ohn “Bud” Hawk ‘49 was just a year out of Bainbridge High School when he found himself in a French apple orchard outnumbered and outgunned by German tanks.
In an oral history recorded in 2011, Hawk recounted how he guided tank destroyers to their targets despite having been shot in the thigh.
“The tank destroyers couldn’t see them (the Germans). Well I could see them. Not thinking really of the consequences and trying to think of solutions, I said, `I’ll line you up.’”
Hawk, then a machine-gun squad private, repeatedly ran from high ground through heavy enemy fire to deliver instructions to the destroyers. “I would tell them, `Twenty feet to the left or raise it up 3 feet.’”
It was a turning point that led to the surrender of 500 Germans and earned Hawk the nation’s highest award for battlefield valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. He fought five more months and was wounded again at the Battle of the Bulge.
“I think the greatest way to give of yourself and what you have to offer is by teaching.”
When he returned to Kitsap County, he devoted his life to education, earning degrees from Olympic College and the University of Washington, and spending 31 years in the Central Kitsap School District as a teacher and principal.
Hawk passed away in 2013 at age 89, but his legacy lives on. A Central Kitsap elementary school bears his name, his face is on an Olympic College alumni banner and the parade that began as a tribute to his battlefield heroics continues as Bremerton’s annual Armed Forces Day Parade. At 72, it’s the largest and longest running event of its kind in the United States.
Although he’s celebrated for his courage under fire, Hawk placed a greater value on his post-war service. “I think the greatest way to give of yourself and what you have to offer is by teaching.”