Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Walter E. Hughes, who served as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II.

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Walter E. Hughes, who served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.

Walter E. Hughes was born in October 1925 in Brooklyn, New York. When he was 7 years old, his father passed away. At the age of 12, Hughes started working on his stepfather’s tugboat and two years later, he became a merchant seaman, working on government tugboats. Because of this, he received a military service deferral. He later enlisted in the Army in 1944. He hoped to go to a boat-handling school in Virginia, which was a popular destination for tugboat seamen in the Army. Instead, the Army sent him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Since the Army needed replacements, Hughes only spent four weeks in basic training. He trained in the wiremen and radio operators school for artillery. At Fort Bragg, he saw a sign advertising that the Army paratroopers offered $50 more a month—which doubled what he was making. He volunteered to become a paratrooper and transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, for five weeks of training. After this, he went to the United Kingdom to serve with the 504th Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division.

At 18 years old, Hughes made his first jump during Operation Market Garden. He landed near Grave in the Netherlands and fought in the Battle of Nijmegen. The paratroopers gained control over the Nijmegen railway bridge before the Germans destroyed it. The paratroopers held their position and then went to Soissons, France. During the operation, Hughes suffered shrapnel wounds.

Later, Hughes fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During the battle, he flanked an enemy position and this photo later appeared on a Belgian postage stamp. Due to a case of trench foot, he went to a field hospital in Paris. When doctors considered amputating his right foot, Hughes left the hospital, rejoined his division, and helped liberate Camp Wöbbelin in Germany. In 1946, Hughes left the Army as a private.

For his service, Hughes received many awards, including a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and France’s Legion of Honor medal. At home, Hughes continued working on tugboats. He founded the Walter E. Hughes Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association. In May 2016, he was inducted into the New York Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame. Hughes passed away in December 2016 at 91 years old.

We honor his service.


Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

Veterans History Project

This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.


Contributors

Writer: Nathaniel Scott

Editors: Theresa Lyon and Brooke Wolfenbarger

Fact checker: Timothy Georgetti

Graphic artist: Philip Levine

By VAntage Point Contributor

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Published on Jan. 20, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 662

One Comment

  1. Senior Veterans Care Network January 21, 2022 at 10:55 am

    We honor the service of Walter E. Hughes.

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