Young County hero honored with sign on U.S. 380 to Bryson
The portion of U.S. 380 from Graham eastward to the limits of Bryson in Jack County was designated as the Henry H. King Memorial Highway after a decision passed in the 85th legislative session and a dedication held last Thursday in Graham.
Present at the dedication was Texas District 68 Representative Drew Springer, members of the Graham VFW Memorial Post 8567, American Volunteer Reserve, veterans and community members and public servants. It was a day to honor King and the legacy of his life.
King served in the Army during World War II, and as a prisoner of war survived the Bataan Death March and the destruction of Nagasaki by atomic bomb.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 216 on March 26, to be effective immediately. The bill was first filed by District 68 Rep. Drew Springer on Nov. 14, 2016, and passed both the Texas House and Senate.
The act states the state transportation department will design and create markers naming the stretch of road “the Henry H. King Memorial Highway” and “erect a marker at each end of the highway and at appropriate intermediate sites along the highway.”
The Texas Department of Transportation delivered the sign for the dedication and were present at the honoring of King on Thursday. The signs were purchased through funds raised by the Graham VFW Memorial Post 8567 and each cost $3,400.
Henry Hughes King was born March 6, 1918 in Jack County, to Ellis King and Maud May King. In 1941, and age 23, he left Bryson and entered the Army, trained and was deployed to the Philippine Islands.
King was stationed at the Army Air Force’s Clark Air Base, about 50 miles north of Manila, serving as an Army Air Corps mechanic when Japanese forces invaded the islands shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In a Graham Leader story from July 7, 2013, he recalled this experience.
“We saw shiny wings, and thought it was our planes at first, but then we realized they were Japanese planes,” King said. “What saved me, I came out of the barracks when I heard the planes. I jumped into a ditch running beside the fence of the camp. I could hear bombs dropping and hear rounds strafing the ground just a few feet away,” he said. “They destroyed the mess hall and all the barracks and killed lots of men.”
The troops that survived the initial invasion fought for 98 days to stop the Japanese invasion, but ran out of food rations and had no reinforcements. The islands were surrendered to the Japanese on May 7, 1942, and many U.S. troops in the Philippines then became prisoners of war.
King was located on the island of Bataan when he became a POW, and was held for the next 42 months. He was a part of, and survived, the notorious 100-mile Bataan Death March, which ended at Camp’O Donnell near Luzon. He was transferred to a prison camp near Nagasaki, Japan, and forced to work in a coal mine beneath the sea.
“He suffered greatly from malnutrition, and inhuman treatment at the hand of his Japanese captors,” past VFW Post 8567 Commander Allen Emmons said in a letter. “Henry was well over 6 feet tall, and the much shorter-statured Japanese seemed to delight in making his frail life miserable.”
When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Emmons said King was deep in the mine and did not even hear the explosion. King was amazed to see the camp abandoned upon exiting the mine, Emmons’ letter said.
King was repatriated and honorably discharged on May 27, 1946. He returned to his family home in Bryson, and never married or had children.
“(He) became very active in Post 8567, VFW, and enjoyed the advantage of close doctors and friends. Mr. King became bedridden as he advanced in years, but even while prone in his bed, he always had a ready smile and a strong manly handshake. Mr. King was 96 years young when he passed away, and was laid to rest in the cemetery in Bryson, Texas, with full military honors, befitting a Hero of his stature. He is sorely missed by all who knew him,” Emmons wrote.
He died Oct. 7, 2014 in Graham, as a life member of the VFW Post in Graham. It was through the Post and Emmons that this legislation first came to the attention Young County Commissioners Court, which passed a resolution favoring it in 2016.
“Among those veterans of us who knew him, we will just say, he was one hell of a man,” Emmons said.