FRONT ROYAL, Va. (WDVM) — The Purple Heart is America’s oldest active military award. However, it is a medal no Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman wants because they have to bleed or die for it.

96-year-old Allie Henry Jr. a combat-wounded veteran of World War Two told WDVM’s Ross Simpson, “If your name is not inscribed on the back of the medal, you didn’t earn it.”


The former cannoneer from Front Royal, Virginia earned his Purple Heart while taking a truckload of troops to church in Obersheim, Germany during World War Two. When Henry drove up a hill to where his sergeant said the church was located, a couple of P-47 Thunderbolt fighters swooped down and strafed the church steeple which was apparently being used as a German observation post. “So I turned the truck around and headed back down the road into an ambush,” said Henry.


“Germans were on the other side of a jeep they had blown up,” said Henry. And that’s when they opened up on Henry’s truck, like the one he used to pull an eight-inch howitzer across France and into Germany..

“I could hear bullets hitting the truck, Bing! Bing! Bing!” said Henry. And that’s when he got hit by a bullet that ricocheted off the truck.

“The doctor who treated me said when the bullet hit me in the back, it struck me sideways. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here talking to you,” said Henry who was also hit in the left foot, but still managed to drive his truck to safety before the engine overheated for lack of coolant and quit running. One of the eight soldiers in the back of the truck died when he was hit by four bullets in the belly.

Private Henry’s howitzer crew came ashore in France after D-Day, but what happened there on June 6th, 1944 was still very visible. “I saw soldiers laying all over Omaha Beach, waiting to be buried in a makeshift cemetery behind the beach, said Henry who was horrified to see what happened to some of the dead.

“I saw them [graves registration teams] pushing American soldiers into a trench with a bulldozer. Just pushing them right in. Then covering them up. That’s why I have always said you didn’t know who you were burying when you shoved Germans in the same hole.” Taking off his glasses and wiping tears from his eyes, Henry said. “I just can’t talk about it anymore. I lost too many friends over there.”

Private Henry is proud of his service and received a Legion of Merit from a grateful French government.

After the war when he returned to Front Royal where he was born and raised, Allie Henry found some new friends at American Legion Post 53 in Front Royal after his wife died 20 years ago. That’s where he goes for breakfast every day.

“Here you go General,” said Cherokee, a waitress who brings him a ham and egg sandwich from the kitchen and a cup of hot coffee. Henry says he comes to the post for “Coffee and Comraderie.”