Pocatello loses 100-year-old WWII vet

December 28, 2018

POCATELLO — While Boyd Henderson was serving in Africa during World War II, famed General George S. Patton once recommended that he be court-martialed for failing to wear a tie with his uniform.

As the war was winding down, the Pocatello soldier helped to liberate Germany’s first Nazi concentration camp, Dachau. After the war’s conclusion, Henderson was taken prisoner by the Russians, who had been America’s allies. The Russians accused him of being a spy and threatened him with death on a daily basis, before ultimately releasing him.

The WWII veteran died on Christmas Day at age 100. Boyd Henderson’s son, Trevor, said he leaves behind a legacy of service to his Pocatello community, his church and his country — along with epic stories from wartime.

He was preceded in death by his twin brother, Ralph, on Nov. 7, just two months after they met a goal of celebrating their 100th birthdays together.

“It’s God, family and country for Daddy,” Trevor Henderson said. “He’s larger than life, the stuff he’s gone through and done.”

Trevor Henderson described America’s rapidly diminishing population of WWII veterans as a national treasure. According to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in the war were still alive as of Sept. 30, 2018.

“Daddy loves the flag. He gets disgusted with people who don’t respect the flag,” Trevor said. “It’s a unique perspective they have. I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Boyd Henderson was living at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Pocatello at the time of his death. After his brother was drafted, Boyd Henderson volunteered to serve in WWII and “keep an eye” on Ralph at his mother’s urging. He spent most of his time with the U.S. Army’s 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion — most members of his previous battalion had been killed in action — and he fought at Anzio Beachhead, which was a protracted battle on the coast of Italy in which Allied forces took the Germans by surprise.

The Henderson brothers were outstanding athletes who excelled at both baseball and basketball. While serving in North Africa, Trevor Henderson said his father used the wreckage of a personnel carrier to flatten a portion of a sand dune to serve as a baseball diamond, where he and his fellow soldiers played pickup games.

Boyd Henderson also came home with haunting photographs from the liberation of Dachau. Trevor Henderson said his father could smell the stench of the concentration camp from the forest, even before arriving to see the mass graves in person.

Trevor Henderson said his father’s religion also played a central role in his life. During Trevor Henderson’s childhood, his father was frequently away from home doing work for the LDS church. Throughout the years, he served the church as a bishop, stake president, a regional representative and a mission president in Melbourne, Australia.

During eight years of serving as the chairman of the Bannock County Commission, Boyd Henderson prided himself in keeping taxes low, while maintaining good services for the community and keeping employees happy, his son recalled. Boyd Henderson also once ran for the State Legislature, but came up short.

As a businessman, Boyd Henderson opened a sawmill in Salmon with his brother, supplying lumber for Henderson Lumber in Pocatello and Blackfoot Lumber in Blackfoot. Trevor Henderson said the brothers also built homes in the area.

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