Missouri Airman, WWII veteran honored for this 100th birthday

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Michael Crane
  • 139th Airlift Wing

SPRINGFIELD, MO. -- Retired Chief Master Sgt. Hank Hendrix was a World War II veteran and former member of the 180th Bombardment Squadron, the unit that the 139th Airlift Wing traces its origin to.

He passed away on Oct. 31, 2021 at his home in Springfield, Missouri. He had just celebrated his 100th birthday earlier that month.

After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1943 - 1945, Hendrix later joined the Missouri Air National Guard in St. Joseph where he continued his service for over 30 years. At the time, the flying unit was called the 180th Bombardment Squadron and it operated the B-26 Invader, a twin-engine, light bomber aircraft.

Hendrix was a crew chief and worked with several aircraft during his career including the C-54, L-5, T-11, T-6, and C-47.

“There might have been another two in there,” he said.

During the war, Hendrix worked on the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber aircraft. He said he spent 23 months and 17 days in England during World War II.

“My favorite airplane was the B-17 because that's what I cut my teeth on.” he said. “You're with it day and night...anything goes wrong with it, you gotta fix it.”

Hendrix remembers the wing’s founder and first commander, Col. John B. Logan.

“He was a really intelligent man,” he said. “He had a thing...he [always] wanted to light a cigarette on approach.”

Hendrix even flew with Logan during an inauguration event for a small airport.

“I wasn’t on flying status, I was a mechanic, but they would have to fly with pilots,” he said. “When he was flying, I looked up...out the canopy and there’s the ground. He knew what he was doing.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Bisig, who worked on the engines of the C-97 Stratofreighter refueling aircraft, recalls Hendix worked up stairs in the quality assurance office. One particular time after they finished working on an engine, they told Hendrix they were ready for inspection.

Bisig said Hendrix looked over the engine and “He climbed up on the stand and said, ‘Well boys, when you guys get ready for me to come down and inspect it, give me a call.’ He had found a torsion bar that had been cracked that we had missed. So we changed the torsion bar and called him back down. That's how honest he was. He wasn't there to stick you; he was there to help you.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. George Hawkins worked as a mechanic on the flightline before taking a job as a quality control inspector with Hendrix.

“Hank was the guy that was always helpful...he was always looking for the positive,” said Hawkins. “He was one of those guys that always wanted to help you out.”

Hawkins said they worked together for about 8 to 10 years and that he looked up to Hendrix as a mentor.

“He taught me how to treat people and how to have a positive influence on people. But he always went by the book,” said Hawkins. “It wasn't just stuff he thought of on the top of his head.”

Hendrix started his career as a mechanic and retired as the aircraft maintenance production superintendent attaining the highest enlisted grade in the Air Force, chief master sergeant.

On his birthday, a U.S. flag was flown over the U.S. Capital at the request of Sen. Roy Blunt. That flag was later gifted to Hendrix in celebration of his 100th birthday.