Somewhere, mixed in with hundreds of baby photos, there is a picture of my mom’s brother, the uncle I never knew.
I searched for hours yesterday trying to find it.
I wanted to show the photo to remember Hugh A. McMullen, III, (“Mac”) on this Memorial Day, 2016. It has been over 70 years since my mother’s only brother made the “Supreme Sacrifice” in France as part of the European Theatre of Operations in 1944.
I did not know much about my mom’s brother when I was growing up. He died when she was seventeen, the last of her immediate family. She was a six month old baby when her father, Hugh A. McMullen, Jr., apparently died of “Bright’s Disease,” per a newspaper clipping I found online. This is a revelation as I don’t think my siblings and I have ever known the cause of his death. My mom always seemed unsure about how her father died. Apparently one of her uncles, John Patrick McMullen, also died of “Bright’s Disease”, something to look into further.
It was only a few years after Hugh, Jr. (“H.A.”) passed, that my mom’s mother, Eleanor Roberts McMullen, also died. She and Mac went to live with their maternal grandmother, Katherine P. McDonald.
After growing up without her parents, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my mom to have her only brother go to war. He left in March 1943 and was 18 years old. On September 16, 1944, he was reported missing.
My brother Greg, who shares the same birthday as Mac, says he always felt a special connection to him and knows much of his history:
“Hugh A. McMullen, III was in the Army’s 45th Infantry Division. He fought against Erwin Rommel (“The Desert Fox” – German field marshal of World War II), then they continued to fight through Italy and into France in 1944. At the time the Allied troops were storming the beaches at Normandy on D-day, his 45th Infantry Division had already been in France for some time. He was killed as they were approaching Germany. They were an amazing division and critical for the Allied forces. He did not die in vain. Ironically, the Swastika was used on the 45th Infantry Divisions uniforms prior to Hitler coming to power. It had many meanings for many people (including the American Indians). Fortunately the Swastika was no longer in their uniforms when Hugh left to fight the Nazis.”
My sister said, “The cemetery is lovely but very sad. I don’t have a photo of mom at the grave. Understandably she was upset that day. It’s a poignant and beautiful place.”
Cumberland Evening Times, Cumberland, Maryland
Associated Press TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1944 – Two Lose Lives Battle Action Pvt’s. Hugh A. McMullen, III, and Ernest Eckard Make Supreme Sacrifice In France. Two Cumberland soldiers are reported killed in the European Theatre of Operations on today’s list of war-zone casualties, They arc Pvt. Hugh A. McMullen, III, 400 Washington Street, and Pvt, Ernest Eckard, 221 Springdale street. Pvt. McMullen had been reported missing in action on the south of France front since September 16. His death-in-action was confirmed by a War Department message today to his maternal grandmother, Mrs. Kathryn P. MacDonald. A graduate of LaSalle High School in 1942, Pvt. McMullen was a student at the University of Maryland when he entered the Army in March, 1943. He embarked for overseas duty last November and saw service in the Anzio beachhead campaign and further north on the Italian peninsula before being transferred to the fighting front in Southern France. Pvt. McMullen was a son-of the late Hugh A. McMullen, Jr., and Eleanor (Roberts) McMullen, His paternal grandmother is Mrs. Hugh A. McMullen, 515 Washington Street. He has one sister; Miss Jane Humbird McMullen, of Cumberland.
Hugh A. McMullen, III, Funeral Service
Obituary of my mom’s father, H. A. McMullen, Jr.
Obituary of my mom’s mother, Eleanor Roberts McMullen
Hugh A. McMullen, III, was awarded the purple heart.