May 26 • 06:06 AM

Humble veteran a true war hero

Ken Hunter's family discovers bronze star earned during WWII

Ken Hunter marched with fellow American Legion members in Imlay City’s 2008 Memorial Day parade.

November 10, 2010
IMLAY CITY — Like a lot of other veterans, Ken Hunter was more than modest when it came to his service in the Army in World War II. He didn't talk too much about it and for whatever reason, his family didn't press him for stories about how he earned his medals including a bronze star.

What they did know was that he was loyal to his country, even to the end, said daughter Pat Arnaud. Only

months before he passed away in September at the age of 90, Ken was putting flags on veteran graves in the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in honor of Memorial Day. He was a 60 year American Legion member and held various officer positions in both the Legion and VFW.

"He was very proud of his ability to serve his country," Pat said.

It wasn't until after Ken's passing that his family knew he was more than just a proud veteran. He was also a hero in the eyes of the United States Army.

Sorting through his belongings, they discovered a citation, issued in June 1945 from the Third Army's Ninth Armored Division Headquarters, that spelled out just how a 24 year-old farm boy from Lum earned a bronze star.

Ken, a member of the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Troop E, and his fellow soldiers were near Oberspier, Germany on April 11, 1945.

The citation read:

"As Technician Fourth Grade Hunter's troop was proceeding in column, it was subject to intense enemy artillery and panzerfaust fire. Although his tank was in the direct line of fire and had been hit by the initial burst, Technician Fourth Grade Hunter remained at this gun.

Firing with superior accuracy, he succeeded in destroying two machine guns and an enemy armored vehicle before the blasts from his guns ignited leaking gasoline in his tank and he was forced to abandon it.

When the flames subsided, Technician Fourth Grade Hunter ran through a hail of direct sniper fire and salvaged guns and ammunition from the scorched vehicle. Then setting these guns up in a defensive position, he succeeded in pinning the enemy down and enabled the forward elements of his troop to withdraw and reorganize for a subsequent successful attack.

The intrepid daring and valor displayed by Technician Fourth Grade Hunter reflect great credit upon himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service."

The citation was signed by Major General John W. Leonard. The bronze star is the fourth-highest combat award for bravery. Everyone who read it was in awe but left wondering why Ken didn't talk about his harrowing experience.

Both Pat and her brother Mike Hunter say it was probably due to their dad's humble nature. He wasn't the kind of guy to brag, Mike said.

"I didn't ever picture him in a situation like that," Mike said.

"I knew he was in the service but I didn't think of him as a hero."

Of course, Mike wishes he knew more. He wishes he would have asked more questions about his dad's experience. The 9th Armored Division of the Third U.S. Army played an important role in the defeat of Hitler's German Army.

The Ninth shipped out in late August 1944 and found themselves at the Luxembourg/Germany border in October. They saw their first combat in December, helping to drive the Germans out of Bastogne, Belgium. One of the 9th's most important contributions to the war was seizing the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen, Germany in early March 1945. According to historians, it was the last bridge standing over the Rhine River that could endure heavy truck and tank traffic. Upon crossing, the division made steady progress through Germany. In Limburg, they liberated Allied prisoners, marched to Frankfurt and in May, captured Leipzig. They were headed into Czechoslovakia when V-E Day was declared. Ken earned other medals including the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign medal with three service stars.

That tour of duty took Ken a long way from home. He was born and raised in Lum, finished the tenth grade and then had to get a job picking potatoes. Ken entered the service in January 1942.

He was discharged in December 1945 and returned home to marry Helen Weingartz in 1947. They had three children—Pat, Mike and Colleen. Ken was a longtime employee of Pure Oil, member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and served on the Imlay City Fire Department.

"It's your loss if you didn't know him," Ken's daughter Pat said.

"He was a good guy."

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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