Lucas, Henry O. (636th)

Henry O. Lucas 1Henry O. Lucas

Biography:  Henry Owen Lucas was born on July 23, 1923, in Heard County, Georgia. He was the son of James Henry Lucas and Myrtle Cook and attended school in Hamilton, Georgia. Henry worked on the family farm but would left school and joined the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), which at the time was working on improvements to the FDR State Park in Pine Mountain Georgia. The workers built stone cabins, a swimming pool and an arched bridge-way for the highways that crossed within the park.

Service Time:  Henry entered the service and, after his basic training, was assigned to Company C of the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion. After training within the U.S., the unit shipped out from the New York port on April 2, 1943, arriving at Oran, Algeria, on April 13, 1943. They boarded ships again and landed at Paestum, Italy, beginning on September 13th. Elements performed artillery missions, guarded the Fifth Army Command Post, and trained British troops on the M10 Tank Destroyer and TD doctrine in October and November.

They reentered the line at the Mignano sector in late November, supporting the assault on San Pietro and supported the Rapido River crossing in January, 1944. They entered the Cassino sector in February and then transferred to the Anzio beachhead in May, entering Rome on June 4th.

Henry O. Lucas 2The 636th boarded ships again and landed in Southern France on August 15th and were the first unit to enter Lyon and reach the Moselle River in September. Engaged in the Vosges Mountain region beginning in October, they relieved the 601st TD Bn in Strasbourg in December. They battled the German Northwind offensive in January and February, 1945, before converting to M36 tank destroyers, beginning in late February.

During their last actions, they struck Siegfried Line defenses near Wissembourg in late March and crossed the Rhine with the 14th Armored Division in April. It was on the 21st of that same month that Henry was involved in the rescue of a fallen comrade. The citation for his Bronze Star reads as follows:

“Henry O. Lucas, 34 762 663, Private First Class, Company C, 636th tank destroyer battalion. For heroic achievement near Altenfelden, Germany on 21 April 1945. During an intense enemy artillery barrage the maintenance retriever received a direct hit which seriously wounded its single occupant. Private Lucas seeing this, and disregarding enemy fire, raced 100 yards across openly exposed terrain to extract his comrade from an otherwise hopeless situation and help evacuate him to a comparative safe location where emergency aid could be rendered. The courageous and unselfish action displayed by Pvt Lucas reflect credit on himself and the Armed forces. Entered military service from Hamilton, Georgia.”

Henry later made note of SSgt. John D. Muenzenberger, of Co. A, 62nd Armored Infantry Bn. who had helped him and the doctor that treated him, Cpt. Frederick R. Levy, of the 84th Armored Medical Bn. Both of these units were serving as part of the 14th Armored Division at the time. Muenzenberger was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Levy was from New York.

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The 636th finally dashed toward Nürnberg and ended the war in southern Bavaria near Tegernsee. The unit received credit for the campaigns of Naples – Foggia, Anzio, Rome Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. In additional to the Bronze Star, Henry received the Purple Heart and left the service at the rank of Corporal.

Henry returned to the U.S. and on July 3, 1946, he married the former Modena Hornsby who was born in Lanette, Alabama, and was the daughter of Jody Hornsby and Mary Kate Knight. The new couple made their home in Columbus, Georgia, and had six children, Becky, born in 1948, Paul in 1950, Mary in 1952, John in 1956, Mark in 1962 and N. Jim in 1963. Henry opened the Lucas Piano Shop and in his spare time, enjoyed wood carving, painting, restoring furniture and working on pianos and pump organs.

Henry passed away on October 7, 1987, and was buried in the Roosevelt Memorial Cemetery in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia. I want to thank Henry’s son, Jim, for providing the information and photos for this tribute. 

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