Merrick Hector Truly
LT COL in 23rd Headquarters Co
Born 1907 in MS, Died 1977
Other residence(s): Fayette, MS; San Antonio, TX; numerous military postings
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: military officer
College education before the war: West Point
Merrick Hector Truly was born on November 29, 1907 in Fayette, MS, the youngest of five children. His father was a lawyer by profession, and in his second term as a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice at the time Hector was born.
After graduation, he was assigned to the 23rd Infantry at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. On February 20, 1932 he married Mildred Lynch, the daughter of an officer on the post. Their first child, Jeanne, was born a year or so later, and a second child, Merrick Jr., in 1936.
In 1932 Hector switched his allegiance to the Army Air Corps, and was stationed at Randolph Field and Kelly Field (both near San Antonio). He qualified as an attack pilot and was sent to Fort Crockett, TX, where he remained until 1935 when he transferred back to the Infantry. During the years before the war he was stationed in several different US posts, as well as in the Philippines. and was promoted to the rank of MAJ in 1942 and LTC in 1943.
Colonel Truly became Executive Officer of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, and served in Europe with the unit. In Rick Beyer and Liz Sayles' book, The Ghost Army of World War II, the authors say that "the detailed plan [for Operation Viersen, the last, biggest, and best deception of the war] was largely the work of Lieutenant Colonel Merrick Truly, one of the Twenty-Third's staff officers." And a memorial to Colonel Truly that appeared in 1977 in Assembly, West Point's former alumni magazine, reported that "one of his key staff officers states that 'Hector, more than any other individual, was the person most directly responsible for successful operations of his unit.'" The article goes on to say that "his infectious good humor was a wonderful asset in handling situations where deception operations also fooled our own troops. . . . Hector seemed at his best in handling and pacifying such individuals."
After the war, most of his remaining Army service was spent in intelligence and counterintelligence assignments. He saw service in Panama, Korea, Hawaii, and California, but also spent some years at his "home" base of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. Fort Sam Houston served as 4th Army HQ, and he was there in 1953-55 as Chief of the operations branch of the training section, and Assistant Chief of Staff. Later he returned to San Antonio as Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, Administration, and then 4th Army Commandant before his retirement in July, 1961 with the rank of COL.
After his retirement, Hector and Mildred remained in San Antonio and traveled in the US and abroad. His sudden death from a heart attack, on January 29, 1977, came as a shock to his family and friends because his health had been generally good.
He is buried at Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX.
1931 West Point graduation photo in the Times-Picayune (LA)
1926 article in the Birmingham News (AL) about his high school graduation
1931 San Antonio city directory
1932 marriage record
1933 article in San Antonio Express (TX) about his military career
1936 article in Norfolk Virginian-Pilot about his military career
1941 article in Alexandria Daily Town Talk (LA) about his military career
1945 Official History of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops
1948 US Select Military Registers
1953 article in the San Antonio Light (TX) about his military career
1955 US Registry of Civil, Naval, and Military Service
1960 article in the San Antonio News (TX) about his move from CA to TX
1961 article in the San Antonio Light (TX) about his retirement
1977 VA death record
1977 Social Security death index
1977 death notice in San Antonio Express (TX)
1977 Texas death certificate
1977 article in the Fayette Chronicle (MS); reprinting a piece from Assembly, a quarterly publication of West Point, about Truly
1977 the original of the above piece from the West Point Association of Graduates
2015, Beyer & Sayles, The Ghost Army of World War II