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On the day this summer that Jimmy Hornback and William Hutcherson received commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army they found out that their grandfathers had also entered the service together in January 1945.
Haynes Allen, Hornback’s grandfather, and Eugene Hutcherson, William’s grandparent, mustered in Hodgenville with 19 other inductees to leave for basic training in the waning months of World War II.
“It was a cold morning, with snow on the ground, and some of the boys had a little fun by throwing snowballs at a draft board member who was there to see them off,” Allen’s widow, Lillian, recalled. “It was a sad day for me, for Haynes and I were sweethearts and I didn’t know how long he would be gone.”
Allen, drafted into the infantry as was Hutcherson, took training in Arkansas before being sent to Japan.
“Eight hours before he was to be sent to the front lines to fight, word came down that the Japanese had surrendered,” said his widow. “He stayed on as part of the occupational force. The Japanese people made him a flag on which they wrote all the places he served in the Pacific.”
“I had stayed at the Hazle Hotel in Hodgenville the night before we left for the service,” Hutcherson said. “We left at 5 o’clock that morning by Greyhound bus.”
He took training at Camp Rucker, Ala., on his way to being stationed at Okinawa six weeks before the war ended. His mission there was capturing or eliminating the Japanese soldiers who were sheltering in and fighting out of the plentiful caves on the island.
“I carried a flame thrower and would shoot it into the caves,” he said. “Some of the caves were booby trapped and in others the Japanese soldiers would run out with their bodies burning.”
After the war, Hutcherson spent time as part of General McArthur’s 7th Division, policing in Seoul, Korea, and later serving as a command car driver in Panama before mustering out in 1946.
Having others in the family serve in the military evidently greatly influenced both grandsons’ interest in joining.
“My older brother was in the service, and it’s been a childhood dream of mine to join,” said William.
Lillian Allen said her husband, who died Jan. 13, 1999, had three brothers who saw duty in World War II, the first of three generations of the family who have served.
“I can remember Jimmy, when he was a little boy, asking his grandpa to tell him all about when he served in the army and his experiences,” she said.