Hilton Douglas

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Hilton Douglas is a vetran of World war II, Korea and Vietnam. He was born in Pittsylvania County in about 1923.

As days go by and time spreads the gap between World War II, fewer of those veterans are with us — much less a veteran who served in three wars.

Danville has one of those veterans — Hilton Douglas, 92. Douglas served in the European theater of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“I always knew that there was a place for me [in the military],” Douglas told a class at Sacred Heart School in May.

Douglas, who was born in Pittsylvania County, would volunteer for service in World War II as the war escalated in 1943. “At that time,” Hilton explained, “everyone wanted to do something to help.”

He joined the Army, where he would go to the Midwest and learn how to build bridges. It was his job during the war to build those bridges in countries across Europe, mainly in Scotland. On D-Day — June 6, 1944 — Douglas was well behind enemy lines with a team of Americans building a bridge.

“For a while we were stationed in Britain where we learned about the fire brigades that many towns [in European countries] had and how they worked … it was critical they know how to build bridges once we left and us know how to respond to emergency situations,” said Douglas.

After the war ended, Douglas returned home and married Eleanor in 1946. He bounced between jobs and was not making much of a living for him or his new bride.

“I knew that if I was going to support a family, I was going to need a good job. So I went home one day and told Eleanor, ‘I’m going back and rejoining the Army,’” Douglas said.

He would spend a brief stint at Fort Knox then would go to Fort Devens in Massachusetts where he would get into the equipment business. Douglas’ family would make the move to Devens shortly after.

While in Devens, he received schooling and training before being sent to Tokyo. There were many soldiers being sent to Korea to fight, but not Douglas. Finally, after some paperwork went through, Douglas was sent off to Korea with an Army unit.

The Korean War, often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” would be Douglas’ second war.

Douglas remained in the military and would return to Fort Devens to continue selling supplies and would go on to serve the United States yet again in another war — this time in Vietnam. It was during this war that he would serve with Colin Powell, who would go on to become a General and later serve as Secretary of State.

“I was trying to avoid gunfire,” Douglas goes on, “and in the process came upon a trench that I knew I was going to have to jump. I thought for sure I could make it, but I came up short instead.”

The mistake cost Douglas back injuries. While the Army wanted him to stay in Vietnam, he instead tendered his resignation and came back to the states. Hilton and Eleanor moved to Danville to be close to family.

For his service to his country, Douglas earned a bronze star following the Vietnam War — the highest combat honor he received.

These days, Douglas enjoys tending to the many roses that greet visitors to his home.

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024