Paul Bert Huff was born in Cleveland, Tennessee on June 23, 1918. He was drafted into the United States Army on June 27, 1941, prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Huff was one of the earliest volunteers for the fledgling Army Paratroopers and was placed into the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Huff participated in three combat jumps – two in North Africa, one at Salerno in Italy – before landing at Anzio, Italy not by parachute, but by amphibious assault on January 22, 1944. About two weeks later, then Corporal Huff volunteered to lead a patrol to probe the Nazi defenses and determine the location of an enemy unit threatening the Americans’ flank.
As Huff’s patrol on February 8, 1944 encountered intense resistance from machine guns and even anti-aircraft weapons, he advanced alone through a minefield to determine the enemy’s strength and position. Later that day, when the enemy was attacked in force, they were routed thanks largely to the information obtained by Huff and his patrol. His heroism and leadership under fire were recognized later with the Medal of Honor.
|Photo from Military Times’ Hall of Valor|
HUFF, PAUL B.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Place and date: Near Carano, Italy, 8 February 1944
Entered service at: Cleveland, Tenn.
G.O. No.: 41, 26 May 1944
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, in action on 8 February 1944, near Carano, Italy. Cpl. Huff volunteered to lead a 6-man patrol with the mission of determining the location and strength of an enemy unit which was delivering fire on the exposed right flank of his company. The terrain over which he had to travel consisted of exposed, rolling ground, affording the enemy excellent visibility. As the patrol advanced, its members were subjected to small arms and machinegun fire and a concentration of mortar fire, shells bursting within 5 to 10 yards of them and bullets striking the ground at their feet. Moving ahead of his patrol, Cpl. Huff drew fire from 3 enemy machineguns and a 20mm. weapon. Realizing the danger confronting his patrol, he advanced alone under deadly fire through a minefield and arrived at a point within 75 yards of the nearest machinegun position. Under direct fire from the rear machinegun, he crawled the remaining 75 yards to the closest emplacement, killed the crew with his submachine gun and destroyed the gun. During this act he fired from a kneeling position which drew fire from other positions, enabling him to estimate correctly the strength and location of the enemy. Still under concentrated fire, he returned to his patrol and led his men to safety. As a result of the information he gained, a patrol in strength sent out that afternoon, 1 group under the leadership of Cpl. Huff, succeeded in routing an enemy company of 125 men, killing 27 Germans and capturing 21 others, with a loss of only 3 patrol members. Cpl. Huff’s intrepid leadership and daring combat skill reflect the finest traditions of the American infantryman.
Huff was returned to the United States after receiving the Medal and was used on the home front for War Bond sales tours and other morale-building activities. He remained in the Army after the war and went to Vietnam as the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of the 101st Airborne Division. He was the CSM of the Third United States Army when he retired from active service.
|Huff as CSM of the Third Army|
Sergeant Major Huff retired to his birthplace of Cleveland, Tennessee where he passed away at age 76 on September 21, 1994. He rests in peace at the Hillcrest Memorial Gardens in Cleveland.