Donations bring important World War II-era artifacts to VNG collection

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s historical collection has a wealth of new World War II-era artifacts thanks to generous recent donations from a couple different sources. 

The donations include the personal effects of Maj. Gen. Edward M. Hudgins, who originally enlisted in the the Virginia National Guard’s Company E, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division in the 1930s as a private. The donation from Hudgins’ family included his dress uniform, photos and documents. 

Hudgins’ story is a unique one for the era, according to retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Al Barnes, the VNG command historian. 

“By the time the Virginia National Guard was mobilized for World War II, Hudgins had risen to the rank of lieutenant and had also completed his law degree at the University of Virginia,” said Barnes. 

Thanks to that degree, Hudgins was given a series of unique assignments after the reorganization of the 29th Infantry Division. He served as an aide to Gen. Edward Almond before being assigned to the White House as a military aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

“He often travelled to the China-Burma-India Theater on missions from the president,” said Barnes. “Ultimately he was selected to serve as the Chief Defense Counsel for Japanese army officers being tried as war criminals.”

Barnes said the Hudgins donation and life story is a meaningful one for the VNG collection. 

“What a career path. And then to go back and be able to find him in the mobilization roster and then the 1940 yearbook, holy cow. This all checks out!”

After the war Hudgins resumed his law career and eventually served as a member of the Virginia General Assembly, representing Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties and the city of Colonial Heights. He also eventually rejoined the Virginia National Guard, rising to the rank of brigadier general and serving as the commandant of VNG’s Officer Candidate School. 

“Among the items donated by General Hudgin’s family are his dress blue uniform and hat, his burial flag, a number of photographs and documents from his career as well as the OCS graduation programs for 1966 and 1967,” said Barnes. “These items are currently on display in The Adjutant General’s suite on the second floor of the Joint Force Headquarters. Ultimately they will go on permanent exhibit at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute at Fort Pickett.”

The recent wealth of new donations also includes helmets, uniforms, web gear and other effects of VNG Soldiers during World War II, donated by a private collector of 29th ID artifacts. This collection includes D-Day-worn gear, and the effects of a VNG Soldier who earned the Bronze Star during combat outside of Saint-Lô, France. 

Some of the materials from this donation will stay on display at the Sgt. Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. Other parts will go on permanent display at the new VNG United States Property and Fiscal Office at DSCR, which will showcase examples of modern and historical Soldiers’ uniforms and gear.

Read more about the history of the Virginia National Guard here.