Hubert T. Sullivan, Technical Sergeant, US Army Combat Engineer, WWII – The Andalusia Star-News

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Hubert Sullivan’s battalion had been assigned to the 9e US Army, under the overall command of British General Bernard Montgomery. They met near Aachen, Germany, in early 1945. Sullivan recalls, “We lost our first man at the Roer River. He was hit by a mortar while working with a group to build a footbridge over the river… We were under a heavy barrage of mortar… I became a champion fox burrow digger.

Hubert T. Sullivan was born on February 14, 1924 in Castleberry, Conecuh County, Alabama. His parents were Essie Mixon and Joseph Clifton Sullivan. Joseph Sullivan operated a sawmill and gristmill on Panther Creek near Castleberry. Hubert graduated from Conecuh County High School in 1943 and was drafted a few months later.

Hubert Sullivan was inducted at Fort McClellan, Alabama, then sent to Camp Blanding, Florida for basic training. From there he was sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, where he trained as a combat engineer. His battalion was sent to Tennessee for maneuvers before being sent to New York for an overseas transit. They were loaded aboard the British troop carrier, HMS Large Bay, a converted First World War animal carrier.

After arriving in Liverpool, England, they pulled on additional gear for the trip across the English Channel to France. Sullivan was assigned to 251st Combat Engineer Construction Battalion and landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy in August 1944, just two months after D-Day. Shortly after landing, they joined American forces fighting to liberate Brest, France.

Hubert T. Sullivan, post-war photo as a businessman in Opp, Alabama. [Photo: Sullivan family]

During the Battle of the Bulge, Sullivan’s unit was near the Elbe, constructing double-deck barbed wire fences in an effort to slow the advancing German infantry. He recalled, “Germany in 1944 was hell! It was cold, cold, cold!… We were trying to build a bridge over the river. There was a gun emplacement and they flew a plane over it to try and take it out… I was caught in the open and dived to the ground… A tracer hit the ground hard and spat between my fingers… I don’t know where the other five bullets went but I missed them.

By February 1945, Sullivan and the engineers had fought their way to the Siegfried Line near the Roer River. “We worked on clearing mines and building roads and bridges right behind or beside the combat troops… Our first river crossing was over the Roer River in February 1945. The bridge had been blown up and the Germans had blown up dams upstream to flood the river to try and carry us away… We were building a pontoon bridge over the Roer River near Linnich, Germany when I saw my first jet plane… It is came flying low and strafe us trying to stop our build but it failed.

After crossing the Roer River, Sullivan’s battalion headed for the Rhine near Düsseldorf. He recalled, “I took a group from 1st Cavalry Division across the Rhine to bring back prisoners of war. We crossed in an M-2 assault boat. They came back that night and I challenged them… I was more afraid of being killed by friendly fire than by the Germans… We crossed and stopped in a small quagmire, just below a outpost set up by the 102n/a infantry division. They didn’t shoot at us. They had been well trained.

From there the battalion moved through Hanover to the Elbe. Sullivan recalled, “We thought we would have to cross the Elbe towards Berlin, but the President had already agreed to let the Russians take it… On the Elbe there were German soldiers swimming from the German side to our side …It was reported that they wanted us to join them to fight the Russians, that didn’t happen, thank God.

The 251st The combat engineers were near Magdeburg, Germany when Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945. Sullivan and the rest of his unit were sent to Reims, France to build a tent city known as Camp Lucky Strike. The tents housed troops on their way back to the United States or to the Pacific theater.

Sullivan didn’t have enough points for a release, so he was sent to the Northern Polytechnic Institute near London for a few months. On December 31, 1945, he was sent back to France with the 371st Construction Battalion. Sullivan left Europe in January and arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey about 10 days later. He was then sent to Camp McPherson, Georgia, where he spent a week in the hospital with tonsillitis. He was discharged with the rank of Technical Sergeant in March 1946. He had won the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal with two battle stars and the World War II Victory Medal.

Draft registration card for Hubert T. Sullivan. He was drafted in 1943. [Photo: ancestry.com]

Sullivan attended the center at the University of Alabama in Mobile for two years with the help of the GI Bill. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary Evelyn Pate, in August 1947. They moved to Tuscaloosa where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and his master’s degree in 1950.

The Sullivans moved to Anniston, Alabama, where Hubert was vice principal of the school system from 1950 to 1955. They moved to Opp, Alabama, in 1955, where he served as principal of Opp High School until 1959 After that he joined Opp and Micholas Mills where he served as Director of Human Resources until his retirement in 1992. A longtime friend of Sullivan’s, Judge Trippy McGuire, said: “He knew each employee by name.”

Hubert Sullivan was a Rotarian, having joined in 1960. Judge McGuire recalled, “He was an active Rotarian and an active member of the First Methodist Church. He always took an active interest in young people… He encouraged us and was proud of us, as if we were his own offspring… The young people knew they had a great supporter in Hubert Sullivan.

After his retirement, Sullivan became the founding president of the Opp-Micholas Educational Foundation which awarded scholarships to 1,562 students between 1969 and 2007.

Sullivan was president of the Opp-Micholas Credit Union for many years. He has also served on the Opp Medical Board, the Alabama Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Alabama Board of Directors, and numerous other charities.

Hubert Sullivan’s wife Mary Evelyn died in 1986. He would later marry Rebecca Sullivan [no relation]who survived him after his death in 2018.

Hubert Sullivan died September 26, 2018 and was buried in Peaceful Acres Memorial Gardens. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca S. Sullivan; son, Joel C. Sullivan; daughter, Linda {Barry]Trippe; son-in-law Steven [Dawn] Pear; stepdaughters, Kelly Kicklighter and Beth [Randal] Pierce; brother Cecile [Mary Ann] Sullivan; eight step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.

John Vic

Sources: Video interview of Hubert Sullivan by Robert Evers, January 2016; “We have all fought war – the University of Alabama and its men and women in World War II”, By Delbert Reed; ancestry.com.

Special thanks to Judge Trippy McGuire for his comments on his friend Hubert Sullivan.

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