John Philip (Jock) Henebry
Major General John P. Henebry, World War II Hero Dies at 89
Major General John Philip (Jock) Henebry, USAF Retired, a veteran and hero of both World War II and the Korean War, flew 219 successful combat missions, was Commander of the Third Attack Group, orchestrated the Korean Airlift, decorated with every obtainable Air Force medal and, by appointment of the Queen, named Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, died peacefully Sunday morning surrounded by his family at Evanston Hospital in Illinois.
John Henebry, a pilot, a lifelong sportsman, a successful businessman, and an author, born in Plainfield, Illinois on February 14, 1918 to his parents, Hannah Blair and Joseph Henebry, died of heart failure. He was 89 years of age.
Part of an innovative and courageous group of young men during World War II, John Henebry, was largely responsible for utilizing the reconfiguration of the B-25 bomber, which was implemented by the infamous Pappy Gunn. During the Battle of The Bismark Sea, newly armed with forward facing 50 caliber machine guns and utilizing a low level skip-bombing technique, Henebry and the other pilots were able to sink an entire enemy convoy for the first time. This new art of warfare allowed John Henebry and the “Grim Reapers” as they were called to reek havoc on the Axis forces in the Pacific, disrupting supply lines, hammering out successful raids, tearing up runways, enemy bases, and other strategic positions.
In addition to many other combat missions, Henebry led the massive air attack on Rabaul, New Britain, which was the Japanese stronghold from which they maintained extensive control throughout the South Pacific region. That attack was carried out with 185 fighter and bomber planes and was one of the largest air attack formations in the Pacific Theatre at the time. It effectively removed the base at Rabaul as a strategic operation and gave the Allied forces a clear advantage in the region turning the tide of the War. In this battle he was credited with sinking two supply ships before his plane, The Notre Dame de Victoire, was shot down by a heavy cruiser, a fate he and his crew survived.
John Henebry’s storied military career began following his matriculation from The University of Notre Dame in 1940, when he went on to enlist in the United States Army on July 30 of that same year. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on March 14, 1941, upon graduation from pilot training at Randolph and Kelly Fields in Texas. His first military assignment was to the 22nd Bomb Group at Langley Field in Virginia and then he was transferred to the newly formed 13th Bomb Group at Orlando, Florida in which he had his first flight experience in the B-25 airplane.
In June, 1942 John Henebry was transferred to the Third Attack Group, Fifth Air Force, based in Charters Towers, Australia. The first combat base to which he was assigned was Port Morsby, New Guinea and, with the success of The third Attack Group, he moved on to advancing bases in Dobodura, Nadzab and Hollandia in New Guinea and finally on to Leyte and Mindoro in the Philippines.
He became Commander of the 90th Squadron of the Third Attack Group in July, 1943 and Commander of the entire Third Attack Group in November, 1943. In January, 1945 he became Commander of the Combat Replacement and Training Center in Nadzab, New Guinea. He was aboard the U.S.S. Missouri along side of General MacArthur and General Kenney for the signing of the Instrument of Surrender. He went on to become Commander of Clark Field in the Philippines, the largest American overseas base, for some time after the war.
During World War II he received every Air Force medal, except the Medal of Honor, including the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Unit Citations. After the war he retired from active duty as Colonel and entered Air Force Reserve duty.
In Reserve duty he was Commander of the 437th Troop Carrier Wing at O’Hare Field, Chicago and was named Brigadier General on his 30th birthday. In August, 1950 that Wing was called to active duty and it went to Korea and Japan to serve with the Combat Cargo Command. These two units were combined to form the 312th Air Division and carry out the Korean Airlift. General Henebry was the first Commander of the Division.
For his contributions during the Korean War, by appointment of the Queen, he was named Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and also received the Korean Ulchi Medal with gold star from the Republic of Korea. In August, 1952 he returned to Air Force Reserve duty and he was named Major General in August, 1957. Major General Henebry retired from the Air Force in 1976 after 37 years of duty to his county.
Among his business interests, he and his brother Joseph founded Skymotive in 1946, a private aviation service company located at the military airfield that is now called O’Hare, and on the property that is now occupied by the United Airlines terminals. In addition, he had owned a number of stainless steel and aluminum fabricating businesses. In 2002 he wrote an autobiographical account of his experiences during World War II titled The Grim Reapers At Work in the Pacific Theatre.
Major General Henebry is survived by his sisters-in-law, Maurie (the late Joseph) Henebry of Park Ridge, Illinois, Paulette (the late John) McGuire of Fort Meyers, Florida, Frances (the late George) Rassas of Winnetka, Illinois, Josephine “Dodie” (the late John) Dwyer of Winnetka, Illinois, and Julia (the late John) Dowdle; his brother-in-law Walter (the late Selina) McGuire of Winnetka, Illinois; his three daughters, Patricia (Patrick) Callahan, Jr. of Winnetka, Mary Henebry of Chicago, and Jeannine (Craig) Rublee of Aptos, California; his two sons, John (Linda) Henebry, Jr. of Rancho Mirage, California, and Walter Henebry of Evanston, Illinois; his five grandchildren, Mary (Philip) Erdoes of New York City, Patrick (Jennise) Callahan of Newport Beach, California, Michael (Brittan) Callahan of Winnetka, Illinois, Christopher (Shields) Callahan of New York City, and Liam Henebry of Rancho Mirage, California; his great granddaughters, Mia, Morgan and Mason Erdoes of New York City, and Coco Callahan of Winnetka, Illinois: and his more than fifty nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary McGuire Henebry and his sister Sallie (the late William) O’Connor.
A Mass in celebration of his life will be offered at Saints Faith Hope and Charity Church, 191 Linden Avenue, Winnetka, Illinois 60093, (847-446-7646) at 10:00 am on Wednesday, October 3, 2007.
Memorial donations may be made in his honor to Misericordia Home, 6300 North Ridge Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60660, (773-973-6300) with the attention of Sister Rosemary Connelly R.S.N.
Information about veterans of the Second World War in the Pacific, including friends and family.
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