By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Man enters WWII in waning months
Placeholder Image

As a young 17-year-old man, Covington resident Bill Henderson enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the waning months of World War II in April 1945, and though he thought he'd entered a war, Henderson ended being a part of the world's recovery.

Because he was under 18 and still in high school, his father, who had served in World War I in France, had to sign for him. Without finishing school, Henderson was sent to the Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois for basic training before being sent to the Pacific theater.

Though he never participated in combat, Henderson recalled that the atmosphere during the war was intense, and it was an education in humanity.

"It was every man for himself just about," he said.

Despite the tension, Henderson said being overseas was not bad for his unit. It suffered no causalities, and the Navy always provided the soldiers with plenty of entertainment to make the time pass.

When the war ended in August 1945, Henderson was at Pearl Harbor - the very place where America had been dragged into the war by a surprise Japanese attack in December 1941. Now that the war had ended, a whole new set of duties began.

Henderson had the opportunity to see many different countries as he was deployed to locations like China, Japan, the Lucian Islands and the Philippines.

While in the Lucian Islands, Henderson helped build an infirmary for a doctor during his down time. He also traveled to China more than once during his three years in the Navy.

After the war ended, Henderson returned home to finish high school, having experienced an education far richer than one he would have received in his hometown classroom. From there, thanks to the G.I. Bill, he went to the Georgia Institute of Technology to study chemical engineering. He later met his wife Mary in Atlanta, and they married in December 1950.

He worked for many years at Hercules, a chemical and munitions manufacturing company known today as Ashland, before retiring in 1979.

Today, the 84-year-old lives with his wife in Covington, which they have called home for the past 45 years.

When Henderson speaks about his brief experience during World War II, he's sure to tell of one of the most important lessons he learned during his service.

"I don't think (people today) understand how important it is (to show support for our troops)," he said.