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His whittling skills helped save radiator

Russell Hathaway
Russell Hathaway

Russell Hathaway from Ada, Ohio, spent 15 months in European Theatre and fought in The Battle of the Bulge. Russell went across the English Channel in LST (flat open barge) to Normandy November 1, 1944. Back home in Ohio, a son ( Larry) was born to Russell and his wife Mable November 5, 1944.

Russell was a Private First Class with the “Railsplitters”—Anti Tank Company, 3rd Platoon, 335 Infantry Regiment, 84th Infantry Division. He had seen a lot of destruction from the war, but had not been in combat until they got orders December 24, 1944 to “get out the best way you can.” His unit had been held up in Bastogne, Belgium. They had been staying in a basement of a deserted house with their truck backed into the garage, out behind the house. He had one trip to the garage and no time to take his duffle bag. The truck radiator had two holes from shrapnel. Russell whittled wood plugs to fill the holes. Two men rode on the front bumper to keep filling the radiator with water. They had gotten the order at 4p.m., and at 5p.m. six men plus the driver drove the truck out of the garage (pulling a 57 millimeter anti-tank gun like a trailer) while under fire from the enemy. A German tank (60 ton) had made deep tracks. This was Russell’s first time in a combat situation.

EPSON MFP image
EPSON MFP image

The men got out of the truck and into the tracks. Russell was laying in the track, head to head with Mac McQuin. Mac was shot in the head with a 30 caliber machine gun. Russell and other soldiers got him to back to the command post. They never heard anything more about Mac. They followed half-track tracks until until dark, using black-out lights to travel after dark. Lt. Kelso got injured in leg (his driver was killed). Kelso ended up on Russell’s truck.

This battle continued until January 31, 1945 and Russell’s unit was there until the end. The unit crossed the Rhine for the final offense in Germany, ending up in Heidelberg, with temporary headquarters.

While waiting to return to the U.S., Russell competed in sharpshooting contests and qualified for several medals. On November 23, 1945, Russell headed for home from France on a small victory ship. A terrific storm was on them for three days after leaving the Mediterranean Sea and entering the Atlantic Ocean. The ship tipped 37 degrees during those days. (They capsize at 45 degrees). Most of the men were sick, but Russell was not. Russell received Honorable Discharge December 8, 1945.

Russell had never talked much about his wartime experiences until he acquired and read the book: The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany from Nov. 1944-May 1945, by Lt. Theodore Draper. With the help of this book, Russell could track his unit at different locations and time periods, and this made it easier for him to share his own experiences.

Russell went on the Honor Flight from Columbus, Ohio to Washington, D.C. on April 21, 2007.

On December 12, 2011, Russell and his wife Mable celebrated 69 years of marriage, shortly before his death on December 25, 2011. He passed away in their Ohio home at the age of 92. He was surrounded by his family on that Christmas evening—67 years after spending his Christmas in The Battle of the Bulge.

—Submitted by Drena Hathaway Metzger, his daughter, and Mable Hathaway, his wife, Associate