Greenwood recently mourned the passing of one it’s World War II hero's, Theral Henry. Henry was 92 years when he passed on Oct. 19. In an interview from 2015, Theral shared his memories of his service overseas.
Henry was first introduced to war at Guam as part of a the Marines 3rd Battalion “replacement group,” he said. He’d joined the Marines at age 18.
Theral recalled standing atop Iwo Jima’s highest peak on Feb. 23, 1945, saluting an American flag raised by fellow soldiers after battle.
“I saluted it when it went up,” Henry said. “The little one.”
The original flag raised at Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, Henry said, was replaced with a larger version seen in the iconic raising-of-the-flag photo captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
“There was a Navy officer who said it was too small, it doesn’t show up enough,” Henry said. “He told them to get a longer pole and a bigger flag.”
Either way, the moment “symbolized victory, but not necessarily of the war.” It would be months later, in September 1945, before Japan formally surrendered.
“We replaced the casualties they had at the Battle of Guam,” Henry said. “When Guam was secured and the campaign was over with, we set up base camp. We stayed there and trained for the next assignment.”
Henry’s next wartime battle was fought on the island of Iwo Jima, where his task was to help secure the second airfield on the island, one of two built by the Japanese and capable of handling B-29 airplanes.
His unit was met with fierce opposition, but on the third day, it secured the airfield. Later that day, after recapturing part of the island, the American flag was raised by five fellow Marines and a Navy corpsman on Mount Suribachi. The image taken of the larger flag now serves as the Marine Corps War Memorial at Washington.
In later island combat, Henry battled enemies “all over” the island, he said. At one point when his rifle jammed, Henry was rocked by a nearby grenade blast, he said. For his injury, Henry received a Purple Heart. He had served just under two years.
“I was ready to get home,” he said.
Henry was born east of Greenwood in what was then the Lone Star community, where the sprawling Fort Chaffee is located now. After the war, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier in Fort Smith and Huntington for nearly 33 years before retirement. His wife of nearly 68 years, Kathryn, died in 2014. They have two children, Jan McNeil and Dr. James Henry, and four grandchildren.
The Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA and the Veterans Administration’s National Cemetery held a ceremony at the U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith to honor the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII In 2015.
The inaugural event for Fort Smith was part of a worldwide tribute to what has been called the “Greatest Generation.” More than 80 people, including 15 WWII veterans, attended.