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James A. Henderson
First Lieutenant, United States Army Air Forces
Indiana State Flag
James A. Henderson
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces
0-736209
71st Bomber Squadron, 38th Bomber Group, Heavy
Entered the Service from: Indiana
Died: July 1, 1944
Missing in Action or Buried at Sea
Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines
Awards: Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
WW II pilot's remains finally come home

Funeral held for local airman killed in 1944 in New Guinea.

As First Lieutenant James A. Henderson was buried Monday under a vast blue sky, memories of the young Gary man who disappeared in the New Guinea mountains more 59 years ago came alive.

There are not many people around today to tell the story of his short life.

But those who could gathered to console Henderson's younger sister, one of the few relatives still alive who endured the pain of not knowing what happened to him on July 1, 1944, when his B-25 bomber took off but never returned to base.

His remains were found more than five decades later, tangled in thick brush on a steep mountainside among the rusted hulk of his plane along with the remains of its four-member crew and four war-wounded passengers.

Some of Henderson's remains were flown home last week and finally buried Monday in a silver casket during a traditional military service with gunshots, salutes and all.

However, the talk of Henderson's life long ago was on everyone's mind, even though most of them could only wonder who he really was.

Just five years before his death, Henderson could be found most nights at the Silver Roller Blade in Gary, skating in circles with his 10 closest friends.

He was the one with wavy chestnut hair, talking to the girls, some of his friends recalled.

"He was real tall and handsome," said a teary-eyed Jean Loiacano, who was his roller skating buddy. "He didn't do all the bad stuff we did though. He only roller skated."

When Henderson wasn't looking, a shy pal of his sister was one of the girls always eyeing him at the rink.

"I had a big crush on him," said Ann Bajza, with a large smile. "If he was at the rink, I followed him. I took a couple flops in front of him so he would notice me. But then he went and got married."

Not surprisingly, the Tolleston High School graduate married a woman he met at a roller rink. However, that rink was near an Army base in Mesa, Ariz., far away from Gary, where he grew up making model airplanes at his family's home above their beauty salon.

Vivian Kempter, who was from a small, nearby Colorado town, only had to take one look at him. They were married within three months.

The newlyweds soon moved to South Carolina when he was transferred, and not more than a year after they met, he was flying in battle overseas.

His family and friends never saw him again except in their dreams.

"Just before he was to come home, he sent me a letter," Kempter said. "He wrote, 'I have a big surprise for you when I get back.'"

Henderson's secret would haunt her for the rest of her life, even as she remarried and raised her children.

A lot of unknowns arose when he crashed during a storm over the jungles of New Guinea.

His parents lived into their 90s and celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary, but they died just a few years before an adventurous Philadelphia man found Henderson's wreckage while he was searching for his own uncle's crash site.

"His parents just grieved and grieved over him. They never knew what happened to him," said Emily Tabor, a close family friend. "It was really hard."

Some of that pain was relieved Monday for Deloris Taylor, Henderson's younger and only living sibling.

As soldiers Monday folded an American flag with two more stars than the one Henderson fought under, Taylor wept and thought of the brother who used to look out for her at the roller rink.

"He never had any bad habits," she said. "He never drank. He never smoked. He never swore. He left that all up to me."

By everyone's account, the teenager who volunteered for battle just a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor was a man of character.

"He was just a good, clean-cut guy," said James Bennel, who attended Sunday school with Henderson. "He always wanted to fly. He was a fine man."

While piloting more than 50 bombing runs in the South Pacific against Japanese soldiers, Henderson earned an Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart and a Presidential Citation in 1945.

A monument to him and other airmen who perished in the New Guinea mountains stands in the Philippines.

In addition, some of Henderson's bones, and those of his co-pilot, crew and passengers on July 1, 1944, will be buried on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia beneath a monument to their lost flight.

JA Henderson Funeral Services PHOTO


Sister buries pilot brother who died during World War II
14 October 2003

The sister of a co-pilot killed in a plane crash during World War II saluted as a bugler played taps over her brother's remains, which were found nearly 60 years after his death.

"It was beautiful," 79-year-old Delores Taylor said after the funeral service Monday for her brother, U.S. Army Air Corps First Lieutenant James A. Henderson.

Henderson was killed in July 1944, when the B-25 bomber on which he was co-pilot crashed into a mountain in the jungles of Papua, New Guinea. The plane was carrying wounded soldiers to a medical facility.

Their remains were found in the late 1990s, tangled in thick brush on a steep mountainside in the rusted hulk of the plane, by a Philadelphia man seeking the site of the crash that killed his uncle.

The military matched DNA from the remains with a sample from Taylor to confirm Henderson's identity.

Henderson was buried Monday between his parents, who died without ever knowing what had happened to their son, who was listed as missing in action for decades.

"His parents just grieved and grieved over him. They never knew what happened to him," said Emily Tabor, a family friend.

Henderson, who lived with his parents above their beauty salon in Gary, volunteered for the military the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He left behind a newlywed wife, who since has remarried.

"He was just a good, clean-cut guy," said James Bennel, who attended Sunday school with Henderson. "He always wanted to fly. He was a fine man."

Henderson piloted more than 50 bombing runs in the South Pacific, earning an Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart and a posthumous Presidential Citation.

U.S. Army Chaplain Alfred Johnson called Henderson "a great soldier who died for all of us."

"He volunteered to put himself in harm's way. He died to preserve our freedom," Johnson said.

Other remains, including some of Henderson's, are to be buried next Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia beneath a monument to their lost flight.

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HENDERSON, JAMES A
1LT US ARMY
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 01/04/1943 - 07/01/1944
DATE OF BIRTH: 02/21/1922
DATE OF DEATH: 07/01/1944
DATE OF INTERMENT: 05/06/2004
BURIED AT: SECTION 60  SITE 7946
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Posted: 25 December 2003  Updated: 8 February 2004 Updated: 25 July 2004

Updated: 4 August 2005
Air Medal
Air Medal (2)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Purple Heart
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