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Soldier in Europe

"I saw some badly wounded guys...some of them lasted, some didn't..." - Hugh Carey

 

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Hugh's unit, New York's 101st Cavalry, Squadron C., was called into active duty in 1941 and the 21-year-old private was then sent to Fort Devens for training.  Soon thereafter, he had to decide to which military service he would join.  Although he wanted to be in the Air Force, a medical examination showed that he had some slight vision problems in his right eye.  Therefore Hugh decided to join the Army and was selected to serve in the 104th Infantry Division, also known as the Timberwolves.  His unit fought all throughout Europe, participating in the capture of Cologne and helping to liberate Nordhausen, a Nazi slave labor camp sixty miles outside of Berlin, Germany on April 12, 1945. 

Hugh later described the horrors he witnessed at the camp as such: “You saw lifeless bodies, worked to death, literally, and some of these people had been brought in because they were scientifically adept.  They didn’t herd up women and children and put them in the gas chamber, as in other parts of the ghastly Nazi empire.  They took skilled people and worked them to death.  In my own way I’ve never seen anything in the world to echo this horror at Nordhausen.”

The horrors he witnessed in Nordhausen and throughout his time would forever remain in his mind. As a result, Hugh became a firm opponent of capital punishment in his political years, believing that no person or even state had the moral right to take a life. This was an unpopular position but one Hugh stood by and continues to stand by today. During his time as governor he vetoed a number of bills aimed at bringing back the dealth penalty to New York.

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Hugh helped train reservists and draftees in his unit and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a major by the time of his honorable discharge in 1946.  He received the Croix de Guerre, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star for his services. 

After his discharge, Hugh returned to the states and re-enrolled at St. John’s University in 1947.  He worked during the day with his older brother Ed at his company, Peerless Oil, and attended school at night.  He did well academically and in 1951 graduated with a B.A./LL.B and was admitted to the New York State Bar.  Hugh spent a couple years working as a lawyer before deciding to go to work for Ed fulltime. 

Hugh soon grew discontent working with Ed, but instead of returning to the law field, he decided to do something different.  He decided that his legal background and time spent as a military officer in the Army, where he learned how to lead, when and when not to take risks, how to delegate, organize and work well with others in a pressure situation, made him an ideal candidate to run for New York’s 12th Congressional District against four-time Republican incumbent Francis E. Dorn…even though no one else did.

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