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Family of SSGT Hugh D. Johnson being sought

Fighting in the trenches of Holland during World War II, Billy Boles never knew Staff Sgt. Hugh D. Johnson of Lamar County, who died far away from home fighting a war for freedom. Nevertheless, Boles is seeking Johnson’s family in an attempt to get them in touch with a Dutch family who has adopted Johnson’s grave in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. Boles and Johnson, believed to be the same H. Dorsey Johnson on the World War II monument in front of the courthouse, fought with the 7th Armored Division of the 48th Infantry Battalion. Boles became a prisoner of war, was eventually freed and came home to become involved in POW and MIA activities including the grave adoption program and, of course, reunions with his fellow soldiers. According to information Boles has been able to uncover, Staff Sgt. Johnson was born in 1918 in Lamar County and enlisted in the Army Aug. 13, 1940, at Fort McPherson. He served four years in the infantry before succumbing to his wounds, apparently in or near Margraten, on Dec. 7, 1944. He had earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Other information from his enlistment records show he had completed two years of high school before becoming a farm hand. He was unmarried and had no children, at least at the time of his enlistment. He could have had a family by the time he died, said Boles. “A lot of men married in service then returned to their wive’s hometowns instead of their own.” Compounding the issue is the fact that Spalding County apparently claims Johnson, too. There he is known as Hugh D. Johnston, and may or may not have the same serial number, depending on which records from the National Archives one looks at. ”The Veterans Administration worker I talked to said we had more information than he did,” he said. A wild goose chase took them to Haralson, but that Hugh Johnson had recently died at the ripe old age of 90. Johnson’s grave is being cared for by the family of Geatche Ton Menning, who contacted Niek Hendrix about his desire to contact the Johnson family and perhaps send them pictures of the grave. Hendrix met Boles when he erected a monument to villagers who were killed in the battles surrounding his village and invited veterans of the 7th Division to return for the dedication. Boles and his wife Madeline were among seven who made the trip. ”He rented a bus to take us to the cemetery in Margraten,” said Boles. “It was full of flowers. People there have been taking on caring for graves, some of them for 64 years.” Boles did not visit Johnson’s grave, being unfamiliar with his story at the time. However, they have gone to Belgium to visit the grave of Madeline’s uncle ‘“ a search which sparked his hobby of connecting the families of fallen soldiers and those who care for their graves ‘“ and the Henri-Chappelle Cemetery in France, where a buddy is buried. ”It took a long time but we found my friend’s sister,” he said. “The cemetery caretaker put up American and French flags and we took a picture. We pulled up the flags and later we sent them to her, with the dirt still on them. When she got them, she called to say that after all those years she still had to shed a tear.” The sister, in her 80s, turned out to be Boles’ friend’s only surviving relative. ”Though we fought in the same division, I never knew Hugh Johnson,” said Boles. “Still, I’d like to connect these families.” Those with information on Staff Sgt. Hugh D. Johnson can e-mail Boles at or call 770-476-3331.

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