THIS DAY IN AMERICAN MILITARY HISTORY – NOVEMBER 11, 2021 – To Honor All American Military Vetrans

November 11, 2021 –  Sergeant Arthur W Hodan (My Dad)

On this Vetrans Day 2021 I’m honoring my Dad Sergeant Arthur W Hodan and the sacrifice he made for this country. Art was born in 1918 growing up in Cicero, IL a suburb of Chicago a couple of blocks from the Capone home, a tough neighborhood. Art was a gifted athlete earning all Chicago honors in Baseball and Hockey and was drafted in both sports signing a contract with the Boston Braves Baseball Club in the 11 grade. He quit High School and left home to play ball, in order to get by before the next years season he joined the Illinois National Guard and worked out an agreement to train in the winter and play ball in the summer. At the time he was one of the top defensive prospects at shortstop but could not hit a curve ball to save his life. He started out with Bostons farm team in Sioux Fall SD and proceeded to earn 6 straight Golden Gloves while being called to the big leagues during play off season for his defense. After 6 years he finally brought his batting average up and at the end if the season sign a contract moving up. Six weeks after signing the contract at the age of 24, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the Illinois National Guard was one of the first units called to report and formed the 23rd Infantry Division, later known as the American Division. Art reported at Camp Crockett, TN for combat training, on his first day he was called to the division Commander’s office. They informed that since he was weeks away from turning 25, he did not need to stay and could leave with a honorable discharge because of he age (at that time). He turned them down and the Commander said that because of his age and the fact he was a excellent Shortstop, he would be a good leader of men and  was promoted from Private to Sergeant on the spot. Since his MOS was in heavy weapons, he became the Platoon Sergeant of the heavy weapons platoon of Machine Guns. 

From Camp Crockett they moved to New Jersey where they loaded transport ships and left the United States, not knowing where they were going. The bet was Africa but they made a big right turn towards the Panama Canal and landed on New Caledonia for jungle training. The 23rd Infantry Division, initially (and more commonly known as) the Americal Division, of the United States Army was activated 27 May 1942 on the island of New Caledonia. In the immediate emergency following Pearl Harbor, the United States had hurriedly sent a task force to defend New Caledonia against a feared Japanese attack. This division was the only division formed outside of United States territory during World War II (a distinction it would repeat when reformed during the Vietnam War).  At the suggestion of a subordinate, the division’s commander, Major General Alexander Patch, requested that the new unit be known as the Americal Division—the name being a contraction of “American, New Caledonian Division”. This was unusual, as all other U.S. divisions are known by a number. 

In contrast to several other US Army divisions in the Pacific War, soldiers in the Americal division received extensive weapons training as well as company- and battalion-level exercises in jungle terrain while at New Caledonia.

In November 1942, Arts Regiment landed on Guadalcanal to replace the Marines who had fought so hard to gain ground and defend it. Art was in Battalion B, which was tasked with defending Henderson field and the surrounding area along with unloading their supplies from the transport ships, while Battalions A and C went looking for the Japanese. During that time, Battalion B was subjected to naval bombardment and Ariel attack at night.

When the other Battalions found the Japanese, the fight was on. After a 2 day March through thick jungle and Japanese Sniper infested swamps, they reached their destination. In January 1943, the 132nd Infantry Regiment of the division took Hill 27 and 31 of the Mount Austen complex. The division later participated in offensives to sweep Guadalcanal of remaining Japanese resistance. After the last Japanese defenders were killed, captured, or evacuated from the island, the division was relieved on 9 February 1943.

The following are excerpts from a 16 page letter Art wrote while recovering from disabling wounds on New Zealand. He had the letter smuggled, with the son of the family he was staying with, to his parents when the boy went to the US for pilot training. Though Art was badly wounded and could no longer be in combat or play ball again, he requested to stay and take a clerk position sot that person trained for combat could fight. 

In late June 1943, he was assigned to Marine Air Group 25 on Guadalcanal which would form the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT), supporting the logistics of operations in the South Pacific Theater. In October 1943, future President Navy Lieutenant Richard Nixon took command of SCAT. Art was sent to the new SCAT unit set to support the fighting on Bougainville Island. After that campaign was completed he island hopped all the way to Japan. Art served 35 months in the Pacific earning several awards including the Bronze Star with honors & the Purple Heart.

After the war he spent a lot of time in and out of the VA hospital getting married and having kids. I’m named after his best friend killed by a sniper on the way to Hill 27. In the end he was the only one in his platoon who survived the war which wore on heavy, he suffered with PTSD the rest of his life. He was wounded during the 3rd Bonsai Charge and taken to the aid station on the back side of the hill they were defending. His weapons, except for his knife were taken and after treatment hidden among tree roots until morning. The next day they arranged a group to carry back the wounded. Because they planned to go through the swamp where he lost several men in, he refused to go. Those men were never heard from again. 

Art was a very patriotic man, during the Vietnam War he had men who were from Illinois that were training at Fort Gordon come to our home and spend their weekend off in a home setting among friends. That’s something that I have never forgotten and which others had done the same at Fort Jackson and Fort Benning. 

Art passed just before 9/11 at the age of 82, he lived a full life and will always be missed.

The parts of the letter he wrote was published in the World War ll History Magazine. Below are the pages as published.

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