Major William H. Henry
310th Engineers Medical Detachment,
85th Division, U.S. Army
American North Russia Expeditionary Force

An Abridged Biography of
William H. Henry, M.D.

Written by his son,
William H. Henry, Jr.
(edited by Mike Grobbel)

William Herbert Henry and his identical twin brother Ziba Lindley Henry were born on the family farm just east of Athens, Ohio, on October 25, 1872. The twins' parents were Charles Henry (1842-1926) and Kate Rebecca Lindley Henry (1842-1900). Twin William, who was named for his grandfather, was called Herb in his youth, both to distinguish him from his grandfather but moreso because 'Bill' was more typically used at the time as a name for horses.

Herb attended Athens schools and then Ohio University in 1893/94. With his twin, he then attended Starling Medical College (forerunner to the Ohio State Medical School) from which both graduated as physicians in 1896. It is interesting to note that their older brother, John, also became a physician and their younger brother, Francis, became a chemist. Their determination to become professionals was grounded in their desire to escape the hard lives of farmers.

Herb's education at Ohio University apparently consisted of two or three semesters - followed at Starling Medical College by two six month years - possibly as few as 21 months of higher education in total as preparation to be a practicing physician; an advanced medical education at the close of the 19th Century. (It has been reported that ninety percent of all practicing US physicians in 1902 had no college education. Instead, they had attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard").

Combined with the St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Starling was the first medical teaching college in the United States. Most aspiring physicians just a few years earlier had “read medicine” under the tutelage of a respected physician, much as future lawyers then “read the law.” Herb later told tales about learning anatomy at Starling during the warmer weather from stinking, minimally preserved corpses. The boys were just 23 years of age when, without benefit of an internship or residency, they found themselves truly horse and buggy doctors licensed by the State of Ohio.

After starting his practice in 1896 in the village of Mineral, Ohio, Herb moved his practice in 1900 or so to Hamden - a then thriving railway town south of Marietta. Herb's practice was largely just that - practice - he learned by responding to virtually every family medical crisis conceivable, to include numerous traumatic injuries from hazardous farm machinery. Traveling by horseback or by horse and buggy, depending on the difficulties anticipated to be encountered between Hamden and his destination, he frequently found the patient either dead or recovered by the time he got there. More than once he was required to amputate a limb without benefit of anesthesia - resorting to whisky to reduce the pain. He sometimes performed surgery using kerosene lanterns or even candle light - notwithstanding the hazard of flammable chloroform in close proximity. Much of his practice was caring for pregnant women in difficult pregnancies and delivering their children at home.

In 1900, the young doctor married Blanche Jones in Mineral and relocated to establish a combination residence and office in a large house (still there) on the main street in Hamden. Herb also served as a ‘contract surgeon’ for the railroad and would be called out to train wrecks and, on occasion, would ride in the locomotive with a crew (no cars attached) to a location where he was needed. He reported once amputating a limb with his pocket knife while lying on the tracks under the train.

With the advent of World War I, Dr. Henry entered the Army as a medical officer in 1917 - at the age of 44 - as a 1st Lieutenant. (His twin brother had entered the Army as a medical officer in 1908.) After training at Camps Sheridan (Illinois) and Custer (Michigan), and promotions to Captain and Major, Henry was assigned as battalion surgeon with the 310th Engineers, most of the members of which were from the Detroit area. As the war in Europe was approaching its end, these units were shipped to Russia, via England, for service against the Bolsheviks and in support of the so-called and soon to be defeated White Russian or Czarist regime.

An operation on an arm being performed at the American Red Cross Hospital. Maj. Henry is second from left. Archangel, Russia, March 20, 1919.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo no. 161716)

An abdominal operation being performed on a patient at the American Red Cross Hospital. Maj. Henry is third from left. Archangel, Russia, March 20, 1919.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo no. 161715)


The war in Russia continued for more than seven months following the November 11, 1918 Armistice in Europe. At one point Henry's responsibilities included a “pest house” where soldiers ill with the flu had to be locked in (quarantined), and in the mornings he had to take a couple of men with him to force open the door as several bodies would be piled against it. Henry spent most of his time there commanding the Red Cross hospital in Archangel and serving as principal surgeon. He came to despise the nearby British medical officers as they all had lackeys, or personal servants, and would chide Herb for not having one also. Upon the arrival of wounded patients after hours, the English doctors would inquire as to their nationality - and would not get out of bed for non-English wounded. Major Henry would of course come to the aid of all, including enemy prisoners, and was then and for years thereafter disgusted with English attitudes.

Majors Longley, Henry and Hall,
at the American Red Cross Hospital, Archangel, Russia.


Order of St. Stanislaus Medal,
2nd Class, with Swords

Maj. Henry's Order of St. Stanislaus citation
click here to enlarge)

Major W.H. Henry

(310th Engineers photo, Archangel, Russia, 1918)

Some ten percent of the American force in Russia was reportedly lost from disease or battle injury in this ill-fated campaign. On June 26, 1919, Major Henry was awarded the Order of St. Stanislas, 2d Class, with Swords, for his “most valuable service rendered to Russia” by the “Commander-in-Chief of all the Russian Military and Naval forces of North Russia” on behalf of “the Supreme Governor of all the Russians.” Explaining the award, there are unconfirmed stories about exceptionally meritorious medical care that he provided sizable numbers of Russian civilians attempting to survive disease of epidemic proportions. (This may or may not be true - it has also been suggested that the decoration may have been rather perfunctorily awarded to a number of field grade officers as the Expeditionary Force neared its departure from Russia.)

With the War at an end, he emulated his twin brother, with whom he maintained a lifelong close relationship, by accepting a Regular commission and remaining in the Army. A long-time resident once recalled him leading a veterans’ Victory Parade - on horseback - in Hamden in 1919. That same source recalls being thrilled to see the horse kneel down when Henry dismounted. In later years, one of his great pleasures was to attend 'Polar Bear' reunions in or near Detroit - partly because of his relatively older age and also because he had come in contact with so many of the soldiers in their travails, he was always a focus of attention at those reunions. One set of Convention minutes indicate that Henry was once nominated from the floor to fill the office of Surgeon of the Polar Bear organization.

Twin brothers, Majors William (left) and Lin Henry (right)

Subsequent Army service included a tour in the Philippines where he at least occasionally rode horseback on Corregidor, where he was the Ft. Mills surgeon, and dodged falling coconuts with then Lieutenant Carlos Romulo (later United Nations Secretary General). Twin brother Lin had previously served as chief medical officer on Corregidor and had been relieved by Herb who, of course, was of identical appearance and the same rank. Lin’s houseboy had a terrible time understanding that the new medical officer was not Lin returning. While in the Philippines, Herb also traveled throughout the area and served brief assignments in Shanghai and other locations.

Following his return to the United States, he was assigned as assistant flight surgeon at McCook Field (now Wright Patterson AFB), near Dayton, Ohio. This was at the beginning of the twenties while military aviation was still in its infancy, and the lieutenants and captains of the period were later to be the generals of World War II. While at McCook Field, Herb was acquainted with 2/Lt Jimmy Doolittle and also recalled attending functions where Orville Wright, only a year older, was in attendance.

During this time the military was understandably cutting deeply from its wartime size to meet peacetime needs. Although Henry had been integrated into the Regular Army and in that sense might be considered 'tenured', his integration turned out to have been improper because having entered the service in 1917 at the age of 44, he could never have completed the required 20 years of active duty to be eligible for age 60 retirement (unlike his twin brother who had entered the service in 1908 and did remain in the Army). Consequently, he was discharged from active service (with a year's pay) on December 30, 1922, with less than 6 years of active duty.

Considering the various alternatives available at the time, Henry decided to establish a private practice in Middletown, Ohio, not far from Dayton. In so doing and considering the advances and specialization in various fields of medicine, he took additional training at Tulane University and the Chicago Post-Graduate School in conjunction with the move and became Board Certified as an eye, ear, nose & throat practitioner in Middletown.

In 1923, Henry and his wife divorced and he was married to Marion Irene Bishop. The two had met while Miss Bishop was serving as chief clerk of the LTA (Lighter Than Air) Service at nearby McCook Field. Miss Bishop and Lt. Doolittle had jointly leased a duplex house where the Doolittles lived in one side while Marion and several other "government girls" lived in the other. The Henry's were to have four children and Marion lived until 1999 when she died at age 104.

At one point in the late thirties, Herb was designated chief-of-staff of the Middletown Hospital. Throughout the Depression, Henry was active in the Army Reserve, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and assisted a number of young college graduates to gain commissions and serve in the Reserve. Many of these officers were to achieve senior rank and serve successfully during the War and repeatedly expressed their appreciation for Colonel Henry’s motivating influence during their time in the Reserve. As the senior Army officer in the county, Henry was privileged to lead the grand march at the annual military balls.

During WW II, Henry taught health related classes, advised on civil defense, served as medical officer on the Draft Board, was an air-raid warden, participated as a uniformed medical officer in the Civil Air Patrol, was active in the American Legion, and otherwise supported the War effort even though too old to serve on active duty (although at nearly 70 he did apply!).

In 1943, Herb combined home and office into a single facility in Middletown in an effort to make life a bit easier. In the early 50s and as he turned 80, Henry slowed down his practice further and did his last cataract surgery at the age of 82 in 1954, presumably to fully retire. In short order, however, he became bored with retirement and signed on with his first love - the Army - as a civilian contract surgeon at Ft. Myer, VA. After a year or so (1954-1955) of taking 'sick call' and attending to the ills of infant dependents, that work lost its charm and he returned to Middletown. He then accepted a position with the American Red Cross blood banks as a supervising physician and traveled around a several state area for a couple of years enjoying his continuing relationship with medicine on a rather undemanding basis. Throughout his life and until Lin died in 1959, the twins remained very close and were in continuous communication. Herb died in 1963 at age 91


The following was extracted from the Henry Family Genealogy, which was based on information provided by (and probably written by) Dr. Henry in 1922.  It is incomplete as Henry remained in military service for some period after this was written.

WM. H. HENRY, Hamden, Ohio

Entered the service July 15, 1917, and served in various capacities up until July, 1918, most of the time being spent at Camp Custer, Michigan, as Regimental Surgeon of the 310th Regiment Engineers.  Started for overseas service in July, 1918, and arrived in Liverpool, England, on August 4, 1918.  Here one Regiment of Infantry and one-half of his Regiment of Engineers was chosen to go to Russia.  They spent three weeks in England being equipped for Russian service, and sailed from Newcastle, England, for Archangel, Russia, September 4, 1918.  On the voyage to Archangel, the Influenza epidemic broke out and they had 300 men sick.  When they arrived at Archangel they buried nearly 100 men in two weeks.  However, the city being practically destitute and conditions very bad, the men were sent immediately to the front and some of them were fighting the next day.  Fighting kept up continuously from that time until the 27th of June, 1919.  Major Wm H. Henry's work was almost entirely in the hospitals.  He was for the first three months in charge of American sick in a large English hospital and after that time up until he left he was in charge of The American Red Cross Hospital, which was the only hospital that the Americans had with the exception of a Field Hospital up near the front lines.  Henry returned to the United States on July 17, 1919.

From "Ohio Military Men, 1917-18"

Name: William Herbert Henry
Serial Number: Major
Race: W
Residence: Hamden, O.
Birth Place: Athens, O.
Birth Date / Age: 25 Oct 1872
Assigns Comment: 1 Lieutenant MC 15 July 1917 from Officers' Reserve Corps; Captain Officers' Reserve Corps 7 May 1918; Major United States Army 1 Dec 1918. 65 Armory Buffalo NY to July --/17; Medical Officers' Training Corps Fort Benj Harrison, Ind., to 25 Aug 1917; Med Detachment 310 Engineers to Sept --/18; British Stationary Hospital Archangel Russia to Nov --/18; American Red Cross Hospital Archangel Russia to 19 July 1919; General Hospital 28 to 5 Jan 1920; Station Hospital Fort Mills Philippine Islands to Discharge; Fort Benj Harrison Ind; Buffalo NY; Cp Custer Mich; American Expeditionary Forces; Cp Sherman O; Fort Sheridan Ill;  Philippine Islands; Russia. American Expeditionary Forces 21 July 1918 to 19 July 1919. Honorable discharge 5 Dec 1920 from emergency Commission to accept Appointment in Regular Army.
Volume #: 8


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Created: 24 October 2008
Last Revised: 01 Dec 2013

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