Local veteran recalls brush with fame

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 1999

A chance encounter with one of the great leaders in military history ranks as the highlight of Luke D. Henderson’s Army career.

More than 50 years ago, the now 89-year-old veteran was walking up the road near Kolgand, Germany, when he encountered a man wearing coveralls, no helmet and no insignia.

&uot;This man called out ‘Sergeant!’ to me and I snapped ‘Yeah,’&uot; Henderson said.

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The next words caught Henderson’s attention.

&uot;’I’m General Patton,’ he said, ‘Go tell those men down the hill to put that fire out.’&uot;

Henderson quickly understood who the man was standing before him.

&uot;I saluted and snapped my heels together so loud you could have heard it back here in Natchez,&uot; Henderson said.

Henderson relayed the order.

&uot;They were the brass standing around the campfire,&uot; Henderson said. &uot;Once they knew the orders came from General Patton, they were jumping and kicking dirt over the flames.&uot;

Born in Adams County, Henderson now lives on Daisy Street in Natchez.

He almost didn’t get his draft notice for World War II. &uot;My draft notice fell between the cracks of the porch,&uot; Henderson said. He found it while doing yard work one day.

Henderson served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 in the 386th Post Battalion, European Theatre of Operations. His unit was building invasion barges, he said. Henderson distinctly remembers digging foxholes in Germany. &uot;We started calling them our grave,&uot; he said.

One night, Henderson said a bullfrog decided to share his foxhole and nearly scared him to death. Feeling the motion of something beneath him, he conjured images of all sorts of deadly creatures till the bullfrog made a &uot;ribbit&uot; noise.

&uot;When things got tough, we were scared to death,&uot; he said. &uot;But I was trained either you live through it or you don’t. And that’s how we got through it.&uot;

As for his chance meeting with General Patton, Henderson said he seemed like &uot;a good guy.&uot;

Patton’s &uot;Old Blood n’ Guts&uot; reputation had preceded him, yet Henderson just saw a balding man with red hair.

&uot;I was looking for him to raise hell, but he was all right,&uot; he said.