Welcome to VZW's Tribute to the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
9th Infantry Division Tribute

Welcome to VZW's Tribute to the 47th Infantry Regiment and 9th Infantry Division!
Starlin H. Hughes
tarlin Harry Hughes, Vincent Z. Whaley's grandfather, served with the 47th "Raiders" Infantry Regiment in the 9th "Octofoil" Infantry Division during World War II. Private First Class Hughes died June 11, 1994 — exactly 50 years to the day when he stepped ashore Utah Beach in Normandy, France. To the right is a picture of Pfc. Hughes donning two 47th Infantry regimental crests.

As my grandfather lay in the Intensive Care Unit of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, Tenn., in June 1994, I remembered the promise I had made six months earlier on New Year's Day.

"Someday, I'm going to write a book about you, papaw," I said.

"Well I don't know what you'd write about," he replied, grinning.

Neither did I, exactly, but I wanted to focus on his combat experiences during World War II. There was just one problem. I knew nothing of his role in the Second World War. He was never able to talk about the war. The mere mention of the words World War II sent him tumbling into a black hole of horrifying memories, ending in choking tears.

It was more than the frightful sadness in his eyes. Scars from wounds he suffered in France on Friday, July 14, 1944, marked his upper lip and cheek. Another scar received in Germany on Sunday, Oct. 1, 1944, branded his leg.

From October 1941 to September 1945, Private First Class Starlin H. Hughes trained and fought with the United States Army from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, through seven of the 9th Infantry Division's eight World War II campaigns — Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Ardennes. By war's end, Pfc. Hughes had acquired enough points to return home and did not have to serve in the 9th's final campaign of military occupation in Central Europe. Throughout the war, Pfc. Hughes served in F Company, 47th "Raiders" Infantry Regiment, 9th "Octofoil" Infantry Division.

By the grace and love of God, Hughes lived through one of the mightiest endeavors this world has ever known and returned home to participate in history's next big event — the Baby Boom. Not long after walking the final trail home in his native North Carolina, Starlin Harry Hughes married his wartime sweetheart, Mildred Louise Leonard, and conceived a daughter, Mollie, and a son, Richard, respecitvely.

47th Infantry Crest
According to the book The History of the 47th Infantry Regiment, the original five-toed Imperial Chinese dragon in the upper left-hand corner of the 47th Infantry Regiment's regimental crest symbolizes the 9th Infantry Division's accomplishments in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

The book also states that the 47th was later formed from the 9th Infantry Division. The green "Ivy" cross is representative of the 47th Infantry Regiment serving with the 4th "Ivy" Infantry Division during World War I.

Throughout the rest of his life, Hughes remained a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans, Tennessee Post No. 13, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, John Sevier Post No. 2108, Johnson City, Tenn.

Following 35 years of service as a nursing assistant, Hughes retired from the same place he eventually drew his last breath — the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, Tenn. He served the United States and its military service veterans for approximately 40 years. Like many veterans, however, the U.S. government forgot him and never sent the medals he so gallantly earned during the Second World War.

Perhaps I realized the importance of my grandfather's role in the war when my mother and father held a special awards ceremony for him in 1988 after contacting the government and requesting the medals he never received. Although I was still very young, his streams of tears and quivering lips and the bold medals and ribbons placed before him explained that my grandfather had fought in the bloodiest battles of World War II.

"There were a lot more men who sacrificed their lives over there who deserve these medals more than I ever will," Hughes said that day.

Hughes was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Good Conduct Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater of Operations Medal with seven Bronze Service Stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

At an early age, I became fascinated with two things — writing and the Second World War. When my grandfather passed away during the worldwide 50th anniversary celebration of D-Day, I realized the subject of my first book would be the 9th Infantry Division in World War II. My motivation was pushed even further when I discovered there were no books on the "Old Reliables" currently in print.

While my grandfather never spoke about his role in the war, I have attempted to track down and interview surviving veterans of the 9th Infantry Division who would be willing to share their memories. I have also hoped I would find someone who remembered my grandfather and could relay anecdotes about his past.

According to Joseph B. Mittelman's Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran Ninth U.S. Infantry Division, "the Octofoil dates back to the 15th century when it was customary for each son to have an individual mark of distinction.

"Perhaps Octo, meaning eight, is a bit confusing to many when speaking of the Ninth Division. But in foiling there are eight foils (positions) and heraldic rules gave the Octofoil to the ninth son, since it was symbolic of his being surrounded by eight brothers; which is an explanation of why this eight-petaled insignia is correct for the Ninth Regular Army Division.

"The design chosen for the Ninth consists of a red quatrefoil atop a blue quatrefoil with a white center. The red stands for the artillery, the blue for the infantry, and the white denotes the color of numerals found on division flags. Surrounding the Octofoil is a rim of olive drab — symbolic of nothing else than the U.S. Army."

To my greatest chagrin, I have interviewed numerous 9th Infantry Division veterans and none have remembered my grandfather. I suppose it's because the majority of men with who he served were killed in action. This has been verified by veterans who recognized other soldiers depicted in photographs with my grandfather. Please click here to view photographs of my grandfather and other soldiers during the war.

Nevertheless, had my grandfather been alive when I finally decided to write a book, he would have declined an interview. He felt inferior to GIs who fought and died in those foreign lands to uphold peace and democracy worldwide.

"I'm not any better than any of those guys who died for our country. I'm no better than any other man," Hughes said once.

Following my grandfather's death, I began research for a book on the 9th Infantry Division in World War II. By 1999, I had interviewed more than 50 "Octofoil" veterans. I also traveled to Europe and interviewed residents who lived in villages liberated by the "Old Reliables." I am currently rewriting the history of the 9th Infantry Division during World War II along with testimonies from the men who were there and photographs of the 9th's former battlefields and headquarters.

Veterans of the 9th Infantry Division who served with the 39th "Falcons," the 47th "Raiders," or the 60th "Go-Devils" infantry regiments during the Second World War are encouraged to contact me, Vincent Z. Whaley, for interviews. Until my book is published, however, I hope the reference material and photographs provided here will help anyone interested in this heroic infantry division.

The gallant veterans who served their country during the Second World War are slowly fading into history.   It will be left up to the younger generation of family members and friends to keep their memories alive.

If I can provide any additional information on the 47th or the 9th, please send e-mail to tributes@whaley-computer-consulting.com and I will supply as much information as possible.

I hope you enjoy visiting VZW's Tribute to the 47th Infantry Regiment and 9th Infantry Division.  Be sure to visit a tribute to my father, Lewis D. Whaley, at VZW's Tribute to the 97th Signal Battalion, 596th Signal Support Company.

Thank you for stopping by.

596th Signal Support Co., 97th Signal Battalion
47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division
Stories by Vincent Z. Whaley

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