Tribute to their sacrifices
Alumnus, WWII veteran awarded France’s highest honor
May 22, 2014
Receiving France's highest award — the Legion of Honor — for
his service during World War II means much more to Richard Hogstad than
recognition for his own sacrifices.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout alumnus says the medal
represents the sacrifices of all who served during the war and helped liberate
"Our division lost about 1,260 guys, and I think it's a
tribute to their sacrifice, not mine," Hogstad said. "I was lucky to have
survived. The French are honoring the Americans who were over there, and I'm
honoring those guys in my outfit and others who were killed."
Hogstad, 92, of Eau Claire, received the medal in April when
it arrived on his doorstep. While some of the medals are presented in person,
"all I got was a FedEx guy," he said jokingly, demonstrating his sense of
in the U.S. award about 100 of the prestigious medals each year, based on
exemplary records of service and possession of high awards such as the Purple
Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Distinguished Flying Cross.
Members of the Army
Air Corps, Navy and Coast Guard who participated in one of the three major
campaigns in the liberation of France are eligible.
Veterans must apply for the medal.France's Legion of Honor committee decides who merits the honor.
Army Pfc. Hogstad was in his early 20s when he served as an
intelligence and reconnaissance scout and .50-caliber gunner for the 95th
Infantry Division. His platoon was responsible for observing the Germans and
reporting their actions so his regiment could plan attacks.
Without the aid of today's technology that allows
reconnaissance from afar, it was dangerous work. If discovered, they could be
taken prisoner or killed.
"We would go down into French villages day and night and lie
in secluded areas and watch the Germans often come by us," he recalled.
He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star for his role in the
attempted capture of the Adolf Hitler Bridge spanning the Rhine River at
Uerdingen, Germany, when their division drove out the Germans amid intense
machine gun fire.
A military account of the battle noted Hogstad's "bold, aggressive
activities against superior numbers of the enemy in the vicinity of Uerdingen
and reflect great credit to him and an exemplary high tradition of military
During the exchange, he was shot in the hip and recovered in a Paris
hospital for about six weeks.
On French soil, his company's first battle was in October 1944 near
the small French town of Vezon.
Returning to civilian life
Because of the war Hogstad's education at Stout Institute,
now UW-Stout, was put on hold. He had run out of money for tuition — about $500
a year then — after a year and had planned to return in January 1942.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor came in December 1941, he
expected to be drafted, so he worked for the county road commission and JC
Penney as a clerk while awaiting notice. His draft notice came in October 1942.
After completing his military service in 1945, he did
construction work and returned to college in September 1947 using the GI Bill.
His military service clinched his decision to pursue an industrial education
"I was thrown in with loggers, welders, farmers, people whom
I never would have met if I hadn't been in service, and it gave me a good readout
for what type of skills one should have for those trades," he said.
Having taught and served in the military, several of his university
instructors had high regard for his service and insight into veterans'
readjustment to civilian life.
"They were very helpful. In fact, they guided many
individuals into employment. They served as the eyes and ears for employment
openings for students."
Hogstad's first teaching job after graduating in 1949
resulted from a job lead from an instructor.
Stout Institute gave him plenty of practical experiences.
"It gave me a good foundation for working with people who liked to work with
their hands and their heads at the same time," he said.
At Stout Institute, he also met his wife, Carol, whom he
married in 1950 in Brown County after she graduated with a bachelor's in home
economics education. She was associate professor of education at UW-Stout for
21 years before her retirement. They have three children.
Before retiring in 1984 Hogstad taught high school
industrial arts, returning to UW-Stout to earn a master's in industrial
education and a second master's in vocational education. He was a vocational
counselor at District One Technical Institute, now Chippewa Valley Technical
College, for 20 years.
alumnus Richard Hogstad, 92, of Eau Claire wears the French Legion of Honor
medal on his lapel. He recently received the country's highest honor for his
service during WWII.