COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — With Memorial Day on Monday, one local veteran reflected on his time in service.
Wilbur Hudson is 98 years old. He served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War in an Army career which lasted from 1943 to 1966.
On Memorial Day, Hudson will spend time with his family for a barbecue. He said that he is lucky to be alive today, having had many close calls and lost friends across his time in service.
“You know when the bullet goes your body, you hear a crack like a whip? I hear in my case snap, snap, snap, snap, in other words [an] automatic weapon and they didn’t hit me,” Hudson said as he recalled being shot at in the Iron Triangle region during the Vietnam War.
Years before that, Hudson began his military career after working for a short while when he graduated from high school in 1942.
“I decided I needed to be patriotic and volunteer,” Hudson said as he sat on a bench on the patio of his assisted living facility in Columbus.
He recalled the beginning of his Army career at North Camp Polk in Louisiana as a member of the 8th Armored Division. Hudson remembered being in the 36th Combat Regiment as part of a tank battalion whose team leader wanted the crew to volunteer for early combat in WWII.
Hudson said, “I told him I needed to think about a day or so before I signed on to be a volunteer for combat…he said he wanted an answer right now and I said, ‘If that’s the case, no.’”
The former solider was grateful he made that call. The men from his battalion who went were killed on the shores of Normandy, Hudson told WRBL.
As a member of the 81st Infantry Division, Hudson explained he was part of the group which fought Japanese soldiers to secure Anguar Island. He added he later assisted the 1st Marine Division led by Admiral William Halsey in the Battle of Peleliu because they had significant armor losses.
“One of the first missions my tank crew went on was to make sure that the radio station diesel engines were knocked out,” said Hudson about his team’s time assisting Halsey’s men.
He elaborated 16-in. barrel battleships like the USS Missouri had shot at the station but could not penetrate the concrete due to the way it was reinforced. Hudson’s crew shot into the diesel compartment, disabling Japanese broadcasting which included Tokyo Rose propaganda.
Hudson was also part of the Army Reserve forces at the time when the United States Army Air Forces, previously the Army Air Corps, was disbanded with the creation of the Department of the Air Force in 1947.
During the Korean War, Hudson served with the 7th Cavalry Regiment as engineer support. Hudson’s memory of the day they defended against Chinese soldiers at the only bridge crossing the Yalu River into North Korea has stayed with him all these years.
“My company commander said, ‘Get the hell out of there,’…I got my platoon back without losing anyone but I never saw so many people as the Chinese Invasion. … It was continuous and the whole line – miles,” said Hudson.
He explained he also lost a friend that day, a former classmate who was an artilleryman in rearguard.
“I look at it as history, I can talk about it without aftereffects,” said Hudson, “But I think about it especially at nighttime, in the sleep it wakes me up.”