Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas



1923 - 2014





Patriot, Chapter 1919

 ARMY, WWII, Pacific


Henry A. Papke was born in Kenney, Texas (Austin County) in 1923.  He attended Sempronious School and New Wehdem School, but; as the oldest son in the family he left school to help provide a livelihood on their farm.  After his father died in 1942, Henry trained as a welder and took a job in the Brown Ship Yard in Houston in order to send money home to support the family. When his draft notice came, he took a deferment as the family’s oldest child and only wage earner. However, he wanted to do his part in the war and, after six months, when the time came to renew his status, Henry turned down the deferment and was sworn into service in the Army at the Induction Station in Houston on June 2, 1943.


He went through training at Camp Roberts, California and was given five days furlough at home plus travel time required to make the trip by train.  During the short visit back home, he met a girl in Brenham, Delores Newsom.  He then reported as ordered to Fort Ord, California and from there was sent to Camp Stoneman, the primary troop staging center for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation. His time at Camp Stoneman was extended because he had an operation to relieve difficulty in breathing and it took time for him to heal.  He sailed from San Francisco on March 19, 1944 with a shipload of other replacements and arrived at the replacement center on Goodenough Island just off the coast of New Guinea on April 14th.  After about a month there, Henry was flown to Milne Bay in New Guinea by C-47 transport and was quickly assigned to the 6th Infantry Division that was then engaged in combat in the Toem-Wakde area of the island.


Henry had been trained on the 37mm anti-tank gun so he was further assigned to the anti-tank platoon in the 6th Infantry Division Special Troops.  But, since Japanese armored vehicles did not present a significant threat, Henry’s unit was not equipped with the 37mm guns. They were instead given the mission of providing security for the division headquarters.  Henry was personally armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun and a .45 cal pistol.


After securing hard fought objectives the 6th Infantry Division occupied the coast of New Guinea from Cape Waimak to the Mega River until December 1944, following which they participated in the invasion landing on Luzon, at Lingayen Gulf.  Henry was part of the second wave going in on D-Day, January 9, 1945. The division pursued the Japanese troops into the Cabanatuan Hills and it remained in combat until the war ended seven months later.


Although the platoon Henry Papke was in normally provided a protective perimeter around the division headquarters, they were frequently pulled out and used as a rapid reaction force, sent to reinforce any point in the division area that might come under attack. Of one such mission Henry says, “The Japanese sent a banzai attack against us that nearly succeeded.  One of the enemy soldiers headed in my direction with fixed bayonet and he just kept coming after being shot.  Fortunately for me, he finally dropped and fell dead right at my feet.  That was the only experience that I had where we were hit with a large force coming at us like that, but the banzai attack was a common occurrence during the fighting  in the Philippines and throughout the war in the Pacific.  On another mission, we had been sent out to the 20th Infantry Regiment’s area where a company had come under attack by Japanese tanks.  We were there as infantry support but the Japanese sent no infantry with the tank force; so we watched as the 51st Field Artillery Battalion set up guns in the middle of the highway and picked off the enemy tanks by direct fire, shooting straight down the roadway and turning back the attack, that was January 31, 1945.


Henry Papke was wounded on the night of April 6, 1945 when guarding the perimeter of the division headquarters.  A single enemy soldier came at Pvt Nick from out of the darkness and Henry rushed to Nick’s defense.  In an instant, both Papke and Nick had bayonet wounds and the Japanese soldier had several bullets from Henry’s Thompson SMG in his abdomen, but still fought hard as the three combatants grappled.  At one point Nick had gotten hold of the rifle and bayonet and its former owner had possession of the Thompson gun, before realizing it had jammed and was useless.  The Japanese soldier was shot and killed.  Henry’s jungle boot had been sliced through and the bayonet had cut away part of the ball of his right foot.   He was treated at the aid station and put on light duty for a few days.


After continuous combat to eliminate the Japanese in the hills northeast of Manila, the 6th Infantry Division was in the Cagayan Valley and the Cordilleras Mountains when V-J Day came in August 1945.  The division was then moved from the Philippines to Korea where they occupied the southern half of the U.S. Zone of Occupation.  Henry and the division’s Special Troops were at Inchon, and Henry observed,  “It was a real climate shock coming from the tropics, I remember how cold it was and most of the troops stayed sick most of the time.”  The division was inactivated in Korea and Henry Papke shipped out for home on November 30, 1945. He arrived back in the United States at Seattle, Washington on December 16, 1945 and then went by train to Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  He arrived at the Separation Center on Christmas Eve 1945 and was told to go away for a few days if he wanted to, so he went home.  He then returned to San Antonio and was discharged from the Army on New Year’s Day 1946.


Henry looked for work as a welder near his home.  There was a machine shop in Brenham but they needed a machinist, not a welder; so he took that VA training course and went to work as a skilled machinist.  Later that year, Henry Papke and Delores Newsom were married in Brenham.


Fifty-six years later, Henry Papke retired as a precision machine operator with LaCoste and Romberg in Austin, Texas in 2002, after having spent thirty-three years with that firm.  Henry is a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart who devotes much time in volunteer service for Chapter 1919 in the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic.  He and Delores have recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Henry A. Papke died October 11, 2014 at the age of 91.




37mm ANTI-TANK GUN           




Henry After the Invasion

Henry After the War

Henry Papke Receives

VA Volunteer Service Award

Henry at the September 2006 MOPH Meeting





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