Jones County WWII Vet meets former Commander’s Son | Community Spirit
Jones County WWII veteran, Walter Presley, had the rare opportunity of meeting his former commander’s son and the two shared their stories with local veterans at the Veterans Memorial Museum, Nov. 6, in Laurel.
Presley’s grandson, Chris Hodge, located Dr. Richard Macdonald, from Washington, Illinois, the son of Presley’s U.S. Army 139th Evacuation Hospital (semi-mobile) commander, Lt. Col. Hugh Macdonald, when researching his grandfather’s war experience. Hodge’s interest was piqued after visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and recalling the many stories his grandfather had told him about the war while growing up a concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria. However, there was no information or reference to Ebensee at the holocaust museum.
Hodge began his research and found a book written by Dr. Macdonald entitled, “Inside the Gates,” which not only describes Macdonald’s father’s role and the role of his brother’s in the war, but documents the history of the “phantom unit,” the 139th Evac unit, and its role in the liberation and rehabilitation of thousands in the Nazi concentration camp in Ebensee, Austria, which, until now, was never recorded. The 139th Evac unit was organized at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg and according to Hodge, his grandfather remained with the unit from its beginning until it was disbanded after a little over a year later when the war came to an end. “They were on a ship headed toward Japan when the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” said Hodge. “When they returned to the U.S. the 139th was disbanded.”
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