‘He was just Paul’ | Wife of East Tenn. Medal of Honor recipient recalls husband who risked life for country
Paul Huff went above and beyond the call of duty in February of 1944, locating 125 enemy soldiers while on a beach head in Italy.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Cpl. Paul Huff was born in 1918 in Cleveland, Tennessee as one of eight children.
Huff earned the nickname “killer” as a kid in Cleveland for his superb hunting ability. Later, he was drafted into the United States Army and was called to serve in World War II.
Huff was known to many as a down-to-earth type of guy. The type of guy who would go out of his way to do anything for anyone, and the type to fix anything he could.
“He helped everybody and he would give them his last penny. He was just a good person,” his wife of nearly 50 years, Betty said.
As an Army parachute infantry battalion of the 5th Army. He and his fellow service members were sent to Carano, Italy in February of 1944.
“I didn’t realize, I hadn’t read it in ages,” Betty said.
On Feb. 8, 1944, Huff led a group of six other men on a mission to find out where enemy soldiers were positioned.
Paul ran along a beach head, dotted with rolling hills, dodging bullets from machine gun after machine gun to accomplish his mission.
“It said the bullet went through his helmet and went around and cut all of his hair off, he had black curly hair,” Betty said.
Huff, unharmed, managed to locate 125 enemies that February day, leading to the killing of 27 Germans and the capturing of 21 others, while only losing 3 patrol members of his own.
“I don’t know how he came out alive, he was blessed, he was brave, and he was just very fortunate not to be wounded or killed,” Betty said.
Paul elected to receive his Medal of Honor just a short time after his act of bravery, receiving it in Rome, Italy in June of 1944.
“It was really something at the time you know,” said Betty, remembering when her future husband returned to their hometown to a hero’s welcome and the adoration he received.
The adoration was something out of character for Paul, his wife added. While he was someone who would do anything for another person, he was also someone who shunned the spotlight.
“No, no, no one would have known if they didn’t know him,” said Huff. “No, he never talked about things like that. He was just a plain person, people loved him because he never lead on like he was anyone but just a plain person, he was just Paul.”
Paul returned to military service to serve as a door gunner for a general in Vietnam.
He even passed on becoming a commissioned officer several times, insisting on just staying one of the guys.
“He loved in NCOs, he would have done anything for them, he was offered a commission but he refused. He said he wouldn’t be an officer at all,” Betty said. “He just wanted to be who he was and not bother with anything.”
Paul died in 1994 at his home in Clarksville, Tennessee.
The Medal of Honor recipient was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery in his hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee.
His wife Betty will soon turn 98-years-old.
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