In 2004, Dr. Barrett Weber ’42 assembled a collection of stories from 26 members of his graduating class from SI who had served in World War II. These stories are available online at www.siprep.org, and they are all noteworthy for their poignancy and patriotism. Among those stories are those of Al Hutter, Marshall Moran and Owen Sullivan.
Hutter, who was part of the 147th Infantry Battalion that landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, helped the Marines mop up. Later, he was transferred to Tinian where he guarded the runway there. Then, at 2 a.m. on August 6, 1945, “we heard the B29 engines starting and moving about. At 2:45 a.m., a B29 appeared out of the gloom and started down the runway. It seemed that it was too heavily loaded to get airborne, and we all climbed into our shelters in case it ran out of runway. It was agonizingly slow and seemed to strain to become airborne, but it did at the very end of the runway and slowly began to climb into the morning sky.” The plane was the Enola Gay en route to Hiroshima.
Marshall Moran, as a 19-year-old 1st gunner on a 30-caliber heavy machine gun squad in Germany in September 1944, came under attack from German mortar and artillery fire along with his friend, 19-year-old Bobby Schmidt of Glendale, who “was one step behind and below me. I heard the noise, felt the vacuum and faced the split-second arrival and explosion of an 81-m.m. shell. A piece of shrapnel hit me with the force of a mule kick, passing through my left calf, slamming me to the turf. Other shells followed. Pandemonium set in. Just behind me, Bobby’s throat had been cut by the same shrapnel that passed through my leg. I held his unconscious body in my arms as he bled to death. I remember screaming, ‘Medic!’ to no avail, as we had taken so many casualties.”
Later Moran was taken to a hospital that found itself threatened by the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. The high command issued all patients .45 caliber pistols to defend themselves from German paratroopers. Moran recalls walking the grounds and passing another patient who “neither looked at me nor acknowledged my existence. Just after passing each other, one shot was fired. I turned to find him on the ground, his foot shattered by a .45-caliber bullet. He was a ‘section 8’… who crippled [himself] for life so [he] would not be forced to return for battle.”
The captain in charge of this unit insisted that Moran state, under oath, that the soldier had deliberately shot himself. “I refused. The small bones in his left foot were shattered. He’d be a cripple for the rest of his life. My rehabilitation ended abruptly, and I was quickly returned to my unit.”
After the war, Moran visited Bobby Schmidt’s parents, who had only heard that their son was MIA. “With tears in my eyes, I told them Bob had died in my arms. The three of us cried together.”
Owen Sullivan found himself facing a firing squad after his B-24 bomber went down over the Carpathian Mountains in Slovakia on November 20, 1944. On a bombing run to Poland, his plane had caught fire and exploded, burning Sullivan’s face and breaking his arm, though he did manage to parachute to safety. “I had no idea what country I was in.”
When he landed, villagers aided him, taking him to a creek where he immersed himself to hide his scent. A German patrol and their dogs passed a few feet away but did not spot him. He recuperated in a local farmhouse, learning to speak Slovak from a bilingual Book of Mormon, and he was reunited with three of his 10-man crew. The others had been captured, killed or tortured. “We spent Christmas Eve that year in a pig sty, drinking slivovic, a 105-proof plum brandy, listening to accounts of the Battle of the Bulge on the BBC and roasting a pig,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan spent 16 weeks in town, posing as a local, drinking coffee with Germans during the day and, later, taking part in partisan raids against them. On March 24, 1945, the Gestapo caught up with Sullivan and crew member Eugene Hodge. They lined both men up against a wall “pockmarked with bullet holes. A German gunner set a machine gun on a tripod, and as [we] waited execution, the officer in charge decided to lead [us] on a 250-mile march.”
During the march, Hodge grew ill and was sent to a German hospital while Sullivan escaped into the woods where he was rescued by Americans in Austria. After the war, the Slovakian Defense Ministry presented Sullivan and four other Americans the Medal of Freedom.