PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Paul Hampton never imagined when he joined the military in 1942 that he would find his life long hobby and be decorated as a war hero.
Nearly 90 years-old, the Paragould native enjoys a quiet life. His days have been pretty uneventful since 1984 when he retired from military service. However, Hampton's 42 years in Army hosted enough adventure to last him the rest of his life.
Shortly after enlisting he was deployed to England during World War II, that's when the adventure began. "I went to England on the Queen Mary," said Hampton, "We had 18,000 troops and 2 1/2 nights out a German Submarine fired two torpedoes at us, both of them missed."
He would be discharged following the World War but would re-enlist following a short break. It during his second stint in the military Hampton would find his calling as an Army Photographer. "Basically, it's been all photography since 1948," said Hampton.
As an Army Photographer, he would be deployed to the front lines of the Korean War to document the action. That trip would take a turn for the worst. "The most critical thing that has happened to me is when we got ambushed in Korea," Hampton reflected, "I had three young men with me and instantly I knew I had to get them out of there so we abandoned everything."
He would escape that day but not without injury. Shrapnel from a grenade shattered his hip but despite a brutal wound, he managed to lead his team out. "Something told me that I would get them out," Hampton said, "I didn't even know I'd been hit until I reached back to get my pistol and I felt something and it was blood."
For his bravery and being injured in the line of service, Hampton was honored with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Despite being seriously wounded in combat and going through several surgeries, this was not the end of the journey for Hampton. He would witness something that mystifies people to this day. With his film camera, Hampton recorded 23 nuclear bomb tests. He would record the explosions then just minutes later, dressed in a protective suit, would go into the site and record the aftermath.
Hampton would end his military service in 1984 following a long stint at one of the United States largest burn centers. He is still very passionate about photography and loves to reminisce about his adventures in the military.
He is able to relive some of the time he spent overseas with a book his family made for him, even though many of the photos and video he shot were top secret and were taken from him before he ever saw them.
While flipping through the pages of his book, Hampton had to call his journey a success. "I'm lucky...very fortunate man."