OUR HEROES

A cher­ished flea mar­ket find

Reminisce - - Contents - BY ROGER HILL • WI­CHITA, KS

My dad, Ge­orge Robert Hill Jr., fibbed about his age and joined the Army when he was 17, in Novem­ber 1942. Dur­ing World War II, he saw ac­tion all over Europe, in­clud­ing the Ar­dennes of­fen­sive, com­monly called the Bat­tle of the Bulge.

In April 1945, his divi­sion lib­er­ated the Buchen­wald con­cen­tra­tion camp, an event Dad was es­pe­cially proud to have par­tic­i­pated in. He was hon­or­ably dis­charged in Jan­uary 1946.

Dad was in the tank corps and had been part of the crew of an open-top tank fit­ted with a 105 mm How­itzer gun. My fa­ther rarely dis­cussed the bat­tles he fought in, the medals he won or the bud­dies he lost on the bat­tle­field, but oc­ca­sion­ally he would talk about the big fight­ing ma­chine he served on. So I had some idea what it looked like.

Fast for­ward to Jan­uary 2013. My wife, Terry, and I were at the monthly Kansas Coli­seum flea mar­ket north of Wi­chita. Nor­mally Dad would have joined us—he was al­ways on the lookout for John Wayne or movie-cow­boy mem­o­ra­bilia— but he was sick that day. At a booth I came across an en­ve­lope la­beled “Of­fi­cial Pho­tographs U.S. Army Tanks,” and one showed what ap­peared to be the type of open-top tank Dad had served on in the war. Printed on the photo was

“105-mm Gun, mounted on a medium tank chas­sis.” Af­ter a quick call to my fa­ther, who con­firmed that was the gun his tank used, I bought the old set and sent Dad a copy of the open-top tank pic­ture.

A few days later, he called. “You must not have looked very closely at that photo,” he told me. “Be­cause I’m in it!”

I took a good look this time and, sure enough, there was my fa­ther stand­ing in the mid­dle of the group of men, his hel­met cocked a lit­tle to one side. Dad al­ways wore his hel­met that way, which was how he was sure it was him.

I’m still amazed that I just hap­pened to stum­ble upon some­thing so small yet so sig­nif­i­cant to our fam­ily his­tory amid the thou­sands of items at that sale. Dad passed away in 2015. The photo of him serv­ing his coun­try will re­main a cher­ished Hill ar­ti­fact for years to come.

GE­ORGE R. HILL JR. showed up in a col­lec­tion of re­pro­duc­tion mil­i­taryis­sue photos of Army tanks. He’s fourth from left, with his crew mates.

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