400th area World War II veteran shares story

AIKEN --- Raymond Hitt rarely revisits his years in the Army from 1943 and 1946, but on Wednesday he shared his story in front of a camera and a couple of fellow veterans.

Mr. Hitt was interviewed at Aiken Technical College as part of the local Veterans History Project, sponsored by the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society and the Library of Congress. The North Augusta man was the 400th interview conducted in the Augusta-area project, which began chronicling the stories of World War II veterans two years ago.

"I think we went over there for our country," said Mr. Hitt, 84. "I was drafted at 18, and the main thing for me was just fighting for my country."

The interviews will be sent to the Library of Congress in Washington to commemorate those who fought and served in WWII, said Fred Gehle, the coordinator of the local project. More than 60,000 veterans have been interviewed since the nationwide project began in 2000.

"It was the premiere event of the 20th century," Mr. Gehle said of the war. "We are interviewing these men so that their families and the generations to come will have a record of their involvement."

Mr. Hitt said he was a sergeant in a heavy weapons company and endured the cold while serving in Le Havre, France, during the Battle of Normandy.

"It was the hardest thing to see people get killed," he said. "I had the displeasure of killing one."

James Reynolds of Aiken said he was a medic in the Philippines during some of the most violent times of the war in 1944. He also shared his story for the project Wednesday.

"I had to treat wounds, and it was rough out there," he said during the interview. "We had to learn to shoot from the hip in the middle of the jungle."

Bill Tilt, a Vietnam War veteran, interviewed Mr. Hitt and most of the other 120 veterans who have been interviewed at Aiken Tech. He said despite the dark memories, every veteran interviewed has been happy to share his story.

"None of these guys think they did anything special," he said. "Some of them did some unbelievable things, but they look at it as their country called and they went."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (803) 648-1395 ext. 110, or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

TELL YOUR STORY

World War II veterans interested in being interviewed for the project can call Fred Gehle at (706) 738-8242.