Freedom Fighters: Henry Pendergrass - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Henry Pendergrass

(KLTV) -

Henry Pendergrass of Tyler, Texas, was only on active duty for six months during World War II. But during that time, he was involved in one of the war's longest and most ferocious battles, the Battle of Okinawa. From April 1 to June 22 of 1945, Okinawa was important to the invasion of Japan, which never took place because of the Japanese surrender after the dropping of two atomic bombs. Ironically, Pendergrass spent three months in Japan as part of the American Occupation Forces.

"When I went in, they were fighting on both sides of the world."

But by April of 1945, when Henry Pendergrass had finished his training and was ready for deployment, it was the Pacific Theater of War and the Japanese that were the objects of the biggest offensive of world war two..

The battle of Okinawa was fought from April 1 to June 22, 1945. The island of Okinawa, because of its location close to Japan,was a key ingredient for the invasion of Japan. But the Japanese were determined to fight to to their death to protect it.

One of the longest and costliest battles of the Pacific Theater, American forces sustained 49,151 casualties with over 12,000 deaths, while the Japanese incurred over 100,000 killed.  Over 140,000 civilians also added to the casualty list.

"I was in charge of  company...had Japanese people working for me," he recalls.

At the age of 91, Henry Pendergrass has known both the horrors of war and the privileges of living in a free country.

"I love my country. My country is the best country in the world," he says.

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