U.S Air Force Signal Corps, 5th Division
World War II
Campaign Ribbon, Presidential Citation, Good Conduct Medal
Marin County native Robert Hough was born in Kentfield, where he also spent the first 18 years of his life. Having his father pass away when he was young, his mother took up the job as a librarian at the Marin County Free Library. Later, she was an insurance saleswoman to support Robert and his sister.
Robert attended Tam High School in Mill Valley, and graduated, before moving on the a clerk position at PG&E. Working there not very long, he enlisted in the war. Both his sister and himself joined the fight against Hitler in Germany. Having his family and nation giving him unanimous support, Robert went away to boot camp in San Louis Obispo-a basic training camp that is still present today. There he was noted for his good computer and technological work, and was enlisted into the Signal corps.
After having message center training and showed how to decode messages through the machines he was using, he was sent on his first assignment in New Guinea. During the two and a half years he was there, he was working primarily in the message center. There, he cracked coded messages over the radio by typing them into a computer machine that would then present the legible translation.
In New Guinea, Robert and his other Corps members lived in big tents. They moved around 4 times to new camps, each time made to keep their areas immaculate for inspection. When asked about the food, Robert replied by saying it was “Monotonous, but it did the job.” His camp was lucky enough to never run out of food, supplies or resources.
Happy to be helping and fighting for our country, Robert and the rest of his camp had morale of optimism and pride. Although occasionally homesick, and tired, they were able to write letters home often, and go on day trips to cities near their camps. Going to the local towns, they met people, went to restaurants, and relaxed, doing whatever they wanted for a few days.
Once, while in Australia, Robert was unfortunate enough to receive malaria. A popular illness at the time, he had to stay in a local hospital for three weeks. However, he was safe to return after that to his same position.
Having spent just a few years away from home, Robert received a notice in New Guinea and was in Colorado ready for release a mere 10 days later. He was thrilled to be going back home and was grateful for the quickness of his departure.
Back home, Robert went back to his clerical position at PG&E almost right away. Although never returning back to school for a higher education, he took several classes at PG&E, and even taught some classes as well. Moving up the corporate ladder, he became new positions quickly.
Having seen his fellow war-veterans only a few times since his release, he no longer keeps in touch with many of them. Once, shortly after being released, they all took a trip together to catch up. Happy to see his fellow personnel alive and doing well he liked hearing their stories of life after the war. Lucky to have most of his friends return safe and sound, Robert was disheartened when hearing about the losses of a few great men he knew well.
Although separated from close friends ad family for a while, Robert felt good to have been part of such a national movement. He says he was “very lucky” not to have fought on the war front as a member of the infantry, but feels as though his division significantly assisted America’s fight.
Looking back, Robert says he learned “ a lot of important life lessons,” and thought it was a tremendous experience. He hopes that other young men and woman hoping to fight give it a try, sometimes, like during WWII it was “just something you have to do,” and he wishes great luck to all who join in the future.
Interviewed by Natalie Cooper on July 10th and September 30th 2011.