EAST LIVERPOOL-An East Liverpool veteran who died while serving in an elite Army unit will receive a new tombstone at Riverview Cemetery on Thursday-just 11 days after the 70th anniversary of his death in southern France.
The ceremony dedicating the new marble marker for Hugh R. Starr is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Riverview Cemetery on St. Clair Avenue. Superintendent Helen Stenger worked for months to have his marker replaced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after noticing that it had deteriorated to the point of being illegible.
An estimated 300 veterans of various wars are buried in the historic cemetery's veterans section, where Stenger has successfully replaced other old gravestones with new ones.
The old tombstone of Hugh R. Starr. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Stenger began the process for Starr in March but hit a roadblock when the VA informed her that they needed more information, such as Starr's serial number. She was able to fill in the gaps after publicizing details of his story.
Starr saw heavy combat action with the Devil's Brigade, the intimidating nickname for the Army's 1st Special Service Force, on the World War II battlefields of Italy and southern France.
But it would all come to an end on Aug. 24, 1944, when the Army
corporal succumbed to wounds suffered the day before near Frejus, France. Starr was working as part of a litter team and was evacuating injured soldiers when his jeep struck a land mine on Aug. 23, according to contemporaneous news accounts.
Initially buried in France, Starr was brought back to East Liverpool four years later and buried in the veterans section of Riverview Cemetery on April 29, 1948.
"The significance of Cpl. Starr's heroic service to his country will be preserved and commemorated by a grateful nation," Maj. Gen. J.A. Ulio wrote in a letter to Starr's parents, Hugh and Eleanor (Gibbs) Starr.
Starr grew up in a family of six children-five brothers and a sister-on Riverview Street. He was working at Crucible Steel in Midland when he enlisted in the Army in September 1940. Three years later, in August 1943, he was sent overseas to serve in the Mediterranean area.
While fighting in Italy, Starr, a paratrooper, was wounded on Dec. 8, 1943, and had to spend time recuperating in a Mediterranean base hospital. He rejoined the Devil's Brigade in time for "Operation Dragoon," the much-anticipated Allied invasion of southern France-two months after the D-Day invasion of northern France.
The 1st Special Service Force, a precursor to today's elite commando units, landed on the islands of Port-Cros and Iles d'Hyeres and helped secure them for the joint American-Canadian-French invasion force on the southeastern coast of France.
After Starr's jeep hit a buried explosive device, he was taken to an Army hospital, where "every possible medical aid was rendered in an effort to save his life," according to a letter from Brig. Gen. Robert H. Dunlop. The letter said Starr had seen a chaplain before he died.
Col. Edwin A. Walker, commander of the 1st Special Service Force, wrote Starr's parents that their son and his comrades behaved bravely in the face of danger and "acquitted themselves proudly," according to a news account.
The unit, he added, successfully accomplished its battle missions.
Participating in Thursday's ceremony will be Marc Hoffrichter, president of the Riverview Cemetery Association, the Rev. Willard "Chuck" Adkins, past of First Church of Christ (Disciples), and F. Dike Dawson of Dawson Funeral Home, who will give the Hugh Starr story.
Also participating will be the Tri-State Veterans Burial Group.