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Aubrey Festus
Hughes

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Aubrey Festus Hughes
1917-1944

Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war.
Thucydides

Aubrey Festus Hughes, born on March 10, 1917, was the youngest son of Gallington Hobert & Maggie Lee [Merritt] Hughes, who lived in the Barboursville area of Cabell County, West Virginia. For about 5 years as a young man, Aubrey lived with his sister Faye and brother-in-law Albert Stapleton. Albert worked at the Huntington Water Works and helped Aubrey get a job there as a pipefitter. Aubrey married Evelyn Steele, and they settled down on 5th Avenue in Huntington. Aubrey Festus Hughes
Aubrey Festus Hughes

Aubrey Festus
Hughes
Aubrey Festus Hughes
On October 13, 1942, Aubrey enlisted in the Army. He served in Co. F, 540th Combat Engineer Regiment in Algeria and Tunisia North Africa from November 1942 through July 1943. The 540th Combat Engineers were part of Operation Torch, which was launched in November 1942 to establish footholds for air, ground, and sea operations in North Africa on the Mediterranean and in French Morocco on the Atlantic coast.

From July 1943 through September of that year, Aubrey Hughes served with the 540th Engineers during the Allied invasion of Sicily. The goal of this action, known as Operation Husky, was to remove the island as a base for the Axis aircraft and allow free passage to the Mediterranean for Allied ships.

Operation Husky was the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of troops landed on the beaches. It overshadowed even the later Normandy landings, and opened the way to the invasion of Italy. One consequence of Operation Husky was that Hitler was forced to transfer troops to Sicily and Italy from other areas. By mid-August, the Axis air and naval forces were driven from the island, and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened.

In September 1943, Aubrey Hughes and the 540th Combat Engineers were involved in Operation Avalanche, the invasion of mainland Italy, with assault landings at Salerno and Paestum, where heavy German counterattacks jeopardized the entire Allied position. After several days, the Americans prevailed and secured the beachhead.

Hughes and the 540th Engineers maintained the beaches, operated supply dumps, and cleaned thousands of mines from beaches and roads. They also conducted reconnaissance and mapping of the area. In October 1943, the 540th Engineers moved to Naples, where they worked at clearing the docks so ships could unload their cargo. This was an important assignment at the time, because Naples was the only seaport in Allied control that was close to the front lines.

On January 22, 1944, Allied forces landed at Anzio, Italy, in Operation Shingle, a movement to draw German forces away from Cassino and provide the Allies access to Rome. Aubrey Hughes and the 540th Engineer Combat Regiment were involved in clearing and maintaining the beach at Anzio as a port of operations for the Allied forces after a heavy bombardment by the German artillery.

In July 1944 the 540th Combat Engineer Regiment was assigned to support the 36th Infantry Division for the invasion of southern France that was scheduled for August 15, 1944. This movement, known as Operation Dragoon, established a supply and unloading base on Yellow Beach near the town of Agay on August 16. As a member of Company F, Aubrey Hughes was assigned to clear and maintain the beachfront. After a successful operation at Yellow Beach, Company F moved to St. Raphael, France to reconstruct the harbor and clear the streets. Map of St. Raphael
Map of St. Raphael

St. Raphael
Memorial
St. Raphael Memorial
During these operations on August 18, 1944, Aubrey Hughes was killed while working with other members of Company F on street clearance in St. Raphael. Another soldier {Edward H. Kranz} was killed that day, two others died later of their injuries, and twenty-seven were wounded. These casualties occurred when one of the bulldozers being used to move the 7’x3’ concrete anti-tank blocks that the Germans had strewn throughout the area detonated some hidden mines that were encased in the blocks.

Aubrey Hughes was originally buried near St. Raphael, France, in August 1944. On January 16, 1949, his body was brought home for re-burial in the Susie Chapel Cemetery off Rt. 10 in Cabell County, West Virginia. He was preceded in death by his mother Maggie, who passed away in 1936, and his older sister Regina, who died of typhoid fever in 1917. Aubrey’s father Gallington, who died in 1949; brothers Reginald, Oredo, Morgan, Forrest, and Thomas; sisters Faye and Thelma; and wife Evelyn survived him. Grave Marker of Aubrey Hughes, Susie Chapel Cemetery
Grave Marker of Aubrey Hughes
Susie Chapel Cemetery

PFC Aubrey F. Hughes received the Purple Heart, the WWII Victory Medal, the WWII Honorable Service lapel button, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star, and the Good Conduct Medal for his military service.

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