Roy Henlin - left waist gunner of A/C 42-3436
Leonard Roy Henlin was born on April 13th 1911 in Warwick, Rhode Island, was from Smithfield in Providence County also Rhode Island, where he - at home called Roy - enlisted on 4 September 1942. Roy Henlin received his ‘flexible gunnery’ training at Army Air Bases in Nebraska, Washington and Long Beach, California. With his 32 years Henlin was the senior of the McDarby crew.
Prior to entering the service ‘Uncle Roy’ - as Mrs. Deborah/Debbie Henlin a niece, called him - worked as a spinner at the Esmond Mills, and played base ball with the Greenville Townies. While looking into this information I saw they made all kinds of beautiful blankets at the Esmond Mills.
Roy Henlin’s liner cap - 2018
On Saturday 13 October 2018 at the cemetery of EygelshovenI first time met Mr Jo Engels who before had called and told me he had a cap Roy Henlin had worn on the Black Thursday mission and via his father he now had this cap.
After the ceremony we talked at De Laethof and he told us that a friend of his father picked up this A-9 flight cap at the crash site in 1943 and later traded it with Jo’s father. Jo also told us that his father used the cap himself under his helmet while he was in the Dutch Army.
The day after - while touring the south of Limburg with JoAnn and Peggy Linrud and Erica Stern - we met Mr Engels again at the US Military Cemetery Margraten. Because on every 14th of October he went there.
And after Veterans Day 2018 I got this information from Mr Ben Roberts via JoAnn Linrud: He said Leonard Henlin was the only one of their crew who wore that flight cap, which was actually a liner. They were issued a cap and the liner. Only Henlin chose to insert the liner into the cap; the others did not, for whatever reason.
The Purple Heart is in the possession of Debbie Henlin.
On Fold 3 I saw Roy Henlin earned the Air Medal and in his IDPF/inventory of his belongings I read of his Good Conduct medal; in 1942/43 the US Army model.
Roy was one of the ‘Henlin clan’ as Debbie wrote to me. She gave me much interesting information on Roy Henlin.
Below the family Henlin: both parents Henri (A.) and Mary (A. Greene), 3 older boys, 2 sisters and 4 younger boys.
The longest of the smaller boys in between the two girls is Roy. Left of him is Alva, Debbie Henlin’s father. In front of Roy is Errol who also was in the war; on the ground with the 5th Army in Italy. Errol’s wife Shirley (90 years) wrote me a kind letter in August 2016.
Alva also worked at the same Esmond Mill as Roy and was exempt from serving in the war as he had 3 little daughters at home, so he worked in the mill making blankets needed by US servicemen.
Debbie wrote to me she still has a wool US Navy blanket from that time.
Roy and his younger brother Alva; father of Debbie.
From Debbie Henlin I also got a photo with Bob Wells (right) and Frank Willis (left) on it; the three - Roy, Bob and Frank - were probably trained together.
MIA - KIA
After a MIA-telegram on 26 October 1943, a KIA-telegram followed on 21 November 1943 after the Int. Red Cross got this message from the German Government.
Source: Clippings from Roy Henlin’s IDPF.
After getting killed in mid air and crashing within the tail part in Eygelshoven, Roy Henlin was first buried by the Germans at the cemetery at the Tongerseweg in Maastricht in grave CC 113 on 19 October 1943 according to the information of the Germans i.c. by their ‘Wehrmacht-Gräber-Offizier’.
A view of plot CC of the General Cemetery in Maastricht with the military graves in 1945.
From there the information must have gone to the International Red Cross in Geneve-Switzerland and via the US Legation in Bern to the USA.
Source: Clippings from Roy Henlin’s IDPF.
In July 1945 Roy Henlin was reburied at US Military Cemetery of Margraten (plot KK, row 8, grave 200) and once more in April 1948 when the repatriation to the USA of interred deceased was finished. Because in December 1947 his parents had decided to have him laid to rest permanently at the Margraten Cemetery.
Roy Henlin now is buried at US Military Cemetery of Margraten in The Netherlands in grave B/21/26.
The letter from Ben Roberts
Roy Henlin is supposed to being killed in mid air on his gun position - as a left waist gunner - by enemy action (Crawford in MACR 1034).
This was confirmed by Ben Roberts, one of the crew members, who wrote a letter to Mrs. Mary Henlin, Roy’s mother.
Debbie Henlin wrote to me: ‘I have Uncle Roy’s Purple Heart Medal and also have a copy of a letter from one of the crew members Mr. Roberts (written 17 August 1945) who survived the plane landing and spent the rest of the war in Stalag 17 to my grandmother. He expresses his condolences and assured her that my uncle Roy died instantly at his post in the plane by a 20 mm shell.‘
Letters from other crew families
Mrs Mary Henlin became an ‘rallying point’ for other families of the lost crew members. For Debbie also sent me copies of letters Roy Henlin’s mother received from them. One from Mr. John Manley:
And one from - as far I can detect from another letter’s handwriting - from Mrs. Margarette Breeden-Talbot. In the last part of the letter she refers to daughter (one month old) Donna.
The MIA of Roy Henlin in the local press
From the Providence Journal published on 31 October 1943 on pages 1 and 3.
Memorial service held in 1944
Like from Rev. Bernard Garlick:
Roy Henlin now is buried at Margraten and he is also remembered in his hometown Smithfield.
While looking for information I also met Jim Ignasher who wrote an article on Roy Henlin in The Smithfield Times of July 2016.
Getting back his personal belongings
After Roy went MIA his belongings were inventoried. Beside the things listed there was an amount of $ 100 he was entitled to. That amount was paid to his parents by check in May 1944.
Getting his personal belongings took some more time. Mrs. Henlin wrote four letters for that reason. Two in March, one in April and - the last one of all to be seen in Roy Henlin’s IDPF - in August 1944.
One must remember that there were thousands of such requests in those days.
In September 1944 Roy’s effects are back with his parents.
Photos and letters thanks to Deborah Henlin, Roy Henlin’s niece and Mrs Shirley Henlin, the widow of Mr Errol Henlin; brother of Roy.
Above texts are partly form ‘The Smithfield Times’ July 2016 / Jim Ignasher of the Historical Society of Smithfield and from Mrs. Kate Wells of the Providence Public Library.
Other nice people who helped me are Mrs. Cynthia M. Kennedy PhD, former Librarian of the San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society.
Mrs Kennedy’s father, she wrote me, ‘enlisted on the same day that the aircrew was shot down. Interesting coincidence.My father was born in September of 1925, so he was young for a WW2 serviceman. He had to wait until he was old enough for them to take him. His older brother was already in the US Army Air Corps (later renamed the US Army Air Forces), and recommended to my father that he join the Air Corps; and he did.’ And last but not least Mr. Vincent Balasco; his daughter lives across the street from Mrs. Shirley Henlin.
The cake shown above was made after my first contact with Mr. Vincent Balasco and eaten at Mrs. Shirley Henlin’s home. Mr. Balasco has become my ‘digital contact point’ to Mrs. Shirley Henlin.
Gezichten van Margraten / Faces of Margraten 2020
In this book published in April 2020 Sgt Roy Henlin’s story was told.
Back to the biographies of all of the crew members of B-17 # 42-3436.
A story I started to find out why and how Donald Paul Breeden could get missing.