Pvt.Henry I. Vaden, was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1943. After basic training in Ft. Jackson SC, he was stationed in Paris, TN for Anti Aircraft Balloon Barrage Training and was assigned to either the 101st or 102nd Infantry Division.
While there, he took a test to become a pilot ( offered to him by the Army Air Corps) and qualified for pilot/bombardier training. He was then sent to Miami, FL for further testing and was certified as a pilot and then transferred to Walnut Ridge, AR for the cadet training school. While waiting to travel to Nashville, TN for further training, he was reassigned to the 106th Infantry Division and his dreams of becoming a pilot were dashed forever. He was then sent to Camp Atterbury in Indianapolis, IN for his final months of training before being shipped out to England in October 1944. It was in Indianapolis that he met his future wife, who was heading to U.S. Navy WAVE training in 2 weeks. They married as soon as he returned from Europe in 1945.
The 106th Infantry was comprised of men from several different units who were now needed as replacements, due to the heavy losses by the Infantry fighting the Germans. Henry drove a half ton truck filled with ammunition to the front line troops and often engaged the enemy himself. He was with the 424th Company and his company was the only one of the 106th that was not captured or killed during the Battle of the Bulge. The men of the 106th had no idea that they were going to be responsible for holding back the Germans long enough to turn the tide of the war. The CO of the 424th kept his men constantly on the move, running to one bombed out village after another to stay a step ahead of the Germans surrounding them.
His men were exhausted and angry, but later realized that this game of “cat and mouse” all night long saved their lives. Henry recalled that he lost all his equipment except his rifle and that he had frostbite on his feet that was so bad that he almost lost them. December 1944, was the fiercest battle any of these men had ever seen and out of over 17,000 men who fought in the 106th, only 325 Bronze Stars were awarded, Henry received one of them. He also received a Good Conduct Medal, a Driver and Mechanic Badge, an Expert M-1 Rifle Badge, a Combat Infantry Badge, an SS Carbine Badge, an European African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon, a WW II Victory Ribbon, a Meritorious Unit Award and a Belgian fourragère.
He served in Belgium, Northern France, Ardennes, and Rhineland. He was discharged from the service on January 1946. Henry brought back several souvenirs from the war. (Photos courtesy of Henry’s daughter)
Henry was always very proud of his service, he passed away on March 21, 2015, in San Antonio, TX and was buried in Baltimore, MD next to my mother in the Veterans Section at Parkwood Cemetery.