OXFORD - Today is a special Veterans day for an Oxford resident, who is a World War II veteran.
Vahan Hovey , was presented with three Medals for his service to his country. The awards come almost 70 years after they were earned and five decades after they were awarded in absentia in 1962. Mr. Hovey received the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth-highest individual U.S. Military award, the Prisoner of War Medal and the World War II Victory Medal at the Oxford American Legion Hall.
Hovey served in the United States Army from the early days of the War in 1942, through the invasion of Europe, until the end of World War II in 1945. He was a Corporal in the 12th Armored Division, 7th Army, and was a prisoner of war (POW) for the last four months of the War. Upon his return to civilian life and a career in entertainment, he changed his last name from Hovhannissian to Hovey.
Over this past summer, while being treated at the VA Hospital in West Haven, Hovey gave his book, “The Hand of God, A True Testimony of God’s Love and Faithfulness” to a nurse to read. His autobiography visits the World War II battlefield, where he was compelled to “play dead” for fear of being killed because of the severity of his wounds. Hours later, he was confronted by a German patrol whose leader sent him for medical care in exchange for a pack of cigarettes. The book was brought to the attention of the hospital administration, which determined that the U.S. Army was holding three Medals for Hovey. They had not been able to reach him due to his name change, frequent moves and an accidental fire, which destroyed military records.
This Veterans Day, Hovey received the Bronze Star Medal for “exceptionally meritorious achievement in ground combat against an armed enemy in the European Theatre of Operations during the period 1 October 1944 thru 19 May 1945,” the Prisoner of War Medal for his honorable conduct while a captive of enemies of the United States, and the World War II Victory Medal for serving in the United States military between December 7, 1941 and December 31, 1946.
In 1942, Armenian born, but New York raised, he voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army as soon as he turned 18 following his graduation from high school, in Mount Vernon, NY. His mother, sister and younger brother were supportive yet uneasy as the oldest son was already serving overseas. After receiving the telegram American families feared - that Vahan was missing in action and presumed dead - the family at home prayed for the best, but assumed the worst through the last months of the War and even a few weeks longer.
The 12th Armored Division was fighting in the Hagenau forest, outside Gamshein, Germany, in January 1945, when the Division was ambushed by a much larger German attack. Eighty percent of the unit suffered casualties, 20 tanks were destroyed and Hovey was shot. He “played dead” when German troops walked through the field and ransacked his body for valuables. Hours later, mistakenly thinking footsteps were Ally soldiers, Vahan called out, only to realize it was another group of German soldiers.
His ensuing experiences, including: being on the brink of starvation, surgery without anesthesia and numerous medical venue changes, along with the compassion of German nurses, are chronicled in his book.