PRIVATE EDWARD J. HENRY was born on November 23, 1925, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Henry Sr. The family lived at 42 North 28th Street in Camden NJ. Edward Henry was an honor graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, and had been in his third year of studies at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business when drafted in February of 1944. He had also worked at the West Jersey Title and Guarantee Company. He trained at Fort Benning GA with a paratroop unit and was sent overseas in October 1944.
Private Edward Henry was assigned to F Company, 2nd Battalion, of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which had in August and September of 1944 engaged in an extended siege which resulted in the taking of the town of Sospel, in Southern France.
As of December 10, 1944 after re-equipping and receiving replacements, Edward Henry being one of them, the 517th was stationed Soissons, France.
During the night of December 15-16 the German army launched its last great offensive of World War II, striking with three armies against weak American positions in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. The Allies were taken totally by surprise. The Germans made their main effort with the Sixth SS and Fifth Panzer armies, while their Seventh army on the left made a limited holding attack.
Movement orders came for the 517th at 1100, December 21st. Early on New Year's Day, the 517th was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and alerted to go on the attack. On January 3rd, acting as the left flank of the 82nd, attacked south along the Salm River. The 551st Parachute Infantry, as an attached unit, fought through Basse Bodeux, while the 2nd Battalion, including F Company and Private Henry, captured Trois Ponts. The southerly attack continued to Monte Fosse where advance elements were subjected to intense shelling.
A new attack was launched at 0800 on January 13th, to seize a line running from Spineux, north of Grand Halleux, to Poteaux, eight miles south of Malmedy. The 1st and 2nd Battalions moved to the south capturing Butay, Lusnie, Henumont, Coulee, Logbierme and established blocks at Petit Thier and Poteaux. The 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment had now reached the limits of the prescribed advance.
At this point, the 2nd Battalion moved from Goronne to Neuville for assignment to the 7th Armored Division, where they were assigned to Combat Command A at Polleux. On January 20th, as part of Task Force Seitz, they attacked south from an assembly area near Am Kreuz to capture Auf der Hardt woods and formed defensive positions on the southern edge. On reaching the objective, a patrol was sent to the village of Hochkreuz.
At 1500 on January 20th, 1944 Company F was detailed to join a tank company for an attack on Born.
On January 22nd, the task force led CCA through In Der Eidt Woods and closed in attack positions a mile north-west of Hunnange. At 1700 TOT concentrations were fired on Hunnange and the attack moved out. By dark Task Force Seitz had overrun Neider Emmels and Hunnange and was in contact with other 7th Armored Division forces.
Defensive positions were taken facing south and southwest. A road block was established at Lorentswaldchen and patrols were sent to the outskirts of Saint Vith. At 1400 on January 23rd, Combat Command B passed through Task Force Seitz and completed the capture of Saint Vith.
On January 24th orders were given to clear the Saint Vith-Ambleve road that remained in enemy hands. At 0600 on January 25th, the Battalion moved out for its attack position. By 1400 the objectives were secured. 2nd Battalion then rejoined the 517th Parachute Infantry Rregiment.
On February 1st the 517th PRCT joined the 82nd near Honsfeld. Next day the 1st Battalion took up a blocking position to protect the northern flank of the 325th Glider Infantry while the 3rd Battalion moved into position to support if required. All objectives of the attack plan were met, and on February 3rd, the RCT received orders attaching it to the 78th Infantry Division at Simmerath.
The 78th was to attack east on February 6th to seize Schmidt and the Schwammenauel Dam. The 517th RCT was to move north to the Kleinhau-Bergstein area, relieve elements of the 8th Infantry and attack south from Bergstein during darkness on February 5th to seize the Schmidt-Nideggen Ridge. The Germans had prepared the strongest defenses of the western front in this area.
By 0600 on the morning of February 5th, all units had closed at Kleinhau. The German line ran from Zerkall west and South of Hill 400 to the Kall River. After dark the 2nd and 3rd Battalions moved into attack positions. Five to six hundred yards below Bergstein, both battalions hit minefields and concertina wire. The troopers attempted to move forward by crawling and probing, but all efforts proved futile. Men were blown up by Schu mines, Tellermines and "Bouncing Bettys." In Bergstein the troopers found some protection from small-arms fire but little else.
In mid-morning the 596th Engineers began working in relays to clear a lane through the largest minefield encountered by the Allies in World War II while under direct enemy observation and fire. For 36 hours the 596th continued this genuinely heroic effort. In the 1st Battalion area, Company A sent a patrol from Hill 400 to Zerkall.
In the early afternoon of February 7th, Colonel Graves was informed that the 517th was released from the 78th Division and attached to the 82nd Airborne in place. Task Force A had been formed, consisting of the 517th and the 505th Parachute Infantry. The 517th was to continue its planned attack.
During darkness on February 7th, the 1st and 2nd Battalions prepared to go on the attack. At 2145 the 2nd Battalion moved down the lane through the minefields. By 0100 Company E and the remains of Company F were at the edge of the Kall Ravine. At 0145 the 1st Battalion was 400 yards southeast of Hill 400. North of the Kall, the 2nd Battalion troopers came under savage machine gun and mortar fire. It was here that Private Edward Henry was killed in action, during the attack through the area between Bergstein and the the Schmidt-Nideggen Road, one of 52 men of the 517th killed in action during the first seven days of February, 1945.
Due to casualties during previous fighting, 2nd Battalion's rifle strengths had been reduced to company size. Moving out on schedule, at 2145 the 2nd Battalion moved silently down the lane through the minefields. The passage of lines went smoothly. By 0100 Company E and the remains of Company F were at the edge of the Kall Ravine. Company D which had remained in position since the initial attack -- moved northeast into 2nd Battalion reserve below Bergstein. At 0145 the 1st Battalion was 400 yards southeast of Hill 400.
At daybreak the situation disintegrated once more. The German parachute troops defending their position had watched their American counterparts clear the lane through the minefields. Any new attack had to come that way. The Germans waited, and were ready when it came. North of the Kall, the 2nd Battalion troopers came under savage machine gun and mortar fire. Trying to avoid this fire and hoping to find an unsecured crossing, E Company, with the men of F Company attached, moved east. It found itself south of the 1st Battalion, and at 0930 was hit by a strong counterattack. The 1st Battalion was forced back to Hill 400. At 1100 E Company reported that it was at one-third of starting strength. F Company had "three radio operators and one machine gun team" left.
The rifle strengths of the three 517th Battalions, now reduced to company size, would be relieved by the 508th Parachute Infantry that night. The 517th Parachute Infantry regiment would see no further combat during World War II.
December and January casualties were 653: 565 wounded and 78 killed. February casualties in Germany were 287: 235 wounded and 52 killed. These numbers, do not include evacuations attributable to disease and frozen extremities.
Edward Henry Jr. was survived by his parents and a sister, Norma Henry. He was was brought home aboard the USAT Joseph V. Connolly, arriving October 27, 1947. Edward Henry Jr. was buried at Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly NJ on November 24, 1947.
lived in this house
42 North 28th Street, Camden NJ
Photographs taken December 31, 2002
517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team 1943-1945
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