Henry L. Arant
Biography: Henry Lee Arant was born on March 13, 1919, in Searcy Arkansas. He was the son of Henry Arant and attended local schools through the 10th grade. After leaving school, he worked as a cooper, building wooden staved vessels.
Service Time: Henry entered the service on August 15, 1940, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He received his basic training at Fort Knox, which included a course in basic radio operation. At the time, he was assigned to Company D of the 16th (Armd) Engineer Battalion.
He was then assigned to Company A of the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion, which shipped out from the New York port on May 31, 1942, and arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on June 11th. Companies B and C, along with one platoon of Recon Company, participated in the Operation Torch landings on November 8th, near Oran, Algeria. They advanced toward Tunisia beginning on November 16th. The rest of battalion reached North Africa on December 10th. The unit’s actions while in Tunisia, usually attached to the 1st Armored or 1st Infantry Divisions, included El Guettar, Faid Pass, Sidi Bou Zid, Sbeitla, Hill 609, and Mateur.
During the fighting at Sbeitla, A Company was assigned to CCA (Combat Command A, 1stAD) and were decisively defeated by the Germans in the vicinity of the Faid Pass and Sidi Beu Zid. Many troops were surrounded and thought to have been lost. After numerous attacks and counterattacks by allied troops, they were forced to retreat and take up defensive positions some distance away. Ultimately, the troops thought to have been lost were able to rejoin the main unit.
The 701st then shipped to Italy, in October of 1943, and entered the line in the Pagnataro area. Their TDs operated largely as artillery, and for much of early 1944 the battalion was attached to II or VI Corps in the Cassino sector. They were then shipped to the Anzio beachhead in February, 1944, and Company A began 12 days of maintenance, rehabilitation and training. On March 7th, they were put on Corps reserve until plans were finalized and they relieved the 645th TD Bn. They began providing indirect fire and on March 17th, Henry was lightly wounded during their operations. The unit supported the 1st Armored Division during the breakout in late May, and then entered Rome on June 4th, pushing north to the Arno River. They crossed on September 1st, reaching the Florence area.
The unit spent the winter training and firing artillery missions, finally supporting the 10th Mountain Division’s drive into the Po River Valley in April 1945, later entering Verona on April 26th. Henry received credit for five of the unit’s campaigns. including Tunisia, Po Valley, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno and the North Appenines. He received the Purple Heart for his injuries and left the service at the rank of Technician 4th Grade.
Henry returned to the U.S. and found work with the BF Goodrich Company in Louisville, Kentucky. He married the former Margaret Louise Payne who was born in McQuady, Kentucky. She was the daughter of Herbert Payne and Elizabeth O’Connell and the new couple made their residence in Louisville. They had five children, Richard, Elizabeth, Sandra, Judith and Kathy.
Henry passed away on August 16, 1991, and was buried in the Saint Mary of the Woods Cemetery in McQuady. I want to thank Henry’s son, Richard, for providing the information and photo for this tribute.