When I was researching Baldwin residents who were killed in action during WWII for our special section celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, access to information varied widely. I’ve done a fair bit of research on WWII veterans in the past as a hobby, and access to service records, photos and other information is always a crapshoot. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.
It always feels good to come across a hidden scrap of history that helps paint a particular soldier’s story a little more clearly. Lt. Peter Stene Jr. was particularly intriguing to research when I was putting the Baldwin Boys together. Mostly because he was in the Air Corps, his history was recorded much more thoroughly than, say, a ground-pounding infantryman. I managed to find the actual reports detailing the raid over Frankfurt where Stene’s B-17 was damaged by flack as well as the exact position his plane when down in the English Channel.
While I was able to find decent information on the most of the rest of the men killed in action during the war, Randolph Hudson proved difficult. I was given two different dates of death for Hudson, as well as two different branches of the service. I had originally believed he was in the Navy and was killed in the South Pacific sometime in 1942-43. I eventually managed to find a notice of his memorial service in the Bulletin archives, and used that information to piece together a few more details.
Randolph Hudson was born on August 21, 1915. He was one of ten children, and his parents William and Ethel raised the family in New Centerville, Wisc. Randolph worked as a hired hand on a farm south of Baldwin after completing school, and played second base on a baseball team in Hammond before enlisting.
Alan Owens grew up on the farm where Hudson worked, and spent his childhood following Randolph around the barn.
“He was just like a dad to me really,” Owens said. “I followed him all over when I was about six I suppose. Even though it was a long time ago, I still remember him.”
Hudson enlisted in the army shortly after the war began and was assigned to the 11th infantry regiment, 5th Infantry Division.
The 5th ID was stationed in Iceland and later Ireland, before coming ashore on Utah Beach on July 9, 1944, just over a month after the invasion. The division moved inland and saw it’s first action at the end of the month. They fought in Normandy for the remainder of the summer, as the army continued to advance east toward Germany. Part of the division crossed the Marne River and captured Reims, France on August 29. Two days later, Hudson and the rest of his regiment captured Verdun, where twenty years prior the French had halted the German advance of WWI.
The division’s advance was halted in early September, just as it was preparing to enter Germany. This lull allowed the Germans to temporarily stop their retreat, and dig in on the east side of the Moselle River. On September 7th, the 11th Infantry attempted their first crossing of the Moselle. They were driven back by 26 German counterattacks, with the second battalion losing 50 percent of its force. Over the course of the next week, the division took unbelievable casualties trying to cross the river, with the 11th Infantry facing the lion’s share of the carnage.
Over 1400 men from the 5th Division were killed or wounded trying to establish a beachhead on the Moselle, including Randolph Hudson, who was killed trying to cross the river sometime on September 10.