Private Lester A. Hashey was born in Bangor, Maine on Feb. 23, 1925, a son of Nicolas and Mary Thibeault Hashey of Orono. He served in the 101st Airborne Division, in Easy Company during World War Two.
World War IIEdit
His story begins at the State Theater on Congress Street. He can still remember the day that he watched a short feature called: Paraski-Troopers," about a company of paratroopers who "jumped out of airplanes, landed, put on thier skis and then skied down the mountains with their tommy guns." For a kid who had spent many a winter afternoon dodging trolley cars as he skied down the streets of Munjoy Hill, this film was an adolescent epiphany.
Two years later, on his 18th birthday, Hashey quit his job at the shipyards in South Portland and went off to become an Army Paratrooper. After basic training he put in for the Airborne and in 1944 he went down to Fort Benning Jump School. About half of the enrollment failed but he wanted the boots and wings. When he came home on leave people thought he was in the Canadian Army because he was wearing boots and a jump jacket. Then he was assigned to Camp Mc.Call, N.C., to an airborne artillery Bn. They had to pull 105's like sled dogs with an NCO sitting on the barrel to lift up the trails. They had some maneuvers in the cold N.C. winter and made three pay jumps to Europe and landed in Scotland, June 6th.1944.
They announced that Airborne forces had landed in Normandy the night before. They were disappointed because they thought they had missed the war after all that training. As Lester says : "Boy we were wrong". He was a teenager with a pack on his back and a rifle in his hands to whom it was horrifying. As he later told me:" If anyone who has been there tell's you he wasn't scared he talks bull". They were quartered in Aldbourne England in stables, four to a stall. He was with John Julian (later KIA January 1, 1945 in Bastogne), Leo Metz and Toni Garcia, who is still his best friend and made it all the way without a scratch.
On September 17. 1944 he jumped on a bright day in a small village called Son (North of Eindhoven-Holland) Sgt. Carwood Lipton was his jumpmaster and Sgt. John W. Martin was the pusher. (see roster) Lester was the 17th man on the stick. From the drop zone they had to secure the bridge in Son but it was blown up by the Germans almost in their faces. They had to build a way to get across and used barn doors to do it. Hashey recalls:
"In one of those barns I saw horses heads stuffed over it. I was used to see deer heads mounted, but not this. I never forgot it. I also never forgot the many happy people in Eindhoven. They gave us fruits, drinks, and we must have signed our names hundreds of times."
The fighting around Eindhoven was part of Operation Market-Garden. They had to go up north to Arnhem along a narrow road that after WWII was called "Hell's Highway" He had all the luck in the world when one morning he woke up in one of the windmills near a river called "Nederrijn" near Heteren in Holland. He smelled that someone was 'cooking' and he went down to join 'the meal'. Just a few seconds after that, the windmill was shot by a 88 mm. gun from the Germans. Their sleeping bags were torn asunder.
On October 22nd, 1944, they went with a group across the Lower-Rhine, under command of "Moose" Heyliger, to rescue 130 British Red Devils, right under the noses of the Germans. They succeeded but Lester said it was a scary night he would never forget. After Holland they went to Mourmelon, France around the 1st of December. When the outfit moved out on the 16th of December, Lester was ordered by Sgt. Floyd Talbert to guard the duffle bags because he had problems with his ankle since the drop in Son.
On December 18th they arrived at Bastogne and were involved in what later was called "The Battle of the Bulge." "It was the worst part" he sad. "We had take this village in the morning - and then the Germans would drive us out at night. They knew right where we dug our foxholes and one night they really let us have it". Because of the noise the German rockets made they called them "Hitler's harmonicas".
One night, on January 14th 1945, he was in his foxhole and suddenly was hit in his shoulder by shrapnel that pierced the back of that shoulder and punctured his lung. He noticed it because his back became warm with the blood. That was his last day on the battlefield. Later on he was transferred to a Military Police unit in Belgium before going back to the U.S. Because he was used to London, Paris, and having a good time and a mad crush on a Red Cross girl that he had met in Le Havre (France) he enlisted again.
He became a driver in the Finance Corp. in Paris and his job was driving all over France, Holland and Belgium to pay all the troops that were still stationed there. After those troops were moved to Germany he was assigned to Berlin. He arrived 30 days late because he met a girl in Paris that taught him how to dance. It cost him his PFC stripe but, as he said:"It was worth it". He had to pull guard at Spandau Prison, the prison where Capt. Ronald Speirs later on became director of.
After discharge, under the G.I. Bill, he started to train as an office machine repair man in the cold of northern Maine. After the war he stayed in Europe, married at the beginning of the Berlin Blockade and flew on a honeymoon on a coal plane C47 with no door. It was the first plane he ever landed in. The other ones he jumped from. He was a sportsman, swimmer but also fencing. He fenced with the son of Ernest Hemmingway (r) on Sunday mornings. Because of the swimming he became coach of the Berlin swimming team for 6 years. For a guy that never planned to stay in the Army it was very odd he still was in.
After WW IIEdit
He traveled all over the world. Trained people in swimming and lifesaving (Red Cross) people for each platoon at Ft. Bragg, SCUBA diving for Special Forces and was assigned to the 501st Army Security Agency, a topsecret required in Korea and in 1958 transferred to Japan.
In 1963 he had three options: retire,go to Vietnam -family travel approved- and to manage a big RR center on the China Sea, or Ethiopia and manage a RR center on the Red Sea. Because his son was just born he thought 20 years was enough.
At the age of 38 he retired from the Army.Those 20 years in the Army was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was offered a position as First Aid, water Safety, Small Craft Field Representative. The job required him to serve Red Cross chapters over a three state area.
He directed 22 Aquatic Schools in the country during a 10 day summer camp once a year. He was the only person in the National Red Cross Staff that did not have a college degree. But he had something of more value: 18 years experience of teaching Red Cross courses all over the world.
In 1972 he was replaced to Portland Maine, his home ground, were his mother and grandmother still lived. He got the responsibility of all the instructors in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. They started a new CPR program with one Resusci Annie and now they have 100. That's something: Carrying someone 50 yards in a swimming pool while doing deep water rescue breathing at age 65!
In 1991 he retired but until early 2002 he still swam three times a week. He had to give up table tennis because of two knee replacements and two strokes. Until his death on December 11, 2002 at 77 he lived in Portland, Maine.
Lester: " The first time of my life I learned to take a life, the last part I taught how to save a life. I have no regrets. When the Big Jumpmaster in the sky says:"Stand Up, Hook Up," I will be ready to jump because I had all of the best. Wonderful wife 43 years, three great children and three grandchildren. Boy I have been lucky"