Gano Johnson Hedrick was born January 24th, 1915 in Wyoming, Kentucky. He grew up in Bath, Montgomery and Clark counties same as Billy, but seemed to have a rougher time of things. He was 10 years old when his parents parted ways in 1926. This was just prior to the beginning of the depression. Even for farm families who were more self-sufficient than most, making ends meet had to challenging at times. The younger kids went to live with their father and new step-mother in Winchester for 6 years. Emma remarried in 1932 and the children came back to live with their mother and new step-father on a farm in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Gano would have been 17 at that time, Billy was 13.
In June of 1941 Gano enlisted in the Army. From there he spent time at various camps training. He mustered out of Camp Grant, Illinois on June 17th and then to Camp Polk in Louisiana, training in “5th grade duty (244) Driver”. By the middle of July in 1942 he had shipped to Camp Young outside of Indio, California for desert training. At the time, George S. Patton was the CO. There is now a museum in his honor at the entrance of where Camp Young used to be.
Kentucky boys evidently don’t do well in the desert, and Gano had some issues with heat exhaustion. He spent some time in the hospital recovering, as he had a few recurring medical issues that complicated his complete recovery. Gano did recover, but unfortunately a portion of his documents that would give me information about his life between August and December of 1942 are missing. There was a fire in 1973 at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, and a high percentage of Army records were lost. On some of Gano’s documents there are singe marks, as the copies were made from documents recovered and somewhat restored. I do know that during this time in Kentucky, his mother Emma was living her last days and died on September 18th, 1942. Billy made it home from V-7 training for her funeral, and I can only guess that enduring medical issues kept Gano bound to the hospital and doctors so he could not get home.
In January of 1943 he was admitted to the 11th Evac military hospital at Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania to deal with his medical conditions. There was a six week convalescence, and on February 23rd of 1943 he returned to duty. In July of 1943 he lost his younger brother Billy, someone he was close to. His records are vague on his actions and camp assignment until he leaves for France in June of 1944.
In June of 1944 Gano’s regiment, the 36th Air Infantry Regiment, shipped to France, landing at Omaha White Beach just a few weeks after D-Day. During WWII, the 36th was involved in several campaigns including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. Gano was attached to the 3rd Battalion. According to his release documents, while in the service of the 36th AIR, he was a driver and mechanic: “Drove half truck to transport personnel and ammunition. Checked operation of light brakes, steering mechanism, and other operation parts. Serviced, cleaned and lubricated vehicle. Knows principles of internal combustion engines. Used mechanics hand tools. Drove over all types of terrain in all types of weather”, and if he was at the battle front, all types of conditions. A representative of the 36th AIR web site tells me they saw their first action shortly after landing on June 29th.
In December 1944, allied troops and Germans clashed in one of the most decisive battles toward the end of the war in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945). I’ve been reading up on the battle to determine just how close to the action his troops actually were- like paint on a fencepost close! Every now and again, where they were became the front line. The 36th AIR and 3rd Battalion were all around the battle, providing support to that front line by either creating or clearing roadblocks, providing security, seeing that supply lines were kept clear, maintaining machinery and taking turns acting as an attack force. One reference book told about how difficult it was at times to get medical supplies to the front line and they had to resort to extreme tactics, including putting the supplies in missile casings and firing them off to where they were needed. The after action report on the 36th AIR discusses this specifically and corroborates the missile fired supplies.
By July of 1945, he was on his way home from the war. In September, he was honorably discharged with several medals to his name including the American Defense Services Ribbon, the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theater Ribbon, 1 Silver Battle Star, 4 overseas service bars, 1 service stripe, a Good Conduct Medal and a Unit Badge for the 36th AIR, nicknamed “Spartans”, and with the motto, “Deeds not words”.
Gano came home to live a good long life. It took a long time for me to appreciate his role, and thanks to the research I’ve done on Billy I had the skills and the resources to learn more about him. I hope to continue with this, but for now just thank you Uncle Gano for your service. Wish I could have known you.