Herman C. Haydon was born in 1922. His family had a ranch at that time on Hurst Creek in what has now become Lakeway in Austin, Texas. His lineage traces back to the earliest pioneer settlers of the area. His grandmother Hudson was from the family for which Hudson Bend, on the Colorado River above Austin, took its name. When he was three years old, the Haydons moved to Leander, and later to Liberty Hill. Herman left Liberty Hill High School when his family moved from there back to Leander; and a few months later, on March 20, 1941 he enlisted in the Army and entered active duty the same day.
He was sent to San Antonio, went through Basic Training at Camp Bullis, and then was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division stationed at Fort Sam Houston. He was further assigned to Company K, 9th Infantry Regiment. Herman says, We could go off-post in civilian clothes in those pre-WWII days and enjoyed weekend passes visiting Brackenridge Park and the other attractions in and around San Antonio, mostly whatever was free because there wasnt much money. I was earning $21 a day, but that was only for one day a month. After war was declared we had to pack up our civilian clothes and ship them back home. I never wore civilian clothes again until the war ended, none of us did.
Austin being conveniently near San Antonio made it possible to visit home often, and being in uniform made it free. Hitchhiking wasnt just legal, the public was encouraged to give a soldier a ride. It was the patriotic thing to do. I made a lot of trips back home to Leander, hitchhiking every time, and never having to wait more than a few minutes for a ride. There never was a time when one of the first three cars to come by would not stop and pick me up. It was also fairly common for drivers to take servicemen right up to their front door.”
When Herman first joined the Army, the 2d Infantry Division was preparing for war and much of 1941 was not spent in San Antonio. They participated in VIII Corps maneuvers during the first two weeks of June in the area of Comanche, Texas. From August 11 through October 2, 1941, and for extended time in 1942, the division participated in the Louisiana maneuvers. In November 1942 the division moved to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for winter training. Herman says, At one point it was planned for us to be ski troops, but they never issued us skis. Camp McCoy was cold, I had frozen feet there.
In September 1943, 2d Infantry Division moved to Camp Shanks, New York and then sailed from the New York Port of Embarkation on October 8th. Hermans entire 9th Infantry Regiment was on the S.B. Anthony. They arrived in Belfast, October 17, 1943 and moved to stations in Northern Ireland where they continued training and preparations for the Normandy invasion landings. Division Headquarters was established at Armagh and the units were scattered about in the towns and hamlets elsewhere in County Armagh.
They found a local populace that was very accepting and friendly to the troops. Herman says, The day we arrived I was immediately put on guard duty. A young man with his wife and baby came up to my guard post wanting to talk. I told them that wasnt permitted for sentinels on duty, but I agreed to meet with them later. We did meet and that was the beginning of a very good experience. My new friend had a government job in agriculture. Since he had to visit all the farms in the area, he was one of the few civilians that had a car and he invited me to go along with him whenever I could do so. Getting to travel about the Irish countryside and meet farm families was all very new for me, and having come from a Texas farm family, very different. I was especially astonished when during a visit inside a farm home I turned around and there was a horse staring me in the face. Bringing livestock into the farmhouse wasnt what Id expected.
After about six-months in Ireland, in April 1944 the division was moved over into southern Wales, landing at Pembrokeshire, and was positioned at various places in Glamorganshire where they spent the remaining weeks in preparation. When the invasion came, 2d Infantry Division was part of the forces embarked in the Bristol Channel that crossed over to France the following day and landed at Omaha Beach on D+1, June 7, 1944.
Herman Haydons 9th Infantry Regiment, as part of the division, was immediately committed to action enlarging the beachhead and was part of the next three days fighting. By June 10th the regiment had crossed through Cerisy Forest, outflanking Trevieres, and resulting in liberation of the town. In the days and weeks afterward the division proceeded in the direction of St. Lo, securing Hill 192, a key enemy strong point, on July 11th. Herman was wounded on July 27th when still fighting in the hedgerows of the bocage country in Normandy. Today Herman says, A German machine gun opened up and I was hit in both legs. At the time, I believed that one of my legs had been shot off, and in fact it had been nearly severed. No one was there to help me and I had to crawl, dragging myself some distance in order to reach the safety of the hedgerow. He was taken back to a field hospital and then sent back to a General Hospital at Hereford, England. After one month and 20 days in Normandy, the war was over for him.
After months in the hospital in England, Herman Haydon was shipped back to the United States. He arrived in Boston harbor on January 4, 1945 and was told he would be sent to a hospital near his home. Instead, he was sent to Hammond General Hospital in Modesto, California, and he wasnt the only one. Herman says, During my nearly five years service, I had never run across anyone from home, but in Modesto there were three or four men in the hospital there with me that were all from Leander, Texas. Herman was transferred to a Convalescent Hospital near San Diego, but after only a few weeks there it was determined that he was not ready for convalescence, but required further treatment of his wounds. As a result, he was transferred to Bushnell General Hospital at Brigham City, Utah. He had been granted brief furloughs home and during one such visit he had met a Miss Edith Guynes, a girl from Elgin. In June 1945, on a furlough home from the hospital in Utah, Herman and Edith were married. The doctors at Bushnell Hospital had plans for his continued treatment, but the war had ended months before and there was great impatience everywhere to get started with post-war life. Besides, Herman had gotten married and he insisted, so he was granted a disability discharge on November 29, 1945.
After his return home, Herman says, There were many discharged servicemen everywhere, all looking for jobs. I got a job at Camp Swift working with German P.O.W.s under my supervision. When the camp was closed out, I did vocational training at Austin High School under the G.I. Bill, and then worked at several local businesses. I was with the Marfus Company for about six months, then worked for Rainhart Company producing laboratory test equipment for soils and materials. After that I did some machine work for W.F. Smith and Son and then in 1952 had been with Modern Supply Company only a few months when I was called for an interview for a job with the University of Texas. Two men drove up to my house, interviewed me in my front yard, and hired me.
Herman was employed by the universitys department of Engineering Mechanics at Balcones Research Center, and later transferred to the Petroleum Engineering Department on main campus, and lastly closed out thirty-years with The University when he retired from the department of Chemical Engineering in 1983. That career was entirely in research instrumentation, fabricating equipment used in engineering science, and he proudly reports having built instruments that NASA had sent to the moon. Meanwhile during those years, Herman and Edith had a family of four sons; James Ray who had served in the Navy, Ronald Edwin of Cedar Creek, Terry Joe a Marine Corps Vietnam veteran coping with Agent Orange related conditions, and Philip Randal of Cedar Creek. After having been married for over 60 years, Edith passed away in 2006. Their eldest son James is also deceased.
After his disability discharge for the wounds to both his legs, Herman has had to deal with limited mobility and the pain associated with it for all the years since, and it never gets any better. At this writing, he is scheduled for major surgery on his right knee. Herman joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart as a life member shortly after Chapter 1919 was chartered and throughout the chapters early years Herman and Edith had regularly attended meetings together. In recent years he is most frequently seen at our breakfast get togethers. This month PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salutes Patriot Herman Haydon.