We originally ran this story back in 2012, from when a genuine American hero came and addressed our audience at one of our monthly Guns Save Life meetings in Rantoul.
Mr. Hubert passed away in recent days. Services will be held this Saturday.
PHILO (News-Gazette) – Bill Hubert died Saturday (July 5, 2014) at home, surrounded by his loving family and his constant companion Heidi, his boxer.
A memorial service will be held at 12 noon on Saturday, July 12, 2014, at the Renner-Wikoff Chapel, 1900 S. Philo Road, Urbana. A memorial reception will be held one hour prior to the memorial service at the funeral home. Burial will be at Grandview Memorial Gardens, Champaign, immediately following the service. Masonic rites by Urbana Lodge 157 will be held at the funeral home starting at noon, and military rites will be held at the cemetery.
Bill Hubert – A great American.
Bill Hubert is a modest, unassuming businessman, in his golden years, who reluctantly speaks in generalities about his past time serving America in the U.S. Navy.
He came from a family of electricians and was trained in that trade by his family and in high school trades class.
Recognizing that he would probably be drafted, he elected to enlist in the U.S. Navy so he would avoid being a “ground pounder” in the Korean War.
When he actually went into the service in 1952, he was a journeyman electrician, and expected to return after his enlistment to become an electrician. Little did he know it would be 23 years before he returned to civilian life.
Eight weeks into basic training, he was pulled out and sent to Underwater Demolition School. “But I’m an electrician,” he protested to the commanding officer.
“That’s okay. You’ll wire detonators,” his C.O. replied.
After extensive training in underwater demolitions and hand-to-hand combat, he was sent to Korea. “There were a lot of World War II vets called back to service there. They were one unhappy group of guys,” Hubert said of the call-backs, some of whom had been out of the service for as long as five years.
Hubert was initially wounded in an attack on the patrol boat he was assigned to and after recovering from that, he went back and worked behind North Korean lines primarily to blow up supplies headed for their front-line-troops – food, water, ammunition, etc.
Korea was a very poor nation, Hubert noted, saying the people were typically malnourished – and the winters were very, very cold. “We were well trained, but all of our gear was left over from World War II,” he said. “But the Navy took good care of us.”
He also said that among the troops, it was pretty much common knowledge that the North Koreans were trading their Allied prisoners to Russia and China for food and supplies.
As for what he did, Hubert is quite modest. “We were well trained people. We had a job and we went and done it. We did it well,” he said of their work. “I’m proud to be a U.S. Navy vet.”
He did talk some about his team’s work searching for and retrieving captured Allied POWs. It wasn’t easy finding the camps, especially as they moved around a lot. When Hubert did find the POWs, they were usually mistreated.
“They were thin and very frail,” he recalled. The North Koreans were very cruel, starving and torturing the prisoners.
He was asked about rumors that he was court martialed. Hubert admitted that it happened. He explained that he and another team member had retrieved a pair of very frail POWs and stashed their weapons so they could carry their charges to the exfiltration location. Of course, not bringing your weapon back was a big-time no-no and some muckety muck decided to bring the two men up on charges, even after Hubert explaining that he thought it more important to bring back POWs than their guns.
They got back to Pearl Harbor and a court martial was convened. Not long after, an Admiral walked into the room and announced “this court martial is over” and the case was dismissed.
Sometime later, on another mission to rescue POWs from North Korea, his team picked up a bunch of men, including an Air Force colonel who put Hubert in for a Silver Star. When notified of the impending presentation, Hubert told his superiors that all of his men deserved the award, not just him. “I was only one man [of the team.]”
In the end, each member of the team was awarded the medal. Hubert didn’t discuss what happened in the mission, but it’s probably safe to say it was harrowing.
Later, he served in Vietnam (and other nations) doing surveying and cartography work so later American troops could identify their location by landmarks and know where the enemy’s trails were.
Hubert also told a couple of good jokes. There was the lab work and cat scan joke, and then there was the tale of a time when he was training some new Navy men.
One fellow, when asked his name, said it was “Johnny.” Hubert chuckled and explained to the audience that he told “Johnny” that “we address people by last names here. So, once again, what’s your name, sailor?”
Johnny answered, “My last name is Darling.”
“Okay, then, Johnny, let’s get going,” he laughed, as did our GSL audience.
Hubert closed his presentation by saying today’s military is very different than it was back in the 1950s. Back then, things were done quietly and without publicity or fanfare. Today, the military likes publicity and Hubert says there’s just too much publicity about sensitive missions for his tastes.
“We should never have identified the men who went in for Osama bin Ladin. There’s too many Muslims who would like to get retribution.”
At the end of his presentation, the audience members gave Hubert a long standing ovation for his service.