Service to country: Henry recalls service in World War II

Published 10:51 am Monday, November 13, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Veterans Day is a time for the nation to honor those who served this country defending its freedoms. Some served by choice. Some served out of duty after being drafted.

Clanton resident R.C. Henry was in this second group. Henry was born in 1923 and recently celebrated his 94th birthday.

The Chilton County native was drafted into the U.S. Army in February of 1943. He was deployed to the South Pacific in June 1944 and served until December 1945. He completed basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“It’s been so long I don’t remember, but some of it you don’t forget,” Henry said.

Those memories that refuse to die include times like when he woke up to sounds of planes, so close he thought they would crash into where he was sleeping. Henry described this as the time he was most afraid during his time of service. He also remembers another time when shots from an aircraft hitting someone standing near him before the plane was shot out of the sky.

He said getting to know the men that were serving with him helped him through. He was assigned to the 43rd Anti-Aircraft Battalion, Henry main duties were not in combat, but rather in the kitchen as he was assigned to be a cook helper.

Henry was on the island of Iwo Jima during the battle where the now famous photo of U.S. Marines raising the American Flag was taken.

Henry received the Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal for his service.

Even after the fighting ended there were still dangers for the remaining troops. Henry recalled how the undercarriage of a truck he was riding in caught on fire and started to burn his feet. A Marine who was also riding in the vehicle quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher to put out the flame.

There were also natural hazards while serving in the Pacific Islands. Henry said the mosquitoes were huge, indicating that the insects were about as big as his finger.

After Henry returned to the States and was honorably discharged from the Army, he returned to Chilton County.

“I came back to the same place I had left,” Henry said.

He said he felt lost when he first returned home.

He took care of his mother and younger sister. About a year later, he got married and the couple went on to have eight children.