Memorial Day 2013: A Story Worth Telling

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 06:13 PM.

He then ended up at Fairmont Army Air Field in Nebraska, where he likely continued to train and work as an aircraft welder. After all, Fairmont Army Airfield was home to various bomber squadrons that trained for action in Europe, and he ended up with the 831st Bomb Squadron, part of the 485th Bomb Group. The squadrons, with B-24 and B-25 bombers, eventually flew missions from Venosa, Italy, attacking oil refineries and railway yards in places such as Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia — and even Hungary.

On Dec. 31, 1943, he made out and signed his will. The single corporal named his parents as beneficiaries, and upon his death, they received monthly payments of $61.80 until 1954. His will was probably a routine matter, something military personnel were required to complete before heading overseas for the war.

Still, as an aircraft welder working on long-range bombers that were normally based well behind enemy lines, one would think his occupation would have been relatively safe, if any job could be considered safe during a war. Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case.

The SS Paul Hamilton

George Nemeth, now 19 years old, boarded the SS Paul Hamilton when it left Hampton Roads, Va., on April 3, 1944.

The Hamilton, a liberty troop ship, was constructed by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington in 1942. It was named in honor of Paul Hamilton, who served as the secretary of the Navy from 1809 to 1812. According to the Naval Historical Center, he served during the American Revolution and was also elected to the South Carolina House and Senate before eventually becoming that state’s governor.

For more than 50 years, what exactly happened to George Nemeth and 579 others aboard the Hamilton wasn’t completely known. What was known was that the ship was attacked and sunk. But the full account of the sinking had been classified and kept hidden.

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