His Last Photograph on the Last Day: Hugh F. McHugh

In the waning days of World War II, the German army unleashed a massive, surprise attack on the Allied forces in the Western Theater with the hope of extending the lifeline of their military forces. This attack created a bulging salient in the Allied lines along the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. This battle, forever known as The Battle of the Bulge, lasted from December 16, 1944, to January 25, 1945, and is considered by historians as one of the largest land battles the United States ever engaged in. In the chaos of all this, US Army Signal Corps photographer, Hugh Francis McHugh, would be there to document the battle. Sadly, it was here on the snow-filled fields, on the last day of the battle, where McHugh would capture his last photograph.

Hugh Francis McHugh was born in New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York. While attending the University of Notre Dame with the Class of 1943, he left to study photography at the University of Rochester in New York. His passion for photography led him to be assigned to the Motion Picture Division of the Signal Corps. McHugh would find himself recording the war from D-Day until his final photograph in Belgium on January 25, 1945.

On the final day of the battle, McHugh was with his assigned unit as they moved into Wallerode, Belgium, to clear out a village of hostile forces. As he approached an open field, McHugh began to advance with the other US soldiers. As they moved across the open field, a soldier turned to look at McHugh as he captured another photograph. It was then that he was struck by a German sniper and was killed instantly. His camera was recovered and because of that, we now get to see his journey throughout the conflict until his very final moment.

Hugh F. McHugh’s name might not be as widely known as some of the wartime figures, but as time marches forward, the significance of McHugh's photographs, along with the many others that recorded the conflict, becomes more important. History was viewed through many eyes. The famous get the recognition, but there are numerous stories, videos, and photographs that are known to only a few. McHugh’s final photograph from the Battle of the Bulge is more than a snapshot frozen in time. It's a symbol of all those that took part in the history we look back on. In the video above from SNAFU DOCS, we get the opportunity to learn about McHugh and his journey. 

Michael Rudzikewycz's picture

Michael is an amateur photographer currently living in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A Long Islander by birth, he learned how to see with a camera along the shores of the island that he will forever call home.

Log in or register to post comments

Great work!

Truly, truly amazing. I just had to say a little prayer for Hugh after the video. Never done that before.

Well ... I guess there's a first time for everything. And ... today was the first time a You Tube video brought me to tears.

Interesting video and still photos to compare the destruction of the war. I noticed, as from the past and into the present, the civilian population suffers because of the aggression and lack of compassion of the combatants. I find it moving how they recovered and rebuilt.