With the permission of “Generations the Magazine,” we are this week presenting a portion of an April – May story about Jim Hardesty of Hamlet. It’s entitled “The Fire Mission Controller,” and chronicles Hardesty’s WWII military career.
Raymond and Anna Hardesty were hard working Indiana farmers who tilled the soil on their land outside the village of Hamlet. On January 29,1922, the young couple had their first child, a son they named James. Growing up on an Indiana farm at that time was an ideal existence.
While growing up, young James was responsible for feeding the chickens, gathering eggs, and cleaning the barn.
James graduated from Hamlet High School’s Class of 1939. He was one of 20 graduates that year. He then went to Purdue University, where he majored in Agricultural Economics. In his junior year, Japan bombed our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The university advised its male students to enlist in the service now so they would receive an induction deferment, then to attend summer school and they would graduate in December of 1942. James took advantage of this to insure that he would receive his diploma by enlisting in the army in December of 1941.
In January 1943, Hardesty began his military career by being sent to Camp Robinson, Little Rock, Arkansas where he was assigned to the 172nd Field Artillery Battalion.
“Basic training wasn’t all that bad. It was the winter and it could be rainy, or snowy, cold and miserable, but you get used to that sort of thing,” Hardesty said. “After all, I was raised in Northern Indiana, things weren’t all that great always. You had to do what you had to do.”
After initial training he went to Camp Shelby, Missouri where he was trained as a fire direction technician. The fire direction technician is the man who receives the coordinates of where the infantry needs the artillery shells to land and converts that into range and elevation on the cannons. If he makes a mistake in those calculations, the shells will not land where they were meant to. The consequences could be catastrophic if they landed on friendly troops rather than on the enemy. His job was extremely important to the outcome of any battle.
After being sent to the Mojave Desert in California, he and the rest of his battalion had an opportunity to test out their newly acquired skills by firing live ammunition. Their training continued until they were finally given a furlough to go home. When they returned to their desert base they were told to get ready to move out.
“We were wondering where we were going, but when the train headed east we figured we were going to Europe,” Hardesty said.
When we return tomorrow, we follow Jim to Swansea Wales, where his WWII career began in earnest.