Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran James R. Hecox, who served with the 104th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II.
Coming from Utica, New York, James R. Hecox graduated from St. Francis DeSales High School in 1942. A year later, he enlisted in the Army. After completing basic training, Hecox went to the 104th Infantry Division as an infantryman. Hecox served in one of the three infantry regiments of the 104th. He later deployed to Europe to participate in operations following D-Day in the summer of 1944.
During the fall of 1944, the 104th Infantry Division was attached to the First Army as a part of Operation Queen, the first step toward the Allies’ planned crossing of the Rhine River into Germany. The 104th were among the first to cross the Rur River at Lamersdorf along the western German border in early December and quickly took the town of Inden after crossing. Hecox’s regiment took a defensive position after German counterattacks during the Battle of the Bulge until February 1945. It was during this period that shrapnel injured Hecox, for which he received a Purple Heart. By mid-March, the division advanced after wearing down German defenses and crossed the Rhine River. The 104th also participated in one of the last major battles in Germany at the Ruhr Pocket along the border.
Following the surrender of Germany in May 1945, Hecox returned to the U.S. with the 104th and went to San Luis Obispo, California, to begin intensive training for the planned invasion of Japan. When the Japanese surrendered in August, the Army deactivated the 104th in December. Hecox returned to New York and honorably discharged as a private first class. During his service, he received a Purple Heart, a Sharpshooter Badge and a Combat Infantryman Badge. The 104th Infantry Division also received a Presidential Unit Citation for its service during the war.
After the war, Hecox married June Scranton in 1947 and they raised a family of five daughters. He worked as a civilian at Griffis Air Force Base near Rome, New York. Hecox later worked for General Electric and specialized in transistor work. He was also employed by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute and School of Art as a maintenance assistant. Over time, Hecox advanced to chief of the engineering department before he retired in 1988. Hecox and his wife were happily married for 54 years until June’s passing in 2001.
In his retirement, Hecox served as a volunteer at the Presbyterian Home of Central New York and at his church, St. Thomas Parish. He also spent time with his family, which includes six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Hecox passed away in July 2011 at the age of 87.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Editors: Annabelle Colton, Julia Pack
Researcher: Giacomo Ferrari
Graphic Designer: Philip Levine