Most were to his mother in Denver, Colorado. He was close and deeply devoted to his mother; his father had died when David was six years old.
His grandmother and grandfather were Welsh immigrants from Wales, in the British Isles. They had settled in Colorado in the 1880's. David's father was one of five children. Dave Hughes was an only son. He had three sisters, two older, and one younger. His father had been a retail food salesman who traveled up and down the "front range" on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, between Walsenburg in the south, and Boulder, north of Denver. David often traveled with his dad on sales trips, and remembered dancing on counter tops while singing "Home on the Range" for his dad's customers.
After his father's death, the family moved to Denver, where his mother could more easily find employment. His dad's sister-in-law, David's aunt and uncle were successful, well connected, and influential. His aunt and uncle had no children of their own. David's aunt helped support him when he attended the Colorado Military School in Denver, where he fit well in the disciplined life of a young cadet. His aunt, became an important influence in Dave's life. It was as a boy in the Colorado Military School, during World War II, that he learned of West Point. Eventually he secured a principle appointment from Senator Milliken of Colorado - with the assistance and intervention of David's aunt.
At West Point David Hughes was in company F-2. He considered himself a maverick, proud of his Welsh heritage. The Welsh were noted for their love of the lyrical in the English language. They were poets, writers, speakers, and the preachers in the Calvinist churches in England, the clergy that rebelled against the Church of England. Precise use of the language was deeply admired among the Welsh, and in David Hughes deeply ingrained. The same Welsh poets and preachers had also been the eloquent spokesmen for the coal miners in Wales, and their unions, which fought hard for better pay and safe working conditions in the harsh life and health threatening environment of the mines. There was some of that in Dave Hughes blood - powerful feelings for the people who sweated and toiled in hard, dangerous labor. To him they were truly "the salt of the earth."
He played lacrosse. He joined the staff of the Pointer magazine, and the chess club. He liked chess and, on the team was paired with a Filipino cadet and classmate, Fidel Ramos, who in 1992 was elected President of the Phillipines. They were rated number 2 and 3 on the chess team, and prided themselves in beating Navy in 1950.
On the Pointer staff he not only wrote for the magazine, but became its lead photographer. His company mate and close friend at West Point was Paul Gorman, the Pointer editor their first class year, who reached the pinnacle of his Army career as Commander-In-Chief, United States Southern Command, two years before he retired in 1985. As new first classmen they had traveled Europe together the summer of 1949.
Dave Hughes' last five months as a cadet at West Point were less than joyful. He was a cadet private, a "clean sleeve", one of five in his entire class. He was "slugged" and busted when he was a first classman. His camera work had brought him grief. Late in 1949 he had climbed atop the West Academic building. Assembled in the quadrangle below was the entire Plebe class ('53), in the form of a postage stamp, standing stiffly at attention, looking up at him. He snapped a picture that drew him toward instant fame.
Life magazine, headquartered in New York City, expressed interest in the photograph, and asked to meet him. The only problem was the Life representatives insisted on a time of day Dave was scheduled for academics. Faced with the choice of his day in the photographic sun, or academic classes, he chose fame, and he was reported absent from class.
A Commandant's Board resulting in removal of his stripes, and more. He spent nearly the entire last semester of his four years at the Academy serving "special confinement" in his room.
David Hughes' first assignment after graduation leave would be Ft. Riley, Kansas, directly in to the 77th Infantry Rifle Company, a special training support unit. In less than three weeks his life, and the lives of the men in the class of 1950 were changed - forever. The lives of the men in the Class of '50, and the five classes before them, were to receive their baptism of fire, and soon.
When branch and unit assignment selections were made in the spring, Dave deliberately selected the separate infantry company at Ft. Riley, far from Ft. Benning, where he knew many of his classmates would be.
No Ranger or Airborne schools for Dave Hughes. No "elite" units. The average G.I. infantry unit was what he sought, where men who were "the salt of the earth" would be found. A line infantry unit was where the Army's hard, tough, most difficult work was done, and wherr the average G.I.'s did the dying. They were the men, seldom volunteers, who bore the Army's heaviest burdens and greatest risks in battle, largely determined who won or lost.
Dave Hughes was at Fort Riley only 45 days when orders came sending him to Korea and the 1st Cavalry Division. He was flown to Tokyo, then went by ship to the port of Inchon, South Korea, and trucked to an Army replacement company in Pyongyang, North Korea.
There he received orders sending him forward to the 1st Cavalry Division, which had joined the fight in the Pusan perimeter, acquitted itself well, and been part of the pursuit of the NKPA as it fled north. By the time he joined Company K, Third Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment, the Eighth U.S. Army and its UN Allies were pressing close to the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and the Peoples' Republic of China.
The 7th Calvary Regiment! George Armstrong Custer of Civil War fame and the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
At the age of 23, Custer had been the youngest brevet brigadier general in the Union Army, as well as one of the most dashing cavalry commanders in the Civil War. At the Little Bighorn in North Dakota, 11 years after the Civil War, his command was destroyed by the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes allied with them. Custer died with 247 of his troopers.
In spite of Custer's disastrous defeat the 7th Cavalry could claim a glorious history. Aside from its many battle streamers there were warm memories associated with Custer's time in the 7th. He had been its commander when "Gary Owen" had been adopted as the Regimental song. The jaunty tune then became the official cavalry march for the Army.
A young second lieutenant couldn't ask for a more colorful Regiment to be assigned to. Dave Hughes later believed he couldn't have been in a better infantry company than Company K. His commander was extraordinary, a man Dave Hughes would never forget - Captain John Robert Flynn, '44, a veteran of World War II's European theater. John Flynn gave much of himself to his officers and men. He taught them well.
Go on to Part 6 - The Retreat
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