“We had to clear the German snipers” D-day – (June 6, 1944)

Interviewing Claude Hobbs - D-Day veteran

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing gentleman and war hero, Claude Hobbs.  He was supposed to be in one of the first waves of men to land on the beaches of Normandy in the early morning of June 6, 1944, but his landing craft hit a mine while crossing the English channel, forcing the men to transfer to a different assault craft.  At 14:00 hours, he finally landed on Omaha beach.  Armed with a rifle and a handful of grenades, he and his men started clearing the beach of German snipers, allowing the Allies to begin bringing heavy equipment on shore to commence the liberation of Europe.

Hobbs, like many WWII veterans, is a humble man.  He was awarded numerous medals including a Bronze Star for action during the Battle of the Bulge.  He has also been nominated to receive our nation’s third highest honor, a Silver Star, yet he hasn’t gone to Washington DC to claim it.  Instead, his favorite thing is to volunteer at a local museum every Saturday and chat with other old timers.

Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of Hobbs’ generation.  That is why I need your help to spread the word to your local high schools about the iHistory Project: WW2, so that this Fall hundreds and thousands of students around the country will begin interviewing WWII veteran on video.

To find out more about the iHistory Project’s YouTube competition and how you can help, please visit our website: www.Heroes-WW2.org or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

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The Road To Citizenship Passes Through Bastogne- Part Three: The Journey Home – By Jeffrery Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

The war in Europe ended.  When I had asked Chavez where he was when Pearl Harbour was attacked, he couldn’t recall.   When I asked where he was when he heard Germany surrendered, he knew exactly where he was, back in Street, Somerset County, England, recovering from the shrapnel wounds he got in Germany.  This city was the place from which he set sail to Normandy at the outset of his tour.   Now, with reason for joy, he celebrated with friends he made while awaiting orders to join the forces already at Normandy. 

As a passenger on a Liberty Ship, one of a fleet of functional but simple transport vessels, our hero, reached New York City and retraced his steps back to Fort Bliss, the installation at which he joined the Army. The government gave him fifteen cents, the going fare to return home to his family.  His war was over, but not his journey.  You see, although in many ways he was just like his fellow soldiers, unlike many of them, he was not returning home as a citizen.  There is one more chapter in this story… 

World War 2, WW2, World War 2 Contest, World War 2 Video Contest, You Tube Contest WW2, You Tube Contest World War 2, iHistory Project,   WW2 Volunteers, Jeff Worthington, Jeffrey Worthington, Military History Contest, High School You Tube Competition, World War Two Video Contest, History Contest World War 2, Great Project for High School History, High School History Contest, Battle of The Bulge, 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance, US Third Army, US 4th Armored Division, Street  (Somerset County) England, Fort Knox, Fort Bliss, Camp Lucky Strike, Liberty Ships, US Citizenship For Undocumented Immigrant Soldiers In WW2 The service to his country, the only home he had ever known, entitled him to become a naturalized citizen and in 1946, T-5 C.E.  Chavez became a citizen of the United States! His journey began twenty two years earlier, in a small town in Chihuahua, Mexico.  Like Odysseus, the great Greek hero of the Trojan War, he traveled across continents, he met adversity and he prevailed.  He is a real American hero!   
For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

The Road To Citizenship Passes Through Bastogne- Part Two: Joining The Fray – By Jeffrery Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

C.E. Chavez was, by his own account, a typical child growing up in El Paso Texas.  He left Mexico when he was very young, so, as he said, America was the only home he new.  He was typical, but he wasn’t a citizen.  That would change, but not until his life’s journey took him to another place and through another difficult chapter in his story. 

At age eighteen Chavez got a letter.  It came from the President and the Congress of The United States.  The exact words he remembers are:  “Your friends and neighbors need you.”  This was his draft notice.  Recalling reactions, Chavez recounts that some of his relatives were expecting the news and were surprised it hadn’t come earlier.  Some knew his service would reduce the probability any of them would be repatriated to Mexico and the income from his military salary was a welcome addition to the family income.  It was his duty, so he became Private C.E. Chavez, U.S. Army!

World War 2, WW2, World War 2 Contest, World War 2 Video Contest, You Tube Contest WW2, You Tube Contest World War 2, iHistory Project,   WW2 Volunteers, Jeff Worthington, Jeffrey Worthington, Military History Contest, High School You Tube Competition, World War Two Video Contest, History Contest World War 2, Great Project for High School History, High School History Contest, Battle of The Bulge, 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance, US Third Army, US 4th Armored Division, General George S. Patton, Jr., Street  (Somerset County) England, Fort Knox, Fort Bliss, Camp Lucky Strike, Liberty ShipsInducted at Fort Bliss, Chavez was sent next to Fort Knox, KY and then to Newport News, VA.  From there he shipped out to the city of Street, Somerset County, England.   On June 8, 1944, not yet assigned to a unit, he arrived at Normandy and then, in July, he was assigned as a replacement troop in the 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance.   Sometime after the breakout at St. Lo, in the vicinity of Nancy, France, Chavez was wounded (in the arm) while on reconnaissance.  His team was attacked from across an open field, a common danger situation for reconnaissance operation.  He returned to the rear to recover.  He chuckled when he recalled that rear echelon troops offered to buy his shirt, the one that was hit by German fire.  He sold it for forty-dollars, a hefty sum in those days!   

Following recovery, our hero returned to his same unit, something uncommon in the fray of war.  The 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit was part of the 4th Armored Division of General Patton’s 3rd Army.  Although he never saw Patton (nicknamed “Old Blood & Guts”) Chavez was along for the ride when Patton promised General Eisenhower he could relieve the 101st Airborne Division, entrenched and surrounded at Bastogne.   In fact, he joined his unit on December 23rd, just in time for the trip!

Along the way Private Chavez earned the rank of T-5, a technical rank, one that carried no hierarchical authority. Chavez was, and still is, the essence of the soldier who quietly does his duty, who fights on without complaint and without fanfare.  When I asked what it was like to have liberated Bastogne and the 101st Airborne (dubbed “The Battered Bastards of Bastogne”) he told me his unit wasn’t selected to go into the town. He claimed no glory.  He was just doing his job.   He was a soldier.

As the war neared its end, the 23rd Cavalry Reconnaissance unit continued the push into the German Fatherland.  Regular army (Wehrmacht) troops were giving up the fight, but Chavez noted the Hitler Youth, young men, teenagers, continued resistance.  One day the 23rd was approaching a town where residents were flying white flags from their windows, a signal of surrender.  Two Germans opened fire and in the ensuing battle, Chavez was again wounded, this time taking shrapnel (sharp pieces of metal typically from weapons like bombs, artillery rounds or hand grenades).   Back he went to the rear, and eventually to Street, England.  There he stayed until the end of the war.  When I asked how he felt when he heard the war was over, he told me that even today, words can’t express the emotions.

Our story doesn’t end with Germany’s surrender.  Just like the great Greek Hero, Odysseus, Pvt. Chavez still wasn’t home.  The final leg of the journey will be the topic of the next blog…
   

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org

The Road To Citizenship Passes Through Bastogne: Part 1: The Beginning – By Jeffrery Worthington, iHistory Project-WW2

Anyone who has read the Odyssey, the epic tale of the wanderings of Odysseus following the Trojan War, will remember these opening words: “Of arms I sing, and of the man…”  At the end, our hero returns home, reunited with family and friends.    Today you’ll read the story of another great wanderer, C.E. Chavez, whose journey during World War Two is no less miraculous; but is one thing Odysseus’ journey was not: It is real.  

World War 2, WW2, World War 2 Contest, World War 2 Video Contest, You Tube Contest WW2, You Tube Contest World War 2, iHistory Project,   WW2 Volunteers, Jeff Worthington, Jeffrey Worthington, Military History Contest, High School You Tube Competition, World War Two Video Contest, History Contest World War 2, Great Project for High School History, High School History ContestC.E. Chavez’ journey begins in 1924. Born into a typical Mexican family, he was the eldest boy of a family of six children.  Tough economic times drove his family to move to Guadalupe and his father, a field worker, went to labor almost 60 miles from their home, where he died, presumably a victim of the harsh environment.  Mrs. Chavez moved the family to Juarez and then, in 1929, across the Rio Grande, to the U.S. border town, El Paso.  There C.E. (his preferred name) grew up.  He describes his childhood as typical for the place and the time.  The depression had started and the Chavez family was not spared the hardships of the era.  Mrs. Chavez worked at any domestic jobs she could find.  She was literate in Spanish, but not in English.  In fact, she never learned the English language and this, her son recalls, limited her opportunities.  They survived, in part due to the housing provided by their church and through the church he had access to education.  Chavez describes himself as a less than stellar student and after attending three schools, he left at the end of the sixth grade.  I spoke with him and I was impressed with his vocabulary, a command of English that reflected a competency far beyond that of a typical sixth-grader.  It was during his time in the service, C.E. noted, that he became an avid reader, something he has continued throughout his life.

Chavez described his life as typical.  Childhood was a time of play.  In this era, before television, before video games and before internet applications, neighborhood children gathered outdoors to play. Swimming in the irrigation canals was a particular favorite. 

One childhood memory Chavez recalled (and which he connected to some of the bleakness of the war years) was that the children raided the farms of Japanese-American families.  “They grew cantaloupes and corn,” he remembers.  “That was good eating, at least for a couple of days.”  The farmers discouraged the children by shooting at them with shotguns loaded with rock salt; a practice which is hard to forget for those on the business end of the shotguns.  From personal experience, Chavez said it burns!   This all came to an end, he said, when the Japanese-Americans were moved to internment camps following the Empire of Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbour.

Where was C.E. Chavez when Japan attacked the US Pacific Fleet?  How did he enter the war?  What was his war experience?  We’ll talk about that in the next post!    
I hope you will support me (and hundreds of World War 2 enthusiasts and volunteers around the world) in challenging American teens across America, who are interested in military history, to participate in the iHistory Project-WW2.  We are committed to preserving these great World War 2 stories and memories and to bringing them to life so future generations will understand and appreciate the events of this conflict and how they shaped our world.

For more information, visit the I-History Project-WW2 or contact me directly at jeff@ihistoryproject.org