ALMOST FORGOTTEN HERO - First Lieutenant Frederick F. Henry, U.S.Army, WWII, Korean War, Medal of Honor (1919-1950)
BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Frederick F. Henry was born on September 23, 1919 in the small town of Vian in Oklahoma. It was from there that he joined the Army and served during World War Two and went on to serve in the Korean War.
For more than 45 years, the officials and locals in a small town in Oklahoma were not aware that one of their own had received the nation’s highest medal for bravery. This hero’s story might still be unknown had it not been for the mayor of another small town. In 1994 Ken Lunt the then mayor of Ft Scott and a keen student of Medal of Honor history wrote a letter to Robert Morris the new mayor of Vian, Oklahoma, and told him the story of the hero from Vian who had received the Medal of Honor. Morris said Lunt, an enthusiast of Medal of Honor history, sent him a letter notifying him that President Harry S. Truman had posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Henry
Morris said he launched a campaign to gather information on Henry and locate any of living relatives. The former mayor said the staff of the Sequoyah County Times assisted him by finding numerous relatives of Henry’s, many living in California.
One of the Army’s official Web sites that tells the stories of Medal of Honor recipients reveals what happened on the day of September 1, 1950, when the soldiers from Company F, 38th Infantry Regiment were saved by an officer they would never see again.
Henry and his platoon were maintaining a strategic ridge near the town of Am-Dong, Korea, when superior enemy forces overwhelmed them with heavy mortar and artillery fire. His platoon disorganized by the assault, Henry climbed out of his foxhole and ordered the men to stay in place and continue returning fire.
“Encouraged by his heroic action, the platoon reformed a defensive line and rained devastating fire on the enemy, checking its advance,” the Web site states.
Enemy fire disabled the platoon’s communication equipment, preventing Henry from determining whether the platoon’s main line of resistance had been alerted to the ferocious attack.
Acting on his own resolve, Henry ordered that his wounded be evacuated, but their weapons and ammunition brought to him. Henry, himself severely wounded during the assault, ordered all of his men to withdraw as he established a one-man defensive position, preparing to protect them from further enemy fire.
“When last seen he was single-handedly firing all available weapons so effectively that he caused an estimated 50 enemy casualties,” the Web site states. “His ammunition was soon expended and his position overrun, but that intrepid action saved the platoon and halted the enemy’s advance until the main line of resistance was prepared to throw back the attack
On October 20th, 2004 a large crowd came together at the Annabelle Farmer Park in downtown Vian. They had come together pay respects to long-lost hometown hero and Medal of Honor recipient, 1st Lt. Frederick F. Henry.
Nearly 100 people attended the ceremony at Annabelle Farmer Park, according to Vian Mayor Kenneth Johnson. Many were townspeople acting on an opportunity to honor the local man whose heroism in combat was long missing from their city’s history; some were state, military and local officials who felt it their duty to honor the Army lieutenant last seen defending his platoon from a fast-approaching wave of North Korean forces; and more than a dozen ventured into the Sequoyah County city as representatives of a relative taken in war, whose goodness survived through the lives he protected.
Henry’s story is now a landmark. A memorial dedicated to Henry and his service in the Army was unveiled at the ceremony, according to former Vian Mayor Robert Morris.
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
1st Lt. Henry, Company F, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. His platoon was holding a strategic ridge near the town when they were attacked by a superior enemy force, supported by heavy mortar and artillery fire. Seeing his platoon disorganized by this fanatical assault, he left his foxhole and moving along the line ordered his men to stay in place and keep firing. Encouraged by this heroic action the platoon reformed a defensive line and rained devastating fire on the enemy, checking its advance. Enemy fire had knocked out all communications and 1st Lt. Henry was unable to determine whether or not the main line of resistance was alerted to this heavy attack. On his own initiative, although severely wounded, he decided to hold his position as long as possible and ordered the wounded evacuated and their weapons and ammunition brought to him. Establishing a l-man defensive position, he ordered the platoon's withdrawal and despite his wound and with complete disregard for himself remained behind to cover the movement. When last seen he was single-handedly firing all available weapons so effectively that he caused an estimated 50 enemy casualties. His ammunition was soon expended and his position overrun, but this intrepid action saved the platoon and halted the enemy's advance until the main line of resistance was prepared to throw back the attack. 1st Lt. Henry's outstanding gallantry and noble self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty reflect the highest honor on him and are in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.
/S/ Harry S. Truman President
First Lieutenant Frederick Funston Henry’s name is inscribed on a wall in the courts of the missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu Hawaii.
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