Hulon Brocke Whittington was born on July 9, 1921 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He was residing elsewhere in the state when he enlisted in the United States Army on August 21, 1940. I have reason to believe he was a member of the Louisiana National Guard federalized along with other guardsmen in the run-up to World War II, but could not confirm that (more below).
Whittington was a member of the 2nd Armored Division (“Hell On Wheels”) and fought with its 41st Armored Infantry Regiment in both North Africa and on Sicily. Three days after D-Day, the 2nd Armored landed in Normandy for that campaign.
On July 25, 1944, the breakout from the Normandy beachhead began in earnest: Operation COBRA. Four days later during the night of July 29, Whittington, then a Sergeant and a squad leader, took command of his platoon after its leader and platoon sergeant became casualties. Under his leadership, his soldiers held a key road block against a Nazi counter-attack, destroying over 100 enemy vehicles and finally routing them with a bayonet charge.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (T-Z):
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On the night of 29 July 1944, near Grimesnil, France, during an enemy armored attack, Sgt. Whittington, a squad leader, assumed command of his platoon when the platoon leader and platoon sergeant became missing in action. He reorganized the defense and, under fire, courageously crawled between gun positions to check the actions of his men. When the advancing enemy attempted to penetrate a roadblock, Sgt. Whittington, completely disregarding intense enemy action, mounted a tank and by shouting through the turret, directed it into position to fire point blank at the leading Mark V German tank. The destruction of this vehicle blocked all movement of the remaining enemy column consisting of over 100 vehicles of a Panzer unit. The blocked vehicles were then destroyed by handgrenades, bazooka, tank, and artillery fire and large numbers of enemy personnel were wiped out by a bold and resolute bayonet charge inspired by Sgt. Whittington. When the medical aid man had become a casualty, Sgt. Whittington personally administered first aid to his wounded men. The dynamic leadership, the inspiring example, and the dauntless courage of Sgt. Whittington, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.
Whittington was later wounded in action on August 6, 1944 and was evacuated to the United States. While he was recuperating at what today is known as the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, he was presented with his Medal of Honor.
On October 22, 1945, Whittington reenlisted in the regular Army to make the service his post-war career. That record indicates he had been “National Guard in federal service”, which is what I surmised at the outset that he had been a guardsman before his wartime service.
He was commissioned as an officer in 1949 and later became a member of the Ordnance Corps. As an ordnance officer, he deployed to Southeast Asia in the early 1960s as an adviser to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Whittington was serving in that capacity when he suffered a heart attack in 1963 forcing his retirement from the Army.
Whittington passed away at the all-too-early age of 47 on January 17, 1969. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
The 41st Infantry persisted as a member of the 2nd Armored Division until the division’s disbandment in 1995. Today, two of the regiment’s battalions serve with the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas: 1-41 with the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 3-41 with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
We honor you, Hulon Whittington.