Hilton Francis Culpepper1,2

Male, #5649, (15 Oct 1923 - 16 Mar 1945)
Father*James Gethro Culpepper (8 Mar 1886 - 23 Dec 1948)
Mother*Mamie Lee Alligood (4 Sep 1891 - 15 Mar 1947)
Birth*15 Oct 1923 Hilton was born at Laurens Co., Georgia, on 15 Oct 1923. 
1930 Census1 Apr 1930 Curtis and Hilton was listed as a son in James Gethro Culpepper's household on the 1930 Census at Laurens Co., Georgia.3 
World War II*between 1944 and 1945 He enlisted in Fort McPherson, Fulton Co., Georgia, and served in World War II between 1944 and 1945
(Private, U.S. Army, 44036320, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. Killed in action March 16, 1945. Awards: Purple Heart.)4,5 
Marriage*15 Jul 1944 He married Minnie Catherine Coleman at Laurens Co., Georgia, on 15 Jul 1944 at age 20.6 
Death*16 Mar 1945 He died at France on 16 Mar 1945 at age 21. 
Burial*Mar 1945 His body was interred in Mar 1945 at Lorraine American Cemetery, Saint Avold, Moselle, Lorraine, France. Plot B Row 33 Grave 22. 
News Article*28 May 2000 Hilton Culpepper finds grave in France of veteran father he never met

DEXTER - He had seen the old photographs, heard the old stories. Then, after more than 50 years, Hilton Culpepper Jr. went to face the father he never knew.

There, across the same thousands of miles of ocean his father crossed a half-century before, he stood, surrounded by 10,000 white crosses. He found the one that bore the name "Hilton Culpepper."

Hilton Culpepper Sr. died March 16, 1945, on a battlefield in France near the German border, two months before his son was born.

Three years ago, Hilton Culpepper Jr., 55, finally made the trip he had put off for years. He traveled to Lorraine Cemetery where his father and 10,488 other U.S. soldiers are buried.

"To see your name on a tombstone, to see him out there with all those thousands, you think, 'They're all kids,'" Culpepper remembered. "There are no old people in that cemetery. You think, 'Man, what a waste.'"

Culpepper's father was a 21-year-old private in the 142nd Battalion of the 36th Infantry Division. He had been in France for about a month when he and other soldiers from his battalion were given their last orders - to cross the Moder River into Germany.

"For a kid from Caldwell, Ga., a farm boy who had probably never been any farther than the beach in Florida, to wind up dead and buried in France, I'm sure he could never have imagined anything like that," Culpepper said.

His father went most of the war undrafted, but the letter finally came late in 1944.

"He was the baby of the family," Culpepper said, "so I guess the draft board sort of left him alone until then."

Hilton Culpepper Sr. left for the Army the day after Christmas, with his wife about four-months pregnant. He never came back.

"My mother told me the last time she saw him was when she put him on the train in Eastman," Culpepper said.

In April, Culpepper, an assistant civil engineer for Air Force Reserve Command at Robins, traveled again to Lorraine Cemetery. This time, he took his daughter Holly, 27, and son Greg, 24.

"My children know now that they do indeed have a grandfather," he said.

Culpepper, a history and World War II buff, said he has visited Arlington National Cemetery, the cemetery in Hendersonville and several others. None impressed him like Lorraine, he said.

The cemetery was deeded to the United States and is kept in "absolutely immaculate" condition, Culpepper said. Officials use computerized records to find specified plots for visiting families, who then are taken to the sites by golf cart. Family members are given an American flag to place on the graves.

The crosses in the cemetery are so white that the names on the markers will not normally show up in photographs, Culpepper said.

To fix that, cemetery officials have sand shipped in from the beaches at Normandy, where so many American soldiers lost their lives in the D-Day invasion.

"They take that golden sand and rub it into the letters, then you can take the pictures and read the letters," said Culpepper.

The cemetery serves as a symbol of sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers buried there, he said.

"There are pilots out there, plain old dog-faces, colonels and captains. There are three or four women buried out there. It's a cross-section of all America had to offer," he said. "You think, 'They gave everything.' There's not much more you can give than that.

"I think sometimes we tend to forget what those people did. Some of them got to come back, and some of them weren't so lucky."

A few years after the war, the family had the opportunity to bring his father's body home. Culpepper's mother wanted to, but her second husband, W.C. Barrs, a World War II and D-Day veteran, talked her out of it.

"He said he had gone through the war. He sort of understood that was where my father needed to be. He said if it was him, he would have wanted to stay."

Both his mother and stepfather are deceased, but Culpepper still thanks them for making the right decision.

"I always thought (not bringing the body home) was a mistake," he said. "I thought if he was home, I could visit him whenever I wanted. Once I got over there and saw the cemetery, there was no doubt in my mind that was where he needed to be," he said.

"Those American flags are always flying there, sort of Memorial Day year-round."7
Hilton Culpepper Jr., with Holly & Gregg

Family

Minnie Catherine Coleman (20 May 1924 - 29 Oct 1990)
Marriage*15 Jul 1944 He married Minnie Catherine Coleman at Laurens Co., Georgia, on 15 Jul 1944 at age 20.6 
Child
ChartsJohn Culpepper of Jones Co., GA: Descendant Chart
Last Edited17 Aug 2011

Citations

  1. E-mail written 1998 - 2012 to Lew Griffin & Warren Culpepper from Kenneth Wayne Culpepper (#39229), 1918 Baker Church Rd, Rentz, Laurens Co., GA 31075, e-mail address (Jul 2012).
  2. E-mail written 2000 to Lew Griffin from Hilton Francis Culpepper Jr. (#39230), e-mail address (Apr 2012).
  3. 1930 Federal Census, United States.
    ED 12, page 7A, Hampton Mill District, Laurens Co., GA
    Rents, Radio=N, Farm=Y
    James J. Culpepper, Head, M, 44, M, md @21, GA/GA/GA, Farm Overseer
    Mamie Lee Culpepper, Wife, F, 38, M, md @16, GA/GA/GA
    Curtis Culpepper, Son, M, 16, S, GA/GA/GA
    Eutha Culpepper, Daughter, F, 14, S, GA/GA/GA
    Hilton Culpepper, Son, M, 6, S, GA/GA/GA.
  4. American Battle Monuments Online Database, American Battle Monuments Commission, 2005.
    http://www.abmc.gov/
  5. National Archives and Records Administration, compiler, U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Online database at Ancestry.com, 2005.
    http://www.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8939
    Hilton F Culpepper, White, Married, born 1923 in Georgia, residing in Laurens Co., Georgia, enlisted as a Private in the US Army on 30 Aug 1944 in Fort McPherson, Georgia.
  6. Book U, p. 638.
  7. The Macon Telegraph, Macon, GA.
    http://www.macon.com
    "Hilton Culpepper finds grave in France of veteran father he never met" by Rodney Manley, Sunday, 28 May 2000.