Bob Mitchell: A military funeral for one who gave all

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

After serving with a Navy photo team for nearly two years in Korea, many of our assignments had to do with hospitalmen or corpsmen attached to the Marine Corps. To get the material we were after, the team of two movie cameras, a still camera and a journalist (that was me) took stills.

It must have seemed appropriate that one of the first Cassville casualties of the Vietnam War, being a Navy Hospitalman who was killed in action while serving with the First Marine Division, should be a first for publication in the Cassville Democrat.

Initially, the coverage needed to be approved by the funeral director, who was Doyle Williamson. He agreed to contact the family for their permission.

Mother agreed

The mother of the downed corpsman was Dorothy Hutton, a registered nurse, who had actually been the professional in charge of establishing the Barry County Health Unit.

Mrs. Hutton, a widow, was gracious when she contacted me, and had only a few reservations about what might be photographed or used in the funeral's news coverage. Her daughter, Jane, agreed with the arrangements.

The process of being on hand for a full military service wasn't a new experience for this reporter, although this was the initial one for a young man from Cassville.

William Hutton's burial

William Hutton, hospitalman second class, was near the top of the enlisted chain in an important service rating.

Dub Hutton, as the 23-year-old had been known for most of his childhood in Cassville, was one of those unique sailors who had chosen his rating and advanced through rigorous training to act in any emergency.

The position of hospitalmen might be among the most hazardous in the Navy service. Throughout their training, they could have thoughts of being attached to a Navy hospital, either stateside or overseas. Or their duty might perhaps be aboard a gleaming white hospital ship with all the comforts of home.

There were always those few who would be attached to some of the most hazardous duty in the military service, with the Fleet Marine Force, as a battle corpsman. Here, it was their job to be in direct contact with the fighting Marines, where a call of "corpsman" during battle would mean they had to be prepared to rush into the fight and provide care for the wounded.

It was just such action in the jungles of Vietnam that William Hutton, hospitalman second class, USN, received his fatal wounds.

Reactions varied

Reactions to the coverage of the service in Oak Hill Cemetery was varied. There were people who didn't like the idea of a death receiving as extensive service as this was accorded. Others thought, as did the newspaper, that such recognition was fitting. There were others from this community who made a similar supreme sacrifice during one of the nation's wars, but this had been the first of this conflict and of the nature of service being provided.

Earlier Korea

This story came to mean a lot more to me during those years in Korea, where the same hospitalmen or corpsmen were doing the same -- placing their lives in jeopardy to save the lives of their comrades in arms.

There were different faces involved in the earlier war, but many of the circumstances were undoubtedly the same. In Korea, the first experience of corpsmen carrying or wearing arms became a reality. Red Crosses on ambulances and emergency vehicles were either mudded over or painted over, if paint was available, since they frequently became targets for enemy gunners.

We got some really good stuff during our time in the far east, even got plaudits from civilian photographers assigned to the theater of operations. They asked for, and received, permission to facsimile some of the better shots back to their distribution points, with Navy Photo credit, naturally.

Importance

There were 33,739 battle deaths in Korea and 103,284 mortal wounds in this war. In Vietnam, the numbers were 47,434 battle deaths and 153,303 non-moral wounds.

People like Dub Hutton deserve the thanks of this nation.

Should you like to pay respects to Dub, his grave is at the north edge of the older part of Oak Hill, not far from the paved road running east and west. The marker is a standard military type.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.