More than a million fathers served in World War II. By the time the war was over in 1945, nearly 200,000 children were left without a dad.
They were given the name “war orphans.”
In the third of our series, The Lost Boys, we share the story of Heber Springs native and Army hero Orville Galloway, who left behind his only child, his daughter, who has lived her whole life without memories of her dad.
Inside a box at Doris Hutson’s El Paso, Ark., house, lives a romance that gives Hollywood a run for its money.
It’s a painful reminder, though, of the father she never knew.
“You go to school, and everybody brings their fathers to all the events and all, it was hard,” Hutson said. “But then, you know, as I got older, I realized no, he’s not coming home.”
Growing up, Doris held onto one photo of her dad, Orville, like a lifeline.
That moment, she a newborn, her dad home for just a few days, is the one and only time they were ever together.
“Just looking back at the pictures of him holding me outside the hospital and my mother talking about him coming and being so proud to be a father,” Hutson said.
Knowing she was once in the loving arms of her father, for just a little bit, has made all the difference.
“That’s been in my mind all these years,” she said. “I wouldn’t take anything in the world for the pictures and the memories.”
Doris is a member of a club no one chooses to join, the American World War II Orphans Network. It’s made of Gold Star sons and daughters who lost a father in World War II.
“You have a feeling of family with that group, also, because you all have the same thing in common,” Hutson said.
It’s through this group she learned the sacrifice her dad made.
Orville was a carpenter from Heber Springs.
He joined the Army in 1943 and was a combat engineer.
There was no way to know a mostly mundane letter Orville wrote about the weather would be his last.
“She had written him back and it was returned,” Hutson said.
Just a year after being drafted, Orville was headed to France to help rebuild the destruction left by D-Day just 13 days prior.
“Their ship actually took the place of another ship because they were having engine problems,” Hutson said.
It was June 19, 1944, just off the Normandy beachhead. Doris’ father was on the lower level of the flat-bottom boat, the USS LST 523.
“And the ship hit a mine in the English Channel.”
It was blown completely in half.
“There was no one on the lower level that survived that,” Hutson said.
More than a hundred crew members died in the incident. Many were lost at sea, including Orville. Doris’ dad was gone.
“I think at first maybe she had hopes that there might be something that they could find,” Hutson said.
But as time went on, that hope faded.
“And just accept that fact that he’s gone,” Hutson said. “It’s just in our hearts. His memorial is in our hearts.”
Doris’ mom never remarried. She told her daughter she’d never find anyone she loved as much as her dad.
“And that her heart was in the English Channel and that’s where it would remain,” Hutson said.
Doris didn’t know her father, but she does know his death was honorable.
“There’s nothing greater I don’t think that anyone could give except their life,” she said. “You can’t think of anything but pride when you think of that.”
The war orphan leaves flowers on her dad’s memorial in Heber Springs, even though she knows his remains aren’t there.
“Because he’s just as much a part of me even though I didn’t know him that long,” Hutson said. “That stone that you put on the ground, it’s just a memorial for them and they’re not truly there anymore. They’re somewhere else.”
In a place where hearts don’t break.
“And the last thing she said to me was, just know that if I don’t make this, I’ll be with your dad…so yes, I do think they’re together,” Hutson said.
In a place where one day, this war orphan can run back into the loving arms of her father.
If you’ve lost someone to a war whose remains have never come home, we’d love to talk with you and share your story. Please email Cassandra Webb at: firstname.lastname@example.org