this
hill with artillery all during the night.
You can imagine how uncomfortable it was to just
lie there and hear these shells coming and landing
twenty-five or thirty feet from you.
Every time one would land rocks would shower down
and land on top of you.
It was really a hairy night.
As interesting as that is, I have a friend who
lives in Neuforweiler, Germany,
which is about three miles across the German border.
My friend has a friend that lives up near Berlin,
by the name of Rolf Grünewald.
One day they were talking and the 95th
Infantry Division came up.
Because of me my friend began to compare notes with
Rolf and it turned out that he was a nineteen year old,
the same age I was, German soldier that was shooting a
machinegun at us while we were shooting at him.
There was a huge tank trap just over the top of
this hill. We
had to figure out a way across this trap.
Somehow we managed to cross this tank trap the next
day, December 1st, 1944.
We moved from there into, and liberated, this
little town called Altforweiler. As we were liberating this town we started to get bombarded
with mortars as we reached the far side.
They had sirens on them so if the thing didn’t
hit you it would still scare the daylights out of you. We
called them “screemin’ meemies”.
It wasn’t long until one landed about fifteen feet from
me and knocked my squad leader Sergeant LaChance and me
out. I came
to and I was lying there in the middle of the road dying
and bleeding to death and hollering for a medic, but all I
heard was, “Hold your horses, you aren’t the only
They finally dragged me into an old barn across the
street where they were all standing around congratulating
me because I was going to get to go home.
I was about half killed, but I was so happy about
it because I would be going home.
I had a severe compound fracture of the right arm
so they put sulfa powder and a splint on it and wrapped me
up and gave me a half-grain of morphine.
I was still able to walk so they told me to go back
up the street to the company headquarters and they’ll
tell me what to do. I
was walking up the side walk, which were pretty close to
the houses, when all of a sudden a huge crash landed about
three or four feet in front of me.
It just so happened that a mortar shell had hit the
tile roof of the house, all the houses had tile roofs over
there, and the entire roof fell off about three feet in
front of me. Two
more steps and I would have had it!
I finally got up to the company headquarters.
My squad leader who was in real bad shape was lying
there screaming and begging for somebody to kill him and
put him out of his misery.
I thought he was going to die, but a few years ago
I found him alive and well and living in Florida.
After it got dark an aid man started walking me
back from the front lines to where I could get on a jeep.
They finally got me onto a jeep and drove me back
to a field hospital where they put a better splint on my
From the field hospital they put me in an old
ambulance and took me to, I don’t know what you
would call it.
I think they called it a hospital in Metz,
but they were still shelling Metz at the time so it
was rather a noisy place.
They took me to the operating room and
cleaned the wound and gave me an intravenous
anesthetic in my good arm, my left arm.
When I woke, my right arm was in a big old
cast and my left arm was paralyzed.
After two or three days there I was taken to the 7th
Evacuation Hospital, somewhere near the French coast.
I spent a day or so there in that tent
hospital and finally they put me on a C-47 and we
flew across the Channel in a severe thunderstorm.
We flew about one hundred feet above the
water and I thought for sure that was going to be
the end of everything, but we finally got over to
England on this old C-47.
X-Ray of Arm, December 9th 1944
I was taken to the 187th General
Hospital near Tidworth, England.
This hospital was comprised of semi-cylindrical
shaped Quonset huts.
I was put in ward number seventy-three. I started
getting penicillin shots every four hours, day and night,
had a new cast put on, x-rays taken and what not.
I was getting to feel pretty good about this time
and matter of fact I was made ward assistant cook.
I would go in and make pancakes and scrambled eggs
left handed until somebody complained about my cooking.
I said, “Well, if you don’t like it I’m going
to quit then!” The very next day they came to me and said the fellow who
took your place is worse, we want you back.
So I went back as the ward cook.
There was one fellow in our ward that was right
had shot himself in the foot to get out of combat and
nobody would speak to him at all.
He was totally shunned and just pitiful.
Anyhow, I guess he deserved it.
We were eventually taken from there to a hospital
in Bath, England. Of
course we were walking wounded so they put us in tents in
back of the hospital.
It was the middle of December
and of course it was really cold.
I finally got out of the General Hospital and went
back to Southampton.
It was about the middle of February 1945, when we
got on an old Victory Ship. It took about twelve or
fourteen days to get back and we landed at Newport News in
From Newport News we were taken to Camp Pickett, VA
to the general hospital there.
They removed my big old cast and put a hanging cast
on. I was
there about five months, but finally the time came for
ran up to get my discharge papers on August the 6th,
and went back to my home in Washington D.C.
I got on a street car there to go out to my house
and I heard all these people talking about this bomb that
had been dropped over in Japan that had destroyed an
entire city. I
said, “No that couldn’t be, because I have been in the
Army and I know they don’t have such a thing.”
Of course they did, but they just forgot to tell
this has allowed me to claim responsibility for winning
the war. The
story I always tell is that when my commanding officer
found out I was being discharged he said, “Oh my, how
are we going to win the war without Hunton?”
He said he didn’t know, but he called President
Truman and told him and the president said, “I guess the
only thing we can do now is drop the bomb to make up for
losing Hunton.” So
they dropped it and we won the war.
the right : Picture of Richard E. Hunton taken in
May 1945. You can see that he's always wounded.
I want to
thank Richard E. Hunton for the use of his photographs and