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Queens Chronicle

John McHugh, WWII hero, dies at 95

Silver Star recipient Whitestone resident fought at D-Day, the Bulge

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Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:47 pm, Thu Aug 1, 2019.

John McHugh of Whitestone, a highly decorated veteran who fought the Nazis on D-Day and in other famous World War II battles, died in his sleep on July 21.

He was 95 years old.

McHugh is survived by his sons John Jr., Brian and Timothy; grandsons Patrick, Joseph and Christopher, and seven great-grandchildren. His wake was held at Martin A. Gleason Funeral Home in Whitestone on Wednesday and the funeral is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 at 10:15 a.m. at St. Luke’s Church at 16-34 Clintonville St.

Arriving at 7:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, he and his comrades in the 1st Infantry Division — also known as “The Big Red One” — crossed the English Channel and landed on Omaha Beach in the second wave of American soldiers.

Then just a kid, he was carrying the tripod for a .30-caliber machine gun. The man who was carrying the actual weapon, though, was killed, so McHugh had to crawl on the beach all day without a gun to use.

Decades later, in 1987, while with his family on a visit to Normandy, he decided to spend some time alone while in the American cemetery, searching for the graves of friends killed during the invasion.

The D-Day bloodshed was just the beginning of the 1st Infantry Division’s combat-filled campaign in Europe. McHugh and the other soldiers in it fought the Third Reich in the battles of Aachen, H¸rtgen Forest, Crucifix Hill and the Bulge.

He earned the Silver Star, the third-highest decoration bestowed for bravery in combat; the Bronze Star; the European Theatre of Operations ribbon; the Combat Infantryman Badge and two Presidential Unit Citations for fighting at Crucifix Hill and the H¸rtgen Forest. Belgium honored McHugh with a Fort Eger badge.

In 2014, the state Senate inducted the Whitestone resident into its Veterans Hall of Fame. He was honored at the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in the same year, and this year was the grand marshal of the Whitestone Memorial Day Parade.

For seven months after the war ended in 1945, McHugh served with the Army of Occupation until being honorably discharged with the rank of corporal.

Throughout his entire time in Europe, he was sending the money he made back home to his widowed mother.

Like his father, who fought in World War I, she was an Irish immigrant. They raised him in Union City, NJ. It wasn’t until 1955 that McHugh moved to Whitestone, where he and his late wife would raise their children.

He did not retire until last year, when he stepped down from an office job at IBI Armored Services. Before that, he’d worked as a private investigator and Transit Authority conductor.

McHugh also was very visible in the Whitestone community, coaching baseball and football in the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League.

“He had a great, long life,” said Kevin Shields, who is the late veteran’s first cousin, once removed and led an advocacy campaign to get the block where the late veteran lived — 156th Street between 14th Avenue and Cryders Lane — co-named in his honor.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) has introduced a co-naming bill that is expected to pass. Shields is glad McHugh will be memorialized with the sign, though disappointed that he won’t be alive to see it.

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • 204th Street Jack posted at 5:17 pm on Thu, Aug 1, 2019.

    204th Street Jack Posts: 23

    As another of "The greatest generation that ever lived'' leaves us I salute his service and dedication to his country and offer my condolences to the family for their loss..