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Eastonite of the Week: World War II Veteran Hugh Pedersen

In honor of Memorial Day, Patch talks to a decorated World War II veteran.

Name: Hugh Pedersen

Family: Wife Joyce and two sons

Age: 96 — born May 5, 1915

Occupation: Retired, former executive for Warnaco, World War II Army Infantryman under General George Patton.

How long have you lived in Easton?

I have lived in Easton 53 years, four years on Westwood Drive and 49 years right here on Bayberry.

Can you tell us your job history?

In 1933 at the height of the great depression and at the age of 18, I traveled to New York City to work as an office boy for $16.50 a week. I then decided to go to college. I attended Bentley College in Massachusetts. Upon my graduation I came back to Connecticut to work at the Remington Arms Company in Bridgeport. The company had 15,000 employees during World War II and I worked in the treasury department.

Because of the nature of the work Remington did, I was on permanent deferment from the war. One day after seeing many of my friends and family go off to war, I went in to my bosses office and asked him if I could be taken off deferment to serve my country. I then enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1943 and was immediately placed in the infantry.

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Memorial Day is a day when we honor all of the veterans who have died since the Civil War until today in Aghanistan.

What battles did you participate in during the war and what medals did you receive?

I participated in The Battle of the Bulge, The Battle for Bastogne, Normandy and The Battle of Mortain. I received the battle stars medal (see photo lower left hand side).

I received the Purple Heart along with a Presidential Citation for the Battle of Mortain. The Bronze Star, A medal for my participation in the war against Germany, Europe, Africa and the Middle East Campaign. My Combat Infantry, Marksmanship Medal and a Good Conduct Medal, which when my granddaughter showed it to her class she said, "and my grandpa got this medal because he didn’t do anything wrong.”

What was the toughest part of the war?

It was the winter of 1944-1945, the coldest winter in Germany in the past 40 years. For the most part of the war supplies were limited. I had three pair of socks that I rotated every day in the field. I would keep one pair under my helmet, one pair under my uniform near my chest and one pair on my feet. We had no blankets, just five-foot sleeping bags. If you slept with your feet outside the bag, you woke up with black frost bitten feet that had to be cut, so I slept with my boots on in the sleeping bag and stayed as warm as I could. The reason we had no supplies was due to the fact our supply trucks were out of gas and could not get things to us. As a result my company, A Company, was out on patrol with no real support.

The other tough part was just getting to shower five times in 270 days and only getting one pair of underwear for three months. I received a pair in December and took them off in March. Since we were all outside in the fresh air we all smelled the same. Also just so you know the average stay of someone being in A Company was 30 days. Within 30 days you were either missing, captured, dead or wounded. I had 140 days in A Company. I saw eight replacements come on one Sunday and four were carried out four hours later.

What does it feel like to be a war hero?

I am not a hero, I am just a guy who did what he had to do.

What did you do when you returned from the war?

I came back to Remmington Arms and seven months later one of the bosses said to me, “What are we going to do with all these veterans?” I said I am one of them, I will make your job easier, I will quit. I did and began my 31-year career at Warnaco. There I opened and ran factories in Messina, N.Y., Dothan, Ala., Juarez, Mexico and Costa Rica.

After many years living in other parts of the world I came back to the headquarters in Bridgeport, was promoted to VP of Manufacturing and opened six factories overseas while overseeing three factories in the U.S.

I traveled about 90 days a year.

What has changed the most in Easton over the past 53 years?

The biggest change in Easton over the past 53 years has been my increases in property taxes. I could well afford it for years but it is getting a little more difficult now that I am in my 90s. I have been retired for 33 years. I gave up my country club membership at the Patterson Club where I was a member for 39 years. I sold my car and I stopped smoking 14 years ago. When you live as long as I have, you have to do what you have to do.

What is your secret to long life?

I smoked cigarettes for 70 years, never more than one pack a day. I drank a little as well. My father lived to 102, my brother is 93, my sister died at 92, we just have good genes.

What is your favorite thing about Easton?

It is a great town. The people of Easton look out and care for each other. We have a good school system and a wonderful senior center.

What is your favorite spot in Easton?

The on Center Road and the across the street from it. I really enjoy driving down Route 58 looking at the reservoir and the fountain.

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