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Charles Henry, Sr.

Military Police Division
Born April 6, 1926, in Los Angeles, California
WWII service: 1944-1945

Charles Henry

Charles volunteered for the Army in June 1944, determined to become a paratrooper. But the 18-year-old’s dream was quickly dashed by the sergeant who was singing him up: “He looked at me with a funny look on his face… and said, ‘We don’t train Negro paratroopers.’” Charles was shocked to encounter racism in the military. “But I’m going to give up my life for you,” he recalled thinking. Segregation in the Armed Services did not end until 1948, and two decades passed before it was illegal everywhere.

Charles nevertheless enlisted, joining other Black U.S. soldiers committed to a double victory: freedom in Europe and freedom at home. He proudly served in the Military Police Division, helping to manage the 175,000 enemy prisoners of war interned in the United States While based at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, he met Tuskegee Airmen on R&R from Europe—an inspiring experience and also a bitter reminder of his own military ambitions cut short.

Long after the war, Charles finally traveled to Europe to visit Belgium’s WWII sites. “It fulfilled a dream of mine,” he said. And in 2019—75 years after he enlisted—93-year-old Charles became an honorary member of the Airborne Division. Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy

Counts publicly apologized on behalf of the entire Airborne Division and presented Charles with his wings.