As a youth, Eugene Hecker was enjoying a church activity when someone he had only ever heard of stopped by to visit. The man was Heber J. Grant, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time. Hecker recalled sitting with other young men as he listened to Grant’s talk where he told them to shore up their faith because a test of unimaginable strength would soon come and test it.
Just two years after that fateful encounter, Pearl Harbor rocked the United States to its core, pulling them into the international conflict of World War 2. For Hecker, he saw this chance talk as nothing short of prophetic, preparing him for what he would face.
World War 2 and the activation of the draft began to affect the lives of everyday young men in the United States. At the time, Hecker spoke with a man he knew that worked for the United States Navy who told him not to let himself be drafted, and to not join the National Guard or the Army. ‘Those poor men are cannon fodder,’ he was told. The man recommended he join one of the other branches of the military, and Hecker took his advice. He joined the Navy and requested schooling in radio technology, and his life’s trajectory was forever altered.
Hecker Attended several universities over the next few years as he moved around with the Navy learning the latest in radio technology, including anti aircraft technology that was absolutely vital during the aerial warfare that was so central to the war effort. He said that his time in the service was invaluable and he learned much about himself and others.
He said that although he wasn’t on the front lines, it didn’t mean his job was easy or safe. He worked on aircraft carriers installing radar and other essential electronics equipment on Douglas SBD Dauntless aircraft. This dive bombing aircraft was an invaluable asset to the United States and its allies during WWII, and is credited with winning the tide turning battle of Midway. By some accounts, the Dauntless aircraft that Hecker worked tirelessly to outfit with the best technology, sank more Japanese ships than any other plane.
One night Hecker recalled keeping watch over the equipment that he and his fellow servicemen used to install and repair essential radio and other electronics on United States and allied aircraft. On this particular night, Hecker said he was lying on his cot near the bench where the equipment was kept, when he felt an impossibly strong urge to get up and move away from his cot and the work station. He decided to act on this strange feeling and had moved just a little ways off when he heard the sound of an airplane nearing. Confused, but ready and willing to do his duty, he turned around to walk back to greet the plane and its pilot, when suddenly an explosion rocked the camp. He waited on the ground until the next morning when others came to check on the radar shop. To his surprise, there was a massive hole right next to what was left of his cot where the shell had hit and the bench,the tent and other equipment had also been completely destroyed by the blast. There was no doubt in his mind at that point that the prompting had been from God who had saved him from certain death.
Hecker is passionate about education and his country. He is proud to have served in World War 2, and is still full of life and vigor. He and his wife Bonnie Hecker are proud residents of Payson Utah, and enjoy spending time with their family.
We are incredibly lucky to have this hidden gem of a man in our community, a man with more than a century of life experience who served his country with honor during one of its darkest hours. When you speak with him, you can definitely see why his generation carries the title of “The Greatest Generation,” for this man is great in every way. Thank you for your selfless service to the United States of America and to the World.
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