SAD GOODBYE: Zander Amir farewells his great grandfather James Hughes as his funeral service in Nambour yesterday.
SAD GOODBYE: Zander Amir farewells his great grandfather James Hughes as his funeral service in Nambour yesterday. Patrick Woods

Star-and-striped tribute for avocado farmer

ONLY in death has the true worth of a 96-year-old Coast farmer's military service become apparent to those closest to him.

James Hughes' high instep excluded him from Australian Army service when he answered the call in 1942.

Unfit to march, he was only in for about a week before being honourably discharged.

He was then taken in by the US Army Small Ships section to sail on mostly unarmed ships to Pacific battlegrounds with supplies for US and Australian troops.

His son-in-law Bob Morrison said he had spoken with Mr Hughes of his service during their 40-year friendship but it wasn't until his November 13 death that the value put on it by the US emerged.

The Australian secretary of the US Army Support Group got in touch earlier this week.

Apparently the secretary didn't know Mr Hughes existed and was devastated to hear of his death.

"They are now sending more medals and I believe a letter from the US President," Mr Morrison said.

He learned that his father-in-law's unit was inducted into the Military Order of St Christopher in 2009 and then the US Army Transportation Corps Hall of Fame in 2010.

"To be honest, none of us (including Mr Hughes) knew how important he was viewed by the Americans."

Mr Hughes' three years of service put him in the water with a determined enemy.

"It was pretty tough because they were below deck with submarines firing torpedoes at them," Mr Morrison said.

He said there could be 12 ships in a supply convoy being protected by one cruiser.

They went from Brisbane to New Guinea, Borneo and Indonesia.

Mr Hughes' ships were never sunk but plenty around him were.

"He lost a lot of his friends," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Hughes moved from his native North Queensland to Woombye in the 1950s, buying a pineapple farm which later became an avocado farm.

He was a life member of Palmwood Lions Club and a life member of Woombye Bowls Club.



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