Maurice C. “Pete” Henrichsen was killed 70 years ago today, 16 January 1945, during the WWII Battle of the Bulge.
Born in 1916, Pete grew up in central South Dakota, the youngest of three brothers. In July 1942 Pete married a local schoolteacher named Georgia — but duty and World War II called. Pete’s cousin, Jimmie Henrichsen, had died on the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor so the patriotic call was particularly strong. Pete enlisted in the U.S. Army and reported for duty in December 1942. He served with the Cannon Company, 358th Infantry, 90th Division.
The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a German offensive campaign in the densely-forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg. American forces numbering over 600,000 were involved in the battle. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II with 89,000 casualties and 19,000 deaths.
Pete was killed during the push through Luxembourg. He was buried in the Henri Chappelle American Cemetery in Belgium.
Pete’s brother George had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940. George was captured by the Germans in September 1944, and spent the last nine months of the war in Stalag VIIA near Moosburg, Germany. George didn’t know about Pete’s death until he got back to the U.S. at war’s end. George returned to South Dakota where he tried to recover from the ravages of his time as a POW.
The Henrichsen family and the entire community grieved the loss of their beloved Pete.
In time, a romance blossomed between George and his widowed sister-in-law Georgia and they married. I am their daughter. My brother, Maurice C. Henrichsen, was named after Pete.
Today, on the 70th anniversary of Pete’s death, I think of him and my parents and all the sadness of 1945. I contemplate what might have been.