Ned Hunger’s P-47 Thunderbolt, along with three other P-47’s buzzed the town of Arches, France. They were to liberate a group of 100 or so French Resistance Fighters that had been trapped by Nazi forces on a mountain top over the winter of 1943-’44.
As the pilots of the P-47’s surveyed the countryside, they spotted a mile long Nazi military train at the Arches’ depot. It was loaded with tanks, guns and armament. Hunger, the 2nd Lieutenant Squad Leader, ordered two of the P-47’s to proceed with their mission of helping the Resistance Fighters. Hunger and the other P-47 pilot would see what they could do about the Nazi train.
They went into a dive, firing everything they had, and received fire back. Hunger saw the train engine go up in flames. He circled back for a second run, as did the other pilot. The Nazis were ready, and returned fire mercilessly. Hunger was hit. He attempted a crash landing in a nearby field. His P-47 came apart, the tail section landing on one side of a creek, the engine and front section on the other. Hunger’s body lay beside the engine.
Cautiously, a few towns people approached. A mother and her daughter covered Ned Hunger’s body with a white sheet. They could see the word “Dot,” for Hunger’s fiancee, Dorothy, on the nose of the P-47. Later that night, the townspeople would retrieve Hunger’s body and bury it in the Arches’ cemetery. Eventually it was moved to the military cemetery in Epinal, France. Ned Hunger was 23; it was his 43rd mission.
The other pilot with Ned escaped. The two P-47’s that went to liberate the Resistance Fighters were successful. 90 of the 100 trapped Frenchmen made their way to freedom under cover of the P-47’s. 10 Resistance Fighters stayed behind to fight off the Nazis. All ten were killed.
Unbeknownst to Hunger, the Nazi train was headed to the front in what would later be called The Battle of the Bulge. The delaying of that train was a significant factor in the Allies’ victory, which would become a turning point in the war. France was liberated 13 days later.
Ned Oscar Hunger was born June 11, 1921, in Burlington. He was the son of Grace and Wallace Hunger of 1128 S. 13th St. There were five children in the family; Ned was the fourth boy. Ned’s brother, Arnold, navigator of a B-17, was also shot down and was a prisoner of war. Ned was a star basketball and baseball player for Burlington High School and later at Burlington Junior College. From Burlington JC, he transferred to Knox College in Galesburg, IL. About to be drafted, and wanting to serve his country, he enlisted in the Army-Air Corps.
This September marked the 75th anniversary of the death of the 10 French Resistance Fighters, and the death of Ned O. Hunger. Ned’s nephew, Ned W. Hunger, age 72, and his wife Mary, of Washington, Iowa, along with their six children, and other family members (for a total of 13), all made the trip to Arches, France for ceremonies surrounding the 75th Anniversary. There they met the girl who had helped cover Ned’s body, and one of the French Freedom Fighters, now in his nineties. There are two memorials at Arches, one for Ned O. and one for the 10 Resistance Fighters. Ned W. and his family received from the Mayor of Arches a bronze medallion that on one side says simply, “Ned will never be forgotten.”
The French will not forget that Americans so unselfishly laid down their lives for the liberation and freedom of their country.