Veterans History Project: Joe Henderson (Part 2) - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: Joe Henderson (Part 2)

By Jennifer Martin - email

June 1944. Joe Henderson and the other survivors from the 5th Armored Division had just left the beaches at Normandy. They were moving deeper into France.

"Had an artillery bunch that was near us. That would be big guns, shooting way up.  And we was in this rest area there and they had just some of them got hurt and they was in the hospital, so they had some new boys. And they built a fire and they didn't put it out and this ME109, dropped antipersonnel bombs down. And it hit the ground and bounced up. And there was a pine stump and I jumped behind it but I didn't get down far enough, quick enough. So it stuck in my back, through all my clothes and he pulled it out at night with a flashlight and put powder on it and taped it up.

And I never did get to go to the hospital. That's how I got the Purple Heart.  I wadded stuff up on each side of that and I drove two days and one night before I stopped.  The next week or something like that they hit a mine on the half trac and that's where I went to the Battle of the Bulge and I stayed there about a month and a half.

It was pretty cold.  Three feet of snow. And we stacked dead bodies up and finally got on top of em, so we wouldn't be in the snow. And we stacked bodies still, up higher, for our protection, and got behind the bodies. And it was pretty tough.

And finally they got to where we slacked up a little bit and I tried to get my shoes and socks off. I had captured a German doctor. He was riding in that half trac and my socks were froze to the skin and I couldn't get them off. So I had to find a branch to run it under the snow and that's how I got my socks off."

His legs were blue from the knee down. The German doctor helped attend to them.

"We got to (one small town) and that's where I was captured. I stayed captured two days.  We run out of ammunition and the Germans were all the way around us. We were surrounded. And they didn't have a prison to put us in. So they stood us before a firing squad. And I was a Mason and I gave a distress signal and they didn't shoot me and they shot all the rest of em.  After they didn't shoot me, they carried me to the Masons. The Germans carried me in the building and they examined me."

Once he proved he was a Mason, the Germans released him. He met back up with the Allied forces and went on to the Elbe River, where the Allies met the Russians. After the war, Henderson went back into construction. He got married and had 4 children.

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