Hurst, Robert W. (702nd)

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Biography:  Robert Walter Hurst, “Bob”, was born on February 17, 1914, in Gilman City, Missouri. He was the son of Ira Banford Hurst and Clara Anna Peschke and attended Gilman City High School, graduating in 1932. He then worked as a women’s hair stylist for the Sophia Glemby Company on 8th Avenue in New York City.

Service Time:  Bob entered the service on November 4, 1941, at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. After his initial training, he was assigned to the Reconnaissance Company of the 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion and trained with them in the U.S. On October 11, 1943, he qualified as a Marksman with the M-1 Carbine and functioned as an anti-tank crewman.

The unit trained at a number of military facilities throughout the U.S. including Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Camp Hood, Texas, Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, Camp Myles Standish and Fort Devens, Massachusetts. They also took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers. Bob was now serving as a TD Commander.

The unit was equipped with M18s before shipping out, which they did on February 14, 1944, from the Boston port. The battalion arrived in Gourock, Scotland, on February 25, 1944, only to be issued M10s while there.

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After four months of additional training, they were loaded on transports and landed at Omaha Beach on June 11th. Entering the line at Livry, France, on July 2nd, they formed part of the 2nd Armored Division’s spearhead during the Cobra breakout in late July. Fighting at Mortain, they established first contact with Canadian Forces during the encirclement of the Falaise Pocket. Entering Belgium on September 5th, they crossed the German border near Gangelt and fought against Siegfried Line defenses along the Wurm River in October and November. The unit was re-equipped with M36 tank destroyers in late November and Bob was instrumental in training the men on the new units. They then supported the drive on the Roer River and moved to the Ardennes in December.

Bob was wounded on January 4, 1945, during operations in Belgium and received the Purple Heart medal for his injury. The 702nd crossed the Roer River on February 28th, follwd by the Rhine on March 28th. They participated in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, reaching the Weser River on April 4th. After reaching the Elbe River near Magdeburg, they took on occupation duties. At some point, Bob was assigned to B Company and completed his service with them.

Cpl. Hurst was recognized for his work to instruct others in the proper operation of the new M36 Tank Destroyer. He did so well that he received a Commendation, which made the newspaper back home. Although the training he provided was in late November, the article was published in early 1945, after he had been wounded. 

Commendation Article

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In addition to his Purple Heart, Bob also received credit for each of the unit’s campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe and Rhineland. He also received the Good Conduct Medal and was entitled to wear the Belgium Fouragere in recognition of the 702nd’s unit award of the Belgium Croix De Guerre unit. Bob shipped home on September 23rd, arriving on October 2nd and left the service on the 10th at the Jefferson Barracks, MO. He had reached the rank of Sergeant. 

Honorable Discharge

Now back in the U.S., he went back to work as a stylist.  On June 2, 1947, Bob married the former Martha Frances Colvin, “Frances”, in Sedalia, MO. She was the daughter of Robert William Colvin and Susie Mabel Herring and the new couple made their home in Bonner Springs, KS. They had four children, Nancy, born in 1948, Robert Jr. in 1950, Debbie in 1954, and Jennifer in 1959. In his spare time, Bob enjoyed fishing.

Bob passed away on June 23, 1987, and was buried in the Edwardsville Cemetery in Edwardsville, Kansas. I want to thank Bob’s son, Robert, for providing the information and photos for this tribute. I also want to thank Find A Grave contributor, Juanice Hess, for providing the grave marker image.

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