Photo: Ed Hyatt, a native of Louisiana now living in Orange, recalls his World War II service during a recent interview at home. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers

 

 

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

Orange’s Ed Hyatt worked side-by-side with legendary Gen. George S. Patton in one of the pivotal campaigns of World War II.

They were side-by-side for about a second.

“Our division was attached to [Patton’s] Third Army in the ‘Dash for the Rhine,’” Hyatt, 97, recalled a time early in 1945 as Allied Forces fought their way into Germany.

“We were lined up on the road, stopped at an intersection, and here comes a jeep as close to me as you. Someone said, ‘There goes Patton,’ and sure enough, it was him.”

Like Patton, Hyatt commanded tanks.

But the First Baptist Church member, a native of DeQuincy, Louisiana, normally had only three – and, occasionally six – tanks under his control, while Patton had upwards of 300,000 men and hundreds of tanks.

Hyatt, a 1943 graduate of LSU who had prepped in the ROTC before joining the Army, was a lieutenant in an artillery company when he shipped out to England late in 1944.

“I went from Southampton [England] across the channel to France in January of 1945 and went through a replacement depot,” Hyatt said.

“I ended up in the 43rd Tank Battalion. There are no artillery officers in a tank battalion. I was the only artillery officer in the battalion.”

Of the 42 Sherman tanks in a World War II tank battalion, Hyatt was in charge of a battery of three, the ones from each of the three companies outfitted with 105-millimeter howitzers.

They could fire shells as far as nine miles.

“These tanks were held back, to guard the tank company headquarters,” Hyatt said. “But we reorganized. They gave me custody of six Sherman tanks with 105 howitzers.

“We became ‘Dog’ [D] Company. We responded to forward observers, either in airplanes or in tanks. They gave us fire missions and told us where the target was.”

As a souvenir, Hyatt has in his Orange home plenty of mementos of his time in the service during World War II and the Korean War.

Prominent is a diagram charting the progress of the U.S. 12th Armored Division through France and Germany.

Not long after crossing paths – literally – with “Old Blood and Guts” Patton, Hyatt saw the end of World War II in Dinkelsbuhl, Germany.

“I wasn’t in any fighting other than fire missions,” he said of his time overseas. “We had to jump in a ditch several times when we’d be traveling in a column and a German Messerschmitt [plane] would start strafing the column.

“Once, we had been firing [the howitzers] all afternoon, and I knew the Germans would be retaliating,” Hyatt said. “A round landed close to the halftrack I was in. We skedaddled.”

His battalion was stationed in Dinkelsbuhl through the summer of 1945. When not pulling guard duty, the men kept busy playing sports.

In late 1945, he was transferred to the Second Armored Division headquarters in Bad Orb, Germany – near Frankfurt – and made it home in January 1946.

Hyatt was in the Army Reserve after returning to the states and was recalled to duty during the Korean War, which ran from 1950-53. He didn’t go overseas this time; instead, he served as a communications instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Hyatt married his wife Marie before going overseas in 1944 and they were married 69 years, before she passed away in 2013.

The couple lived in Houston and Biloxi for the 25-plus years Ed worked for the Borden Milk Company, ultimately advancing to assistant controller for the Houston division.

Ed and Marie moved to Magnolia, Arkansas, to live near their daughter Susan and her husband, Ron Jones. Five years ago, Ed joined Susan and Ron in moving to Orange, where his granddaughter Melissa lives with her husband Larry Locke.