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Former mayor’s son talks about father’s WWII heroics

George A. Hash turns 95 on Tuesday.
By Jade McDowell

Staff Writer

Published on August 16, 2017 6:54AM

George Hash, left, with brothers Bill and John Hash at the opening of Hash Park in McNary, named in his honor.

Photo contributed by Randy Hash

George Hash, left, with brothers Bill and John Hash at the opening of Hash Park in McNary, named in his honor.

George Hash in 2017 and as a paratrooper during World War II.

Contributed photo by Randy Hash

George Hash in 2017 and as a paratrooper during World War II.

George Hash, right, and his wife Alice Weaver Hash on their wedding day.

Photo contributed by Randy Hash

George Hash, right, and his wife Alice Weaver Hash on their wedding day.

George A. Hash’s WWII service photo.

Contributed photo by Randy Hash

George A. Hash’s WWII service photo.

George Hash at Regency Hermiston.

Contributed photo by Randy Hash

George Hash at Regency Hermiston.


As family members celebrate former Umatilla mayor George Hash’s 95th birthday, his son Randy is hoping that his father’s legacy is not forgotten.

Hash, who turned 95 on Tuesday, was mayor from 1991 to 2004. But many years before Hash worked to promote economic development in western Umatilla County, he was being honored for his heroics during World War II.

Randy said his father never really shared stories from the war with his family until later in life, when Randy was a parent himself. He eventually learned that his dad, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, was one of the first Americans to parachute into Normandy behind enemy lines ahead of the D-day invasion of Normandy in France. He later became a prisoner of war in Holland, but eventually escaped.

“George A. Hash is somewhat of a World War II hero,” Randy said. “He’s featured in the Smithsonian.”

In a video interview with George online, featured with other veterans’ oral histories on a website called “Mr. K’s pages,” he said he chose to be a paratrooper when he enlisted because he wanted to be in an outfit “that was going over there to do some business.”

“I figured that was the best choice if I wanted some combat,” George said.

He also said he was “no kind of a hero,” just one of thousands of soldiers following orders.

Randy said one of his father’s brothers-in-arms called him out of the blue years ago to tell him about the day his father was captured. The Germans had killed several members of their company, and George grabbed a gun and went off by himself to ambush the Germans that had been picking them off. The man told Randy they saw George from a distance keep shooting Germans until he had taken too many bullets to his arm and shoulder to continue re-loading. At that point, they thought George was dead. They later found out he had been loaded into the same flatbed truck as the injured Germans he had just shot and taken to Stalag 3C, a camp that held more than 1,500 American POWs, for interrogation and imprisonment.

“He only gave them his name, rank and serial number,” Randy said.

Hash was imprisoned for 561 days. Randy said many of the prisoners died from dysentery, and his father had lingering digestive problems for the rest of his life from going more than a year and a half with a barely adequate amount of food.

“They were both starving to death and freezing to death,” he said.

At one point George was being held in a building where some of the floorboards had been torn up to burn for warmth. As the Germans began to load men into cattle cars to move them to a new camp, George and another man hid under the floor and got some of their fellow prisoners to help cover them back up.

“The other guys didn’t want to do anything (to try and escape), because they knew they would get shot if they were caught,” Randy said.

He said his father told him that he and the other prisoner waited until they didn’t hear any more movement in the camp and then split up and left on foot. George crossed on foot into Poland, where the Polish army helped hide him from the Germans, until he was able to stow away on a Merchant Marine vessel and eventually make his way back to the United States, where he was sent to California to recover and train.

“They were preparing to ship out to Japan, but the atomic bomb put an end to that,” Randy said.

He said when he was a kid he had no idea that his father had led such an adventurous life before he settled down with a family. There were flashes of the tough POW, though, such as the day that Randy and his friends were lazing around the gym at Hermiston High School and his dad came in and started doing one-handed pull-ups.

“He said something like ‘You guys should use this equipment’ and walked out,” Randy said. “Boy, my friends were sure impressed with how strong my dad was.”

Randy said his dad was also known as a talented boxer who sometimes stepped into the ring to compete. Despite his dad’s strength and fighting skills he never once saw his father lose his temper and use physical force on anyone, even when provoked.

Some of George’s children and grandchildren followed his footsteps into military service, including Randy, who served in the Coast Guard.

The Hash family moved to Umatilla County in the 1950s, when George got a job as a teacher at Umatilla High School. He then taught shop and business classes — “career technical education” in today’s terms — at Hermiston High School.

“He was a fine furniture builder and just a very fine craftsman,” Randy said. “He taught a lot of people to love woodworking.”

He served as a Umatilla city councilor from 1989-1990 and mayor from 1991 to 2004. Hash Park in McNary is named after him. Randy said his father was always traveling to Salem, unpaid, to lobby on behalf of the area, and he worked hand in hand with politicians like Rep. Greg Walden to bring federal grants and economic development to Umatilla, particularly the port.

After suffering a stroke, he is in Regency Hermiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. His family celebrated his birthday with him over the weekend.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.









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