MARSHALL, Texas (3/21/14) – The U.S. Navy finally awarded an East Texas Baptist University alumnus the medals he earned 70 years ago over the South Pacific during World War II. Joe Hogue, 91, of Overton, received his medals today during a special ceremony conducted by the Navy in Lampsato Chapel in the Ornelas Student Center at ETBU.
Hogue, a retired educator and member of the ETBU Athletics Hall of Fame, earned two medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal, for his service from November 15, 1943 to May 4, 1944.
Hogue was a member of the Navy Bombing Squadron VB 108. “We were out there longer than that, but this is the period of time the Navy figured the missions and what we accomplished until that point,” said Hogue, dressed in Navy blues for the presentation. Three others members of VB 108 are still alive and recently have received their medals. Air log books kept by the pilot Hogue served with were instrumental in determining the medals to be awarded.
The ceremony, attended by a large detail from the Navy, family, friends, and the ETBU community, included the presentation of the Colors, the singing of the National Anthem, prayer, a history of Hogue’s squadron during the war, the pinning of the medals, and presentation of the United States flag to the now decorated veteran.
“It is an honor of indescribable level and very humbling to have this opportunity to present these awards,” said Captain Gil Miller, USN, Commanding Officer, Navel Air Station Joint Reserve Base. “Mr. Hogue, we cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the contributions that you, and frankly, your entire generation made to this country and history. Your generation made unimaginable sacrifices.”
The first base where he served at during the war was at Naku Fetau in the Ellis Islands. “I was a tail gunner on what the Army called the B-24 Liberator, but in the Navy it was called a PB4Y-1 because they had some modifications on it different then the Army,” Hogue recalled.
After the war, Hogue worked in Houston for a while before coming to then East Texas Baptist College and where he graduated in 1956.
Why did take so long for this day to happen?
“They did not tell me why it took so long,” Hogue said. “A navy captain told me over the phone recently, ‘Mr. Hogue the only thing we regret about this is the fact it took over 70 years to get the medals to you’.”
Hogue was originally scheduled to receive his medals for service Dec. 7th at the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth. An ice storm postponed the ceremony. At the suggestion of ETBU Director of Alumni Development Paul Tapp, Hogue asked if the ceremony could be held on the campus of his alma mater.
“It was really an overwhelming experience to have all these servicemen and others to come and be a part of this presentation,” Hogue said.
One ETBU group that attended in full force was the Lady Tiger softball team. Hogue is one of the team’s biggest supporters.
Lady Tiger senior Lacy Liles of Elysian Fields shared afterwards, “To have somebody who has done so much for our country to come out and watch us play all the time, it is great honor for my teammates and myself to be here today to see Mr. Hogue receive this deserved recognition.”
“I was just blown away with the University and the Navy in how they both responded to make such a big presentation out of this,” said son Ken Haney. “It was real really heartwarming to the family, and the ceremony was beyond expectation.”
“I appreciate the University allowing this to occur on campus,” Hogue said. “I have realized that so many who were in my squadron that have died, who probably deserve this more than I do. I just regret that it has been so long coming that they were passed over. It really was an overwhelming experience for me to have all these service men and others to come and be a part of this presentation.”