When Sergeant Hulon B. Whittington, who claims Ellaville, Georgia, as his home, was told he was to be presented the Congressional Medal of Honor, his quiet, unassuming, self-assured manner did not betray emotion. Perhaps it is these qualities in Sergeant Whittington's make-up which so aptly guided him on the battlefield and aided him to carry out a mission in accord with the highest traditions of the army--"Valor, above and beyond the call of duty."
Whittington, who was wounded twice--once in Sicily and once in France--is but one of a few members left from his old organization and though Whittington is unable to join his comrades now carrying on with Lt. General William S. Simpson's Ninth Army, he is certain that it is the indomitable determination of the men he fought with that is guiding them on to Berlin--and victory in the European Theatre.
Much like any other American soldier, Sergeant Whittington is straightforward, friendly, sentimental; and had it not been for wounds received in France, he still would be fighting alongside these comrades he came to know and respect as he would his brothers. Whittington was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana on July 9, 1921. He attended school at Bastrop, Louisiana and in New Orleans where he finished high school.
Whittington entered the service of his country on August 21, 1940 at Bastrop. In addition to his Medal of Honor, Whittington wears the Silver Star, Purple Heart with one oak-leaf cluster, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Good Conduct medal, the American Defense (pre-Pearl Harbor) ribbon, the American Theatre ribbon (serving as gunner on a ship) and the European Theatre of Operations ribbon with four battle stars.
Leaving these shores for duty overseas on October 27, 1942, Whittington landed with General Patton's troops on November 7, 1942, D-Day at Casablanca. He saw action at Meknes, French Morocco, and again in Algeria. Then came Tunisia and D-Day, July 10th, 1943 at Sicily.
It was while in combat in Sicily with Co. "H", 1st Bn., 41st Armored Division that Sergeant Whittington was first wounded on July 27th, 1943; not seriously, but enough to put him in the hospital. Events leading up to the incident in which Whittington was hit by shell fragments during action that earned for him and one of his comrades the Silver Star, follow:
The American forces were thrusting a spearhead through a pass between two mountains in Sicily in their advance to Palermo. Whittington and Sergeant George Vercher of Lena Station, Louisiana were members of an advance party. Half of the advance took the right section of the thrust and Whittington and Vercher and their men took the left. Coming out of the pass, about 2 o'clock in the morning the men met up with the enemy who opened fire with two machine guns, an anti-tank gun, four field pieces of the 100 mm type and various other support. Though Whittington and Vercher had expected opposition at any time and were ready with their guns and grenades, they no idea what really lay before them. Besides the artillery mentioned, there was a pill-box and an ammunition dump in the vicinity. When the enemy opened up, Whittington and Vercher leading their squad, let go with rifle fire and started tossing their grenades. One of Whittington's grenades, aptly aimed at a field piece, lodged in the muzzle of the cannon and put it out of commission for the time. A tracer bullet from the M-1 rifle fired by Sergeant Whittington was credited with having set off the ammunition dump. Whittington doesn't remember events any too well after that for shell fragments hit him in his right shoulder and right leg.
Support came up from behind resulting in a through job of clearing the pas for advancing Americans. Remaining enemy soldiers including some Italians, and enemy wounded were taken prisoners.
Whittington was taken back to scene later with the battalion commander and the action which had taken place was reviewed. Amazement was expressed not only by the battalion commander but by many others as to how it could have been possible for the two men and their squad to accomplish the difficult task which they had faced. The marvel is that such a feat did not seem possible without the aid of artillery support.
While Whittington was in an Italian hospital at Castlebeltrana which had been taken over by an American medical unit after the hazardous action in the pass approaching Palermo, he had a little time to think. And his thoughts took him back to his comrades on the front line. Within five days of his admission to the hospital, he had slipped away to join his unit as they advanced to Palermo. While on the way, Whittington and Vercher were taken out of the line and returned to headquarters for the presentation of the Silver Star by Major General Maurice Rose. The men again joined their comrades and went on to take Palermo. They stayed in Sicily after its liberation to police up, and did not go into action in Italy.
"In November," remarked Whittington, "the unit was ordered back to England and for five long months we took some of the hardest training some us had ever had. This was in preparation for the invasion of Normandy." Landing according to schedule on D-Day plus 3, at Omaha Beach, the American forces then thrust their way inward into France.
It was in action at St. Dennis, France, as a member of Co. "I", 41st Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division while Sergeant Whittington was acting as platoon leader--the Lieutenant in command having been reported missing--that the work Whittington did, initiated for him, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award that can be bestowed upon a member of the Armed Forces by the United States of America.
Seven days later on the 6th of August, at Boucage, France, Sergeant Whittington was again wounded, this time by mortar shell fire which struck him in the back and stomach and definitely put him out of the fighting.
Sergeant Whittington's wife, Mrs. Pauline (Cook) Whittington was unable to attend the ceremony, resides in Ellaville, Georgia.
Whittington has been a patient of the Brooke General and Convalescent Hospital since December 30, 1944. He served as the model for “G.I. Joe: American Legion Soldier”, a thirteen foot tall limestone statue located at American Legion headquarters, 1608 K Street, Washington, D.C.
Sgt. Hulon Brocke Whittington became a commissioned officer upon his discharge from the hospital and was promoted to the rank of Major. He died 17 Jan 1969 at Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio. He was 48 years of age. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 13, Site 8W.