Former World War II POW Marks 100 Years

Scores of family and friends gathered at Zoar Baptist Church to honor the life and accomplishments of Carlton Hudson at his 100th birthday party last Saturday.

On display were mementoes of his service as navigator on a B-24 bomber during World War II. He was shot down during the Kassel Mission and was held as a POW until being liberated in April 1945.

Missing was his wife of 60 years, Vera Rose Paul, who passed away in February 2016.

Mr. Hudson, who was born on Jan. 27, 1918, in Jonesville, LA, was surrounded at the birthday party by his four children, 10 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

His father owned a general store during the Depression. He went to school in Buckeye, LA, but times were hard. He dropped out of school and went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. After three years, he returned to Buckeye High School where he met Vera Rose Paul.  She was five years younger.

Carlton went to Louisiana Tech to study engineering and was there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.  He enlisted but wasn’t called up until 1943.

In the Army Air Corps, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and assigned to the 8th Air Force. 445th Bomb Group. He became a navigator on a B-24 Liberator bomber and flew 29 combat missions over Germans. His last mission was a tragic one and is well known in the history of aviation.

During the Kassel Mission, 35 B-24 bombers were attacked over Germany with devastating results. Twenty-five were shot down in Germany and three others crash landed. A total of 117 airmen were killed, and 121 were captured. Only 98 men returned to action.

Carlton Hudson was one of those captured. By October, he was imprisoned at Stalag Luft 1. Fortunately, it was a prison camp for U.S. Army Air Corps officers and enlisted men, which was run by the Luftwaff, the German air force. So it was German pilots responsible for American pilots.  There was a lot of mutual respect, and the Americans were well treated by the standards of World War II. Food was in short supply, as it was for the Germans, but other than that there was no ill treatment.  Carlton’s son Jim Hudson, the youngest of his four sons, said, “It wasn’t Hogan’s Heroes but it wasn’t the Bataan Death March either!”

The Russians liberated the POW camp in April 1945. An agreement between the Germans and the Russians allowed the Germans to withdraw from the POW camp without a fight. As a result, neither the Germans or Russians suffered any casualties, and the Americans too were released unharmed.

Carlton Hudson returned to Louisiana and married Vera in August 1946. He finished college the next year. With a degree in engineering, he went to work for the California Oil Co., which was drilling wells in Louisiana. He became a Licensed Professional Engineer in 1958 and moved the family to Baton Rouge in 1959 to go to work for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

They moved to Central in 1960, where they raised their four boys — John, Charles, Michael, and Jim. Eventually, all the boys attended and graduated from Central High School. John became a chemical engineer and now lives in Colorado. Charles, also a chemical engineer, lives in Houston. Michael, a forester, lives in Mandeville, and Jim, a mechanical engineer with Honeywell, lives here.

Jim said that while World War II was probably the defining time in his father’s life, he never seemed to dwell on it. “He was always very fun loving and adventurous. As a youngster, he and his friends would jump the train and go wherever they wanted to go. They would put soap on the train to slow it down and then jump on!”

In his younger days, Carlton loved tinkering around the house.  He was always building something, Jim said.  “He never sat around and didn’t allow us to. He loved to have his boys working with him, especially on his two-acre garden! That’s a mighty big garden to maintain!”

“As for the war, he talked about more in his later years. He didn’t glamorize it. To him, it was just something that had to be done.”

Today, Carlton Hudson’s health is relatively good. He uses a wheel chair and has trouble hearing but otherwise he’s doing well, his son Jim said.

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