- WW II
H. David Hedison was born in Cranston, Rhode Island in 1922. He graduated from Cranston High School in 1939 where he participated in baseball and hockey. His other activities included Student Council, Traffic Committee, Athletic Council, and President of the “Hi-Y” Club.
He entered the University of Rhode Island in 1939 and was a member of Phi Mu Delta Fraternity, the RI Club and the Army ROTC. He was a 1943 graduate of the University of Rhode Island in Business. He captained the baseball team for legendary coach, Frank Keaney.
A gifted baseball player, he was a member of the RI softball team that went to the National Championship in Detroit in 1940 & 1941. He was named the outstanding Armenian Athlete in the US in 1942 and was a member of the Walsh Kaiser N.E. League Baseball Champions in 1943. David also received the Lou Gehrig Trophy and named the outstanding player of the Providence Amateur Baseball League leading to an offer with the St. Louis Cardinals.
After commissioning, he underwent training at Fort Benning, Georgia and then was deployed to Europe becoming a WWII veteran serving in the European Theatre of Operation. He was assigned to G Company, 264 Infantry, 66th Infantry Division (Black Panthers). His regiment arrived in Dorchester, England in November 1944. They trained in cross channel operations and prepared for deployment until 24 December 1944. His regiment moved to Southampton before crossing the English Channel to Cherbourg, France.
Two Belgian transport vessels, the Cheshire and Leopoldville, carried the 66th Division across the English Channel. However, only 5 miles from the port of Cherbourg, the Leopoldville was torpedoed by a German U-Boat and sunk, taking the lives of 14 officers and 748 enlisted soldiers. The U.S. Navy later announced the sinking of the Leopoldville to be the second-largest loss of life from the sinking of a troop transport ship in the entire European Theater. David was on the Cheshire.
Primarily involved with destroying the Nazi troops left behind by the retreat from Northern France, the 66th Infantry Division relieved the 94th Infantry Division of control of the Brittany-Loire area in December 1944 and collaborating with French forces. The 264th Infantry carried out its objective by attacking German forces and running reconnaissance missions to gather intelligence. In total, there were about 100,000 German soldiers that remained in the ports of Lorient, St. Nazaire, Bordeaux and La Rochelle. Notably, a heavy German attack near La Croix was repulsed on 16 April 1945; and several strongly fortified enemy positions were taken from 19 to 29 April 1945 in a series of counterattacks. These battles played a pivotal role in ending the Nazi occupation of Northern France. The remaining Nazi soldiers surrendered to 66th Infantry Division and French officials in a small cafe near Cordemais on 8 May 1945.
Ordered to change to an occupation mission in May 1945, David’s regiment made a 700-mile trek into Germany where the Black Panthers occupied 2400 square miles of territory and the city of Koblenz. As a security force, the regiment was charged with establishing a military government and control of all German affairs. Tasks included the discharging of prisoners of war, inventorying of ammunition and supplies, and organizing civilians. After spending time in Germany, the 264th returned to the French coast to aid with the allied withdrawal from the European Theater. The division returned to the United States in October 1945.
David obtained the rank of Captain in the infantry and won the Combat Infantry Badge, among campaign awards in France as part of the Normandy Landing follow-on forces. He departed the Army in 1946 and went into the family business with his brother.
Dave was President of Hedison Jewelry Manufacturing Company for 39 years until his retirement in 1985. During his career, the business expanded from $100,000 net worth with 15 employees into a multi-million-dollar business with more than 500 employees. After closing the company, the brothers engaged in another venture involving land investment and development.
David was an avid fund raiser for the University of Rhode Island, making annual contributions, volunteering countless hours, and donating gifts to Alumni Christmas parties. In 1989, David and his brother Hike, also a URI alum, established two charitable trusts through the URI Foundation with their donation of land valued at approximately one million dollars. David also led his class of ‘43 in donating nearly another one million dollars, the largest class gift ever to URI.
He was a member and former president of the Matunuck Point Beach Association, the Netopian Club, the Armenian-American Veterans of WWII, the Armenian General Benevolent Union of America, the URI Alumni Association, the Century Club, and the Overseas Lodge 40 FM Scottish Rite & RI Shrine. He was named the recipient of the Prestigious Ram Award in 1973 and was inducted into the URI Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976.
David and his wife Florence were married for 60 years, and they had three sons and four grandchildren. Captain H. David Hedison died in 2008 at age 86. His hobby was Boston professional sports, especially the Red Sox. David’s outstanding leadership and innovation as well as devotion to his businesses and communities reflect great credit upon himself, his family, our nation and the University of Rhode Island.