Wesley Rudolph Hillstrom,


1914 - 1992

Philippines and Okinawa, WWII

382nd Regiment H Company 3rd Platoon



The Making of a Leader
Click on image to view or download the pdf file telling the whole story, including many accounts of stories.

Wesley Rudolph Hillstrom served as a U.S. Army 81mm. mortar platoon Sergeant in the 96th Division’s (The Deadeyes) 382nd Regiment, H Company, Third Platoon.

He was born in the northern Michigan town of Hancock on March 30, 1914 and grew up in Salo, a Finnish farming commuity on the outskirts of that town. He was an excellent student and an amateur musician, who enjoyed listening to classical music. At the age of 13, he won a county-wide scholastic contest that included his meeting the Governor of Michigan.

During the Great Depression, Wesley's father and his older brother traveled long distances to find work to provide for the family. This left Wesley, as the oldest sibling, to run the farm. Later during the Depression, he also found such work as digging ditches and playing an accordion on a vaudeville circuit with his brother Wendell.

Having an excellent mechanical aptitude, he became a gear tester at a manufacturing plant in Detroit, Michigan. Very adept at this work, he would take scrapped gears and work to put them in running order during his lunch period, to occupy his time. He chose not to apply for a deferment from military service.

Shortly after he was established in a well-paying job and married, he was called to serve his country.His favorite poem was "Invictus," by William Ernest Henley. To him, that poem illustrated true courage. During his youth he lived that poem: it was his creed. That poem served him well in combat and was instrumental in his developing faith in a Higher Power.

For a while, he pursued mechanical engineering studies on the GI Bill. But, he wasn't able to seriously pursue his studies, being relatively fresh out of combat. He suffered some hearing loss and developed tinnitus. He also suffered from PTSD, after five and a half months of battlefield combat.


"My dad was a tough farm kid growing up in the Great Depression and that background undoubtedly contributed to his success as a good soldier and an effective leader."

from Wesley Roland Hillstrom, Son of Wesley Rudolph Hillstrom


An early photograph of Wesley Hillstrom's childhood home, built by his father, Joshua Hillstrom, about 1926.

"Invictus"by William Ernest Henley

Click image to see a larger version.
His loving and devoted wife, Madeleine, played a significant role in helping him adjust to civilian life.

He tried to deal with the effects of war by drinking, but ultimately he quit drinking and helped many other individuals attain sobriety as well.

Family activities consisted of fishing trips, vacationing throughout the United States and attending Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts.


Wesley Ruldolph Hillstrom passed away in Detroit, Michigan on March 4,1992 at the age of 77. He was loved and respected by his wife, ever the girl of his dreams, and his son.


Wesley and Madeleine in their wedding photograph, May 23, 1942, shortly before he received his invitation to the U.S. Army and ultimately become a Deadeye in the 96th Division

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Additional Reading

To read accounts of Wesley Hillstrom's Army experiences, written by his son, click the image. it will take you to the pdf file. You are welcome to download and print.


Advanced Infantry Reports from Major James H. Short including the service of the 96th Infantry Division , "The Deadeyes"