In the last couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to visit several times with Mrs. Betty Hearnes - the former first lady of Missouri - regarding her late husband's service in the military that occurred years before he became the state's 46th governor.
Warren E. Hearnes was raised in Charleston, Missouri, and, on May 27, 1940, he and a group of boys were able to conceal the fact that they were only 16 years old when enlisting in 140th Infantry Regiment of the Missouri National Guard. The following year, after they were mobilized at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, their true age was discovered and the group of minors was discharged on April 11, 1941, to be sent back to Charleston to finish out their senior year of high school.
After graduating from high school, Hearnes went on to attend the University of Missouri for a year and a half but was then drafted into the U.S. Army on February 24, 1943 and sent to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Shortly after his arrival at the fort, he received a telegram notifying him of his appointment to West Point - The U.S. Military Academy.
Hearnes graduated from West Point as an infantry officer in 1946, having undergone an accelerated 3-year training program due to the nation's previous war footing. Upon graduation, Betty Hearnes noted, Lt. Hearnes "went to Ft. Benning for some more training and was then sent to Puerto Rico," where he was assigned to the 35th Infantry Division.
While in Puerto Rico in 1947, he broke his right ankle during a friendly baseball game with fellow soldiers - an injury that would never fully heal, which would lead to his discharge in 1949 and aggravate him for the rest of his life.
The late governor's story of military service is one of many that I plan on sharing in greater detail in the coming weeks. I extend my thanks and appreciation to Betty Hearnes for providing this photograph of Cadet Hearnes in his West Point uniform in addition to the many details of his military service.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.