The late Command Sgt. Major Paul B. Huff was celebrated Thursday evening as a true national hero by the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Tennessee Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
The patriotic organization whose members traced their lineage to the American Revolutionary War inducted the county’s Congressional Medal of Honor winner into the chapter as a Meritorious Member.
Former National Vice President General Stan Evans made the induction and presented the membership certificate to Huff’s nephew, David May Jr. and niece Dale Dixson.
“This special Meritorious Member is presented posthumously to the late Paul B. Huff, Bradley County’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient,” Evans said. “Huff is the only Meritorious Member in the Tennessee Society of the SAR. He will be a member of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter as long as it exists and after all the current members have long passed away.”
“I was proud to play a small part in the history-making posthumous induction of Paul Huff to our local SAR chapter,” May said.
“He shared his love of country and family with all," Dixson added.
Bradley County’s native son was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions described in the following citation:
"Corporal, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, U.S. Army. Near Carano, Italy. Date of Action: February 8, 1944 . For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on 8 February 1944, near Carano, Italy.
“Cpl. Huff volunteered to lead a six-man patrol with the mission of determining the location and strength of an enemy unit which was delivering fire on the exposed right flank of his company. The terrain over which he had to travel consisted of exposed, rolling ground, affording the enemy excellent visibility.
“As the patrol advanced, its members were subjected to small arms and machinegun fire and a concentration of mortar fire, shells bursting within five to 10 yards of them and bullets striking the ground at their feet.
“Moving ahead of his patrol, Cpl. Huff drew fire from three enemy machine guns and a 20 mm. weapon. Realizing the danger confronting his patrol, he advanced alone under deadly fire through a minefield and arrived at a point within 75 yards of the nearest machinegun position.
“Under direct fire from the rear machinegun, he crawled the remaining 75 yards to the closest emplacement, killed the crew with his submachine gun and destroyed the gun. During this act he fired from a kneeling position which drew fire from other positions, enabling him to estimate correctly the strength and location of the enemy.
“Still under concentrated fire, he returned to his patrol and led his men to safety. As a result of the information he gained, a patrol in strength sent out that afternoon, one group under the leadership of Cpl. Huff, succeeded in routing an enemy company of 125 men, killing 27 Germans and capturing 21 others, with a loss of only three patrol members.
“Cpl. Huff's intrepid leadership and daring combat skill reflect the finest traditions of the American infantryman."
According to a story published July 10, 1967 in the Stars and Stripes, Gerard F. Forken wrote that, “Huff raced back down the slope, rallied his men and returned to his company to report that the hill was occupied by a German company.
“He was given another 12 men and the task of taking the high ground.
“After a fierce six-hour battle, the Americans were in possession of the hill, killing 27 Germans and capturing 25.
“When the Tennessean returned to report ‘mission accomplished,’ his CO told him that having watched the corporal's heroic actions throughout the entire action, he was putting him in for the Medal of Honor.
"‘What does it mean?’" the 174-pound paratrooper inquired.
"‘For one thing, it means a trip home,’" replied the CO.
"‘The trip home is fine with me,’" said the reluctant hero.
“Huff elected to have the medal presented to him in Rome by Gen. Mark Clark in the presence of his comrades,” the story continued. “He became the first paratrooper to receive the award.
“Huff then returned to the United States, where he went on a 38-state tour with an Army aerial show, making two parachute jumps in each state for War Bonds.
‘Huff is one of the few Medal of Honor winners never to earn the Purple Heart. The closest he came to being wounded was when an enemy grenade exploded between his legs as he stumbled down the hill on that awesome day in February 1944, causing only slight powder burns,” the Stars and Stripes story concluded.
Evans also presented a National Society World War II Corps award posthumously to Huff, recognizing him as a Medal of Honor recipient and as a special Memorial Certificate of Patriotism.
Evans said, “The certificate was for meritorious service during World War II while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This conspicuous performance of duty represents exemplary patriotism in the finest traditions of the United States Armed Forces and reflects great credit upon the recipient, the Military Service, and the Sons of the American Revolution.”
Chapter President Van Deacon presented the NSSAR War Service Medal for his service in World War II and the Vietnam War.
“This award is presented to any member who served in the armed forces of the United States and fought against a common enemy of the United States in a war or action for which a campaign medal and ribbon are authorized,” Deacon said.
Past chapter president Tommy McLain displayed a marble piece from Prospect Presbyterian Church, engraved with the names of the members of that church that served overseas during World War II.
“Paul Huff’s name is on the top line of the center column,” McLain said. “The elders of the church agreed for us to bring it to the meeting and then display with the Paul Huff exhibit at the Museum Center at Five Points.”
Huff was born June 23, 1918, in Cleveland. He was the son of Isham and Danah B. Sipe Huff. His mother passed away in 1923 when Huff was 5 years old. His father married Maybell Lawson in 1935.
According to his military records, Huff enlisted in the U.S. Army June, 27, 1941 at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and given Army Serial Number 34142155. He was assigned to: A Company, 504th Parachute Battalion; D Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment; D Company, 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment; A Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion; Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division; and Headquarters, 3rd Army.
He served in the following campaigns: Algeria French-Morocco, Tunisia, Naples-Foggia, Anzio and Rome-Arno.
He received the following awards: Medal of Honor, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, European Africa Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with arrowhead and four bronze star devices, World War II Victory Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Parachutist Badge with three combat jump stars, Combat Infantryman Badge, 3rd Zouaves Badge.
Post World War II Awards: Master Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge-2nd Award (Vietnam), Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star device, Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze star devices, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Important dates in Huff’s career:
- Nov. 8, 1942: Participated in Jump in Operation TORCH (VILLAN) near Oran, North Africa.
- Nov. 15, 1942: Participated in Jump at Youks Les Bains, North Africa.
- Sept. 14, 1943: Participated in Jump in Operation AVALANCHE (GIANT III) near Avellino, Italy.
- Oct. 21, 1943: Pfc. Paul B. Huff, D Co., 2nd Battalion 509th PIR, promoted to Cpl. (Temp).
- Jan. 22, 1944: Participated in Amphibious Landing at Anzio, Italy as part of Operation SHINGLE.
- Feb. 8, 1944: Action at Carano, Italy in which he earned the Medal of Honor.
- April 10, 1944: Sgt. Paul B. Huff, A CO 509th PIB, 10-Apr-44 GO 5 Award of Combat Infantryman Badge.
- June 8, 1944: General Mark Clark presents Medal of Honor to Paul Huff. He is returned stateside to receive Medal of Honor presentation publicly with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is then sent on a War Bond Tour with the Airborne Demonstration Team.
- April 30, 1958: M/Sgt. Paul Huff reports to Arlington National Cemetery, Va., for month long training to prepare for the ceremonial interment of the World War II and Korean War Unknown Soldiers.
- May 30, 1958: M/Sgt. Paul Huff participates in the ceremonial interment of the World War II and Korean War Unknown Soldiers. M/Sgt. Paul Huff hands the Medal of Honor to President Eisenhower to be presented to the World War II Unknown Soldier.
- Paul Huff serves as Command Sergeant Major of 101st Airborne Division and deploys to Vietnam.
- Paul Huff serves as Command Sergeant Major of 3rd Army.
- Paul B. Huff retired from the United States Army as a Command Sergeant Major.
- Nov. 11, 1988: The city of Cleveland designated Paul B. Huff Parkway in his honor on Veterans Day 1988.
- Sep. 21, 1994: Huff passed away and was buried in Hilcrest Memorial Gardens.