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William Alvin Henson II, Update – Part 3

New information from a new search on, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated information regarding William Alvin Henson II, the navigator flying with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII on 28 September 1944. 

To view my original post and other information about William Alvin Henson II, please see the links at the end of this post.

Continuation of William Alvin Henson II, Update – Part 2

William Alvin Henson II


Continued Post-war War Department Correspondence

On 6 May 1946, Brigadier General Leon W. Johnson wrote to Harriet Henson. His letter referenced US Missing Air Crew Report 9753 (MACR9753) and German report KU 3029. He wrote,

I am writing to you in reference to your husband who gave his life in the service of his Country during the European conflict.

In an effort to furnish the next of kin with all available details concerning casualties among our personnel, the Army Air Forces recently completed the translation of several volumes of captured German records.

In regard to First Lieutenant William A. Henson II, these records indicate that he was killed on 28 September 1944, when his B-17 (Fortress) bomber was shot down near Ost Ingersleben, Germany. The geographical location of this village is 52° 13′ North Latitude, 11° 10′ East Longitude, about twenty miles northwest of Magdeburg. These records also state that your husband was interred on 30 September 1944, in the cemetery of Ost Ingersleben.

The Quartermaster General in his capacity as Chief, American Graves Registration Service, is charged with the responsibility of notifying the legal next of kin concerning grave locations of members of the military forces who are killed or die outside the continental limits of the United States. If the report of your husband’s burial has not been confirmed and you have not been notified by the Quartermaster General, that official will furnish you definite information immediately upon receipt of the official report of interment from the Commanding General of the Theater concerned.

May the knowledge of your husband’s valuable contribution to our cause sustain you in your bereavement.

This letter was likely not the first correspondence the Henson family received regarding Bill Henson’s overseas place of burial. A letter from Robert “Bobby” Stearns’ mother indicates her family was informed on 19 December 1945 by the Quartermaster General that,

Bobby is buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland in Plot “L” Row 12, Grave 299 – this is the same location as Lt. Henson’s grave – his is 297.

Bobby Stearns was the bombardier who was flying in the nose of the Buslee B-17 on 28 September 1944 with navigator Bill Henson, and lost his life in the same mid-air collision.

I cannot explain why General Johnson did not include Bill Henson’s burial location at Margraten in his letter to Harriet Henson regarding Bill Henson’s place of interment unless the purpose of his letter was solely to impart more detailed information about the location of the crash site and original cemetery of burial.

Note that at the time of General Johnson’s letter, in May 1946, no mention is made about a process or timeline for returning remains home to relatives. Also note that at the time, World War II was referred to as the “European conflict” and that the reason for Bill Henson’s B-17 going down on 28 September 1944 was that it was “shot down” rather than the actual cause of the mid-air collision with another B-17 of his group.

Return Home for Burial

After William Alvin Henson II was killed in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany, he was first buried on 30 September 1944 in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, Germany near where his B-17 crashed. He was later reburied at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland in Plot “L” Row 12, Grave 297. The Henson family brought him home for final reburial several years after the end of the war with the return of many of America’s World War II dead.

William Alvin “Bill” Henson II now rests in Eastview Cemetery, Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia. Also, a small memorial to Lt. William A. Henson II and other armed forces members of Rockdale County, Georgia lost in World War II is located near the flagpole near the steps leading to the front entrance of the American Legion Post 77 on Legion Road in Conyers, Georgia.

William Alvin Henson II Memorial, Conyers, Georgia

Flashback – Family Before the War

I have one important Henson family fact that I neglected to mention in Part 1.

On 14 June 1942, Bill Henson’s sister, Doris Elizabeth Henson, married Clarence Roland Vaughn, Jr. Clarence Vaughn was house majority leader of the State of Georgia during the Carl Sanders, Jimmy Carter, and George Busbee governorships. He was also a judge and a war hero in his own right. Doris and Clarence lived in Conyers, Georgia all their lives. David Powell, Bill Henson’s grandson, shared this information with me and also told me that Doris could not mention her brother Bill without crying and leaving the room.

After the War

In July 1946, Bill Henson’s parents, William and Gertrude Henson, along with Bill’s sister Jeanne and a Henson relative named Minnie visited John Oliver “Jay” Buslee’s parents, John and Olga Buslee in Park Ridge, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. At the time, George Edwin Farrar (my dad), was working for Mr. Buslee and living at their home in Chicago.

I imagine there were two main reasons for the Hensons’ visit. One, to visit with the family of one of their son’s former crewmates who lost his life in the same mid-air collision as their son. And, two, to visit with my father, the only survivor on the Buslee crew’s aircraft in that tragic air accident.

During the Hensons’ visit to the Buslees and my father in Chicago, they visited the College Inn on 6 July 1946.

The College Inn in Chicago, Illinois on July 6, 1946
Left to right: Ed Farrar, Minnie Henson, Janice Buslee Kielhofer, Gene Kielhofer, Jeanne Henson
Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer, Jay Buslee’s nephew

They also visited Barney’s Market Club on 10 July 1946.

At Barney’s Market Club on July 10, 1946
Left side of table: John Buslee (Jay’s father), Janice Buslee Kielhofer (Jay’s sister), Gene Kielhofer (Janice’s husband), Gertrude Henson (William II’s mother)
Right side of table: Bill Henson (William II’s father), Minnie Henson (a Henson relative), Jeanne Henson (William II’s sister), Ed Farrar (my father), Olga Buslee (Jay’s mother)
Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer, Jay Buslee’s nephew

In May 1947, Bill Henson’s sister Jeanne married Richard Blum Herzog. David Powell, Bill Henson’s grandson, notes that Jeanne lived in the Buckhead area of Atlanta all her life.

On 10 May 1948, Harriet Whisnant Henson remarried. She married David Rogers, who was a Major in the U.S. Army in World War II. David Rogers adopted Bill and Harriet Henson’s daughter Harriet and was a wonderful father to her.

The 1950 Federal Census reported William and Gertrude Henson as residing on a farm in Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia. William Henson’s occupation was as proprietor of a retail furniture store.

On 14 August 1956, Bill Henson’s father, William Alpha Henson, died in Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia. He is buried in Eastview Cemetery, Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia, Plot: Section 13, Lot 14.

On 6 January 1994, Bill Henson’s mother, Gertrude Lena-Milda Sproessig Henson Mitchell, died at the age of 96. She is buried in Eastview Cemetery, Conyers, Rockdale County, Georgia, Plot: Section 13, Lot 14.

Long After the War

Even though Bill Henson lost his life on 28 September 1944 in World War II, his legacy lives on through his daughter, Harriet Rogers Powell, and her son, David Powell. David is Bill Henson’s grandson.

A look at the bigger picture shows that even though my father, George Edwin Farrar, was the sole survivor aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17 in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision, my sister Nancy and I are not the only descendants of the airmen aboard. William Alvin Henson II’s legacy continues also, as does David Franklin Albrecht’s. David Albrecht’s wife Patricia also gave birth to a daughter after David was killed in the collision.

In October 2014, David Powell ran across my previous The Arrowhead Club articles about his grandfather. He and I corresponded and then his mother and I corresponded. Both shared Henson family stories with me and told me about the connection between the Whisnants and the Farrars in Summerville, Georgia. One bit of family information that David shared was that Bill Henson’s nickname for Harriet Whisnant was “Whiz.”

In Summerville, the Whisnant family and the Farrar family lived next door to each other. The “Farrar” relative of the Farrar family was Baker William Farrar. Baker was the brother of Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr. Carroll Farrar was George Edwin Farrar’s father (and my grandfather), meaning Baker Farrar was Ed’s uncle, and my great-uncle.

The bottom line is that Bill Henson’s wife, Harriet Whisnant Henson, grew up next door to members of my dad’s and my family, the Baker Farrar family.

In August 2015, I returned to the Atlanta area for a family reunion on my father’s side of the family, all descendants of my grandparents. The Carroll Johnson Sr and Raleigh Mae Farrar family was a large family of nine children and some of us, with twenty-five first cousins, had never met before the reunion. The Farrar family reunion was quite the memorable event, but I had also arranged another meeting for that trip back to Georgia.

On 18 August 2015, I met Bill Henson’s wife, Harriet Whisnant Henson Rogers, and their daughter, Harriet Rogers Powell. Daughter Harriet and I rendezvoused north of Atlanta and drove together to Rome, Georgia for me to meet her mother. We had time on the drive to get to know each other and by the time we arrived at her mother’s assisted living facility in Rome, felt like we had known each other all of our lives.

By the time I met her, Harriet Whisnant Henson Rogers was in her 90’s and had dementia. However, she was still in very good shape regardless of losing some of her memories. The three of us had lunch at a restaurant and talked about the past, although the dementia robbed Bill Henson’s wife of remembering much of her past.

Bill Henson’s daughter Harriet told me that my dad visited with her mother after the war and kept in touch with her for some time. I showed her mother wartime photos of Bill and my dad, but she did not recognize or remember either of them.

The most remarkable moment of our visit came when I asked if she remembered living next door to Baker William Farrar and his family.  Her response was, “Why, of course, I remember them.  I lived right next door to them.” If only someone could have captured the expression on my and her daughter’s faces. She didn’t remember her first husband and father of her daughter, but she sure remembered the family of my great-uncle William Baker Farrar.

On 18 August 2016, exactly one year from my meeting with Bill Henson’s daughter and wife, Harriet Whisnant Henson Rogers died at the age of 92. Her memorial service in Rome, Georgia was on 3 September 2016, which would have been my father’s 95th birthday, and was exactly 72 years past the 3 September 1944 WWII mission on which William Alvin Henson II and George Edwin Farrar first flew together with the Buslee B-17 crew. If Henson and Farrar knew of their connection on that or the later two missions on which they served together, I do not know. Harriet is buried in Sunset Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Rome, Floyd County, Georgia.


Thank you to Harriet Henson Powell (Harriet Henson’s daughter) and her son David Powell for sharing family information.

Previous post, Lt. William Henson Killed in Action

William Henson’s Enlistment Record in the online National Archives (in the Reserve Corps records)

William Alvin Henson’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Previous post, The Stearns Family Looks for Answers

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 5

William Alvin Henson II’s Find a Grave memorial

William Alpha Henson’s Find a Grave memorial

Gertrude Henson’s Find a Grave memorial

Harriet Whisnant Henson Rogers’ Find a Grave memorial

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

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