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Hugh Wallis

504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division
Born June 23, 1924, in Cadiz, Kentucky
WWII Service: 1943-1945

Hugh Wallis

When 18-year-old Hugh was drafted, his parents were alarmed. But he was excited: “I didn’t want to stay on the farm all of my life. I wanted to go to the Army.” Hugh’s ambition and steady nerves led to paratrooper training and to vivid war stories he avidly shared.

Hugh once saw a plane in his formation shot down. By counting parachutes, he knew all the paratroopers—but not the pilot—escaped the burning plane. Hugh recalled a ritual shared by his squad before missions: “We told each other good-bye and we hoped we’d see each other again someday.”

Hugh also faced the risks of ground combat. During surgery for shrapnel lodged in his thigh bone, shells blasted the field tent, killing an attending nurse. Once an enemy bullet sunk the row boat carrying Hugh and his comrades across a dangerous river. Dragged down by 50-lb packs, several men drowned. Hugh only narrowly survived. Once recovered, Hugh was among the first to enter combat in Bastogne. Frigid and wet conditions tortured the soliders, and Hugh was eventually evacuated for frostbite.

After the war, Hugh did not return to farming and did not regret being drafted. He said, “If I could serve my country over again, I would.”