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Charlie Hennessee is the living embodiment of American history.

When he was 19 years old, Hennessee received his draft papers inviting him to join Uncle Sam's Army, which he went on to serve in the Army Air Forces - the military aviation service of the United States during and immediately after World War II, and the successor to the U.S. Army Air Corps and the direct predecessor of the U.S. Air Force.

Hennessee was sworn in on Oct. 15, 1942, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He was sent to Miami Beach, Florida, for his basic training, where he spent 90 days in a motel leased by the federal government to house new recruits.

He recalled, "Boy, if this is what the Army is like, I have it made. ... (But) needless to say, it wasn't that good very long."

Hennessee was then sent north to Lakeland, Florida, to train on driving and handling trucks. He moved on to Camp Lee in Virginia for six weeks of training on truck mechanics.

Hennessee made his final in-country stop at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey before departing overseas to Liverpool, England, where he served as a private first class in the 2063rd Quartermaster Truck Company (Aviation) as an automotive equipment operator during World War II.

Hennessee spent eight months in Liverpool hauling bombs, machine guns and troops during the bombing of Germany. He was transferred to Plymouth, England, and became part of the famous Invasion of Normandy - the largest amphibious invasion in history - on June 6, 1944, on the northern coast of France.

Hennessee's company went ashore on the second day of the invasion because "the first day, the English Channel was so jammed with traffic."

He was responsible for hauling ammo and other supplies to the front lines of combat.

Following the Normandy invasion, Hennessee became involved in another of the most famed engagements of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge, which was the last major German offensive campaign in its western theater. He again hauled supplies to the front lines of conflict.

Hennessee's most memorable experience during the war was being pinned down by German forces for five straight days. He said there was "no way to correspond with other companies during this time when the Germans were so close we could hear them talking."

He also recalled his company being under 21 consecutive nights of air raids.

Hennessee said he "was so tired and sleepy that when they sounded the sirens that the air raids were over, he had slept through the best siren."

His company lost two men in the Battle of the Bulge.

Following these battles, Hennessee was stationed in several German cities, including Wiesbaden, Frankfurt and Aachen.

As he was preparing to be deployed to Japan, Hennessee's company received word that the Japanese had surrendered. The atomic bombs unleashed by the U.S. military on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had changed Hennessee's destination from the Pacific Theater of Japan to the United States of America.

Traveling by ship and without seeing land for 12 days, Hennessee returned to the USA and was honorably discharged from service on Sept. 13, 1945, at Fort McPherson, Georgia, with five Bronze Stars for five major battles and a Silver Star, along with medals for Good Conduct, ETO Operations and six Overseas Service Stripes.

Hennessee's testimony today is that "he accepted Jesus before going to war and He was with him in the foxholes and through all the major battles, and He will be with you in all your storms of life, both here or abroad."

When asked by a veteran doctor what things he was exposed to during his years of service, Hennessee's answer was "bullets and bombs."

Among the lifelong lessons Hennessee took from his military service, he learned to "respect other people and pray through all situations, from foxholes to your ordinary daily lives.

Hennessee had a good relationship with his fellow soldiers. He was reunited with 15 members of his company at his 50-year reunion in Nashville.

At age 95, Hennessee still lives on the same Athens farm where he was raised. He and his wife, Betty Joan Frye Hennessee, have seven children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Hennessee retired from Mayfield Dairy. His experience in truck mechanics helped him throughout life working on farm machinery and his personal vehicles, as well as while he drove a bus for McMinn County Schools.

Hennessee is a member of Oak Grove Baptist Church, where his faithful attendance earned him 29 consecutive Perfect Attendance pins before he was stricken with medical problems that prevented him from attending each Sunday.



Spotlight on Charlie Hennessee - He weathered storms of 'bullets and bombs' during famous WWII battles




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