Friday, August 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> From cotton fields to Pacific in WWII

Leader staff writer

Cabot resident Logan Hutson recently reflected on his time in the military at the end of the Second World War as a gunner’s mate on the battleship USS Iowa, a tank commander during the Korean War and a bit about life in rural Arkansas. He served 29 years in the military.

Hutson, 88, was born in Morrilton on Oct. 1, 1927. He grew up in Center Ridge in Conway County. His father was a cotton farmer and his mother was a homemaker. Hutson had three brothers and one sister.

“I started school when I was 5 years old in a little two-story building in the country. We had no electricity. It was a Masonic lodge, a public school and a church east of Center Ridge,” Hutson said.

During the Great Depression, Hutson started working as a farmhand in the cotton fields when he was 7 years old. He worked 10 hours a day for five years and earned 75 cents a day.

Hutson, a retired minister, recalled when he first heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“I was 14 in Cleveland in Conway County visiting an aunt and uncle. They had electricity on the main highway then, that was only place that had it, a little country store had a radio and we got news that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was,” he said.

His family moved to England in 1942 and he graduated from Humnoke High School in 1945.

“I worked until I reached 17 and joined the Navy in 1945. I told Dad I was tired of working in the cotton fields. ‘If you sign the papers I’ll join the Navy.’ I was going to be drafted, and I didn’t want to be in the Army, so I volunteered for the Navy,” he said.

As World War II was ending, Hutson was sent to San Diego, Calif., for basic training. It was the first time he had been out of the state.

“The first night they played ‘Taps,’ I was all alone and thought I made a big mistake,” he said.

Hutson was a turret gunner on the USS Iowa battleship. The ship would fire at surface and anti-aircraft targets.

“We were scheduled to invade the Japanese homeland in November 1945. President Harry Truman had ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Aug. 6 on Hiroshima and on Aug. 9 on Nagasaki,” Hutson said.

“That’s when it convinced the Japanese to surrender. They were preparing for a million casualties if we had to invade the mainland. They had guns stored in caves along the coastline, and we got Japanese guns by the thousands out of the caves. Truman was highly criticized for using a nuclear weapon, but there is no telling how many million lives he saved, both Japanese and American. I think he did the right thing,” Hutson said.

Japan surrendered on Sept. 2, 1945, on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay near Yokosuka, Japan. The ship came home and the USS New Jersey took over as flagship of the occupation. The USS Iowa was later assigned to relieve the USS New Jersey in January 1946.

“We were training after the war ended because we had to be ready at all times. We practiced anti-aircraft with planes pulling sleeves through the air, and we would fire at the sleeve,” Hutson said.

“I went to Tokyo one time and the B-29s had just obliterated it. They were just repairing the train station. In Yokohama there wasn’t a building standing. There was just one single smoke stack, and how it survived all the B-29 bombings I don’t know,” Hutson said.

He later became a gunner mount captain. He was in charge of 10 men inside the gun mount.

He spoke of a typhoon the USS Iowa encountered near Okinawa, Japan.

“We rode it out for three days and three nights. The winds clocked at 148 mph. It twisted our wind instruments off. It tore all our lifeboats up. The gun shields around the anti-aircraft guns were battered around it. It took them six months to repair the damage,” Hutson said.

Hutson was discharged from the Navy in September 1948 after three years of service.

Hutson joined the Army Reserve in 1950. He liked the Navy, but the Army unit held drills locally in England and retained his rank.

His unit was called up to active duty five months into the Korean War. But Hutson’s prior service in World War II prevented him from going to Korea. Hutson spent his time stateside.

He was transferred from a gunner’s mate to an electronic technician. Hutson maintained all the electronic equipment, intercoms and shortwave radios in the trucks, tanks and Jeeps.

Hutson moved up in rank from sergeant to sergeant first class. His job as an electronics technician did not qualify to be sergeant first class. The Army made him a tank commander. He had a crew of five. They were at the Mojave Desert for live-fire training of 75 mm, 50-caliber and 30-caliber guns. They had night and day firings.

“We didn’t have computers back then. I had estimated the range to my target visually and give the gunner the range,” Hutson said.

The Army was using his unit for replacements in the Korean War. Hutson got out of the Army two years later in 1952.

Hutson went to work on electronics after he left the military and worked for Young’s Department Store in Carlisle from 1952 to 1954.

“I was in charge of television repair and installation, radios and appliances,” he said.

In 1954, he went to work for Orgill Brothers wholesale in Little Rock for three years. They were a hardware store chain based in Memphis that carried Admiral appliances. He completed his television repair training and became a television technician with Orgill until 1957.

Hutson said ministry was on his mind for many years.

“I loved electronics, but I was not satisfied with it. I answered the call,” he said.

Hutson went into ministry full-time entering a Baptist seminary in Little Rock in 1957 and finishing five years later in 1962. He has been a minister for 60 years. His first church was North Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church, where he had been a member.

He then led the Macedonia Baptist Church in Humnoke from 1965 to 1978. Hutson moved to Cabot in July 1978 and was pastor of Faith Baptist Church when it was a small mission on Pin Oak Street for 13 years to 1991. The last church Huston led was at Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Springfield in Faulkner County from 2002 to his retirement in July 2013. Hutson oversees weddings and funerals and will fill in at the pulpit when a church pastor is on vacation.

Hutson returned to serving in the military in 1963 joining the Navy Reserve to finish his military retirement. He was in charge of a nuclear submarine repair unit. Drill was held at Camp Robinson in Little Rock. He retired in 1987.

Hutson met his wife, Mary, when he came back to England in 1948. They met at Landmark Baptist Church. They married on Dec. 23, 1950. They have been together for 66 years. They have one daughter, Barbara, and two sons, Ronnie and Daniel. Their son Edward passed away. They have seven grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.