Charles M. Hilton, a World War II veteran who survived the Bataan Death March, was a prisoner of war for more than three years and received the Silver Star medal, died Tuesday.
He was 92.
Hilton, an Arkansas native, lived in the Louisville area and other parts of Kentucky after leaving the Army. He had been living most recently at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, said his son Earl Hilton.
"He was a pretty tough guy; he survived a lot of things," Earl Hilton said. "He still had nightmares about it once in a while."
Never miss a local story.
Charles Hilton was born May 24, 1922, in Delight, Ark., a son of the late Luther Monroe and May Baughn Hilton.
He joined the U.S. Army at age 17 — his parents signed papers allowing him to enlist — and was sent to the Philippines just before the war.
U.S. troops in the Philippines were besieged on the Bataan Peninsula by Japanese forces in January 1942, but they kept fighting until April.
Thousands of prisoners of war perished in the Bataan Death March as they were herded to prison camps on the island of Luzon. Hilton escaped the march at one point but was quickly recaptured.
He survived only to be shipped to Japan, where he and other POWs worked in lead mines. They labored long hours deep underground, received little food and almost no medical care, and endured daily brutality.
When a fellow POW became critically ill, Hilton saved his life by taking over his work shifts and helping nurse him back to health.
"I asked him once what kept him going, and he said that he just wanted to get home," Earl Hilton said.
Liberated after the war, Charles Hilton came home with vivid memories of his imprisonment. A gifted artist, he turned those memories into numerous drawings of prison scenes, which his family still has.
Hilton remained in the Army for 24 years, becoming a master sergeant. He applied for pilot training but couldn't meet vision requirements.
After the Army, Hilton took a civilian job as an illustrator at Fort Knox, and he later ran his own sign business.
"He rode motorcycles and he loved going out riding Jet Skis," his son said. "He loved being active; he was young at heart all his life."
Hilton received the Silver Star — the third-highest U.S. military honor — and the Purple Heart.
He is survived by a daughter, Carolyn Poore; two sons, Earl and John Hilton; a sister, Evelyn Ashby; three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Services were held Thursday at Johnson's Funeral Home in Georgetown, followed by a graveside service at the Shiloh Cemetery in Folsomville, Ind.