POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Born in October 1923, 98-year-old Donald Henningsen of Pompano Beach recalls enlisting in the U.S. Air Corps back when he lived in Iowa.
“The war started in 1941. I was in my first year of junior college,” he said Thursday on Veteran’s Day. “I got my wings and my commission in 1944.”
Flying C-47 planes just like the model he still keeps in his home, Henningsen flew in the South Pacific. He recalls transporting American prisoners by plane who were captured in Japan.
“They had been so mistreated that they were on stretchers,” he said.
He also shared the hopeful memories — correspondence with his sweetheart Betty, who was in high school while Don was at war.
“She has every letter I wrote,” he said.
Four days after Don came home from the war in 1945, the two were engaged. And 75 years, later Betty and Don are still going strong.
“It was wonderful and nobody was ever courted like I was,” Betty remembered.
She said life on the homefront wasn’t easy.
“It was unbelievable what you had to go without. There weren’t any nylons. That all went to parachutes”
Don says he kept in touch with his Air Corps brothers after the war.
“I was in touch with a lot of them for a while, but I’ve outlived them,” he said. “Don’t have very many left anymore.”
Donald and Betty Henningsen have lived in South Florida for 20 years. They have two daughters, four grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.