McGrady, Hugh (3rd TD Grp)

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Biography:  Hugh McGrady was born on April 17, 1921, in Hillsville, Virginia. He was the third of six children born to Oscar McGrady and Oddie Ethel Marshall and attended local schools through the 7th grade. His enlistment record identifies that he worked as a miner and/or mining machine operator prior to the war. The 1940 census further clarifies his occupation as rock-crusher.

Service Time:  Hugh entered the service on September 15, 1942, at Roanoke, Virginia, and was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. They prepared for overseas shipment at Camp Shanks, New York, on October 3, 1943, and shipped from the New York port of embarkation on the 8th. They arrived in England on the 18th and continued their training and preparations for military operations in Europe.

They shipped to France, landing on the evening of June 7, 1944, at Omaha Beach. They were committed in the Forêt de Cerisy and next attacked across the Elle and Aure Rivers. The unit assaulted the German strong-point position on top of Hill 192 which commanded the approaches to St. Lô, on the 12th. It was during these actions that Hugh was wounded by machine gun fire and sent back to England for treatment and to recuperate.

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Hugh remained in England for a number of months but when he returned to duty, he was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 3rd Tank Destroyer Group. Although we do not know the exact date when he joined them, the 3rd had moved into Belgium on September 9th and then into Luxembourg on the 16th. They moved back into Belgium on Oct. 4, 1944.

From December 18, 1944, at 03:30, to December 22, 1944 at 14:30, the most important battle of the “Battle of the Bulge” was held at the Domain of Butgenbach. It was at this location that repeated attacks of the German Army were repulsed by the sustained resistance of American Units occupying this area, which included Hugh and the HQ Co. 3rd TD Group.

On December 22, 1944, between 10:00 and 14:30 hours, Private First Class Hugh McGrady was killed in action during the last German assault. The only indication of how he died was listed on his burial record, which lists shrapnel as the cause. The exact location is also unknown but official unit documents indicate that from December 16th to the 25th, the unit’s command post was at Butgenbach, specifically at the end of the town’s water reservoir. Subordinate units were located southwest of Robertville and also at Elsenborn to protect against a possible German armored breakthrough. It is reasonable to believe Hugh was serving in this general region when he was killed.

Hugh McGrady 5Hugh was temporarily buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Hombourg, Belgium, Plot RR, Row 8, Grave 144, on December 24, 1944. On June 23, 1948, he was reinterred at his permanent location, in the same cemetery, Plot A, Row 5, Grave 46. This was at the direction of his family who felt he should remain overseas. He received credit for two campaigns and was posthumously given the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster designating his second award of the medal.

As related by his nephew, Calvin, Hugh’s death was a tragic loss for the family and that he is still spoken of and grieved for to this day. He is fondly remembered as a wonderful person.

I want to thank Jean-Marc Hauglustaine for the photos and information he provided. Jean-Marc is from Belgium and not only contacted the U.S. government looking for information on Hugh but he also tracked down Hugh’s nephew, Calvin Hugh Webb, who wrote a very nice letter and provided photos of Hugh and his parents. It was this research that made this tribute possible. The grave marker photo was just recently taken on May 25, 2018, the day before the Memorial Day celebration at the cemetery.

Jean-Marc’s father, Jean, had served in the Belgian Army, 17th Battalion of Belgian Rifles, during WWII. Jean and his unit served with the 3rd TD Group during their campaigns in Germany and Czechoslovakia, providing safety and protection. On April 6, 1995, Jean adopted Hugh’s gravesite, officially agreeing to visit and place flowers at the grave. In 1999, Jean-Marc adopted the gravesite himself and has continued the work of his father and look into his life and the circumstances of Hugh’s death. Jean passed away in 2008 at the age of 86.