Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

Memorial Day: Remember the heroes of Iwo Jima

As published in The Journal of the Pocono Plateau, May 27, 2021
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By Rick Bodenschatz

Like so many returning home from combat, “Dad said little about what happened on Iwo. I came to a realization that maybe what had to be done on that island was just something you didn’t talk about.”

Jim Henning refers to his father, Charles “Mike” Henning of Pocono Lake, who was a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps during the battle of Iwo Jima. Lt. Henning experienced the worst in that famous battle of World War II in the South Pacific, in February of 1945.

In honor or his father’s service, Jim Henning has donated a recently published book, “Flamethrower” by Bryan Mark Rigg, for the local history section of Clymer Library in Pocono Pines. In Rigg’s account of the bloody fighting on Iwo Jima, he profiles a number of key Marines who played a part in the American victory. Lt. Mike Henning’s role in the battle is detailed.

Prior to the war, the Pocono Lake native attended the State Teachers College of East Stroudsburg, graduating in May 1943 with a degree in physical education. Mike’s athletic abilities served him well in the Marine Corps. Without doubt, those abilities aided in his heroic combat actions for both his survival and that of his men.

By the beginning of 1945, American and Allied forces were drawing close to the Japanese mainland. The island of Iwo Jima was in their path. It was of strategic importance, since there were two air strips needed for American bombing raids and air support, as well as positioning for logistical supply for the ground troops. This was no secret to the Japanese military. They defended it with 21,000 ground troops holed-up in caves, tunnels and ground fortifications, supported by hidden artillery.

Mike was a platoon leader in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Marines of the 3rd Division when the Marines landed on Iwo Jima. During the battle, the enemy was firmly dug in. Extracting the Japanese was extremely dangerous, so Lt. Henning ordered grenades and flamethrowers to defeat the Japanese in their fortifications. During that process, 18 men were lost from his company in just one morning. There is little doubt that those, and others lost in battle, were remembered by Mike for years to come.

Days later, Charlie Company was facing enemy forces that were holding a strategic hill. The Japanese were launching mortars and strafing the Americans with machine gun fire. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, Lt. Henning led his platoon to the top. The capture of the Japanese fortification netted cannons and other deadly weapons, and left dozens of the enemy killed in action. Although Lt. Henning was wounded in the leg, he did not stop fighting until victory was won.

The capture of that enemy emplacement was of such importance that Lt. Henning’s leadership, and his hands-on fighting, earned him a recommendation for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Ultimately, he was awarded the Silver Star for Valor in combat and the Purple Heart for his wounded leg.

Mike Henning survived World War II. When the Korean Conflict broke out, he was called to active duty as a captain. His role was to train troops for their deployment to Korea. Mike left the Marine Corps as a major.

Continuing his leadership in civilian life, Mike served as postmaster for Pocono Lake. In addition, he operated the general store in Pocono Lake and stayed active in the community and his church. Mike passed away at age 89 in 2010.

Mike never forgot his men. He served as the post commander of the Pocono Lake American Legion, and faithfully attended the community’s Memorial Day ceremonies at the Pocono Lake Cemetery every year and participated in the American Legion’s Memorial Day parade.

Mike, thank you for your service to our country, and thank you to all who have sacrificed your lives for our freedom!