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Henry "Hank" Landry

Hank Landry and Hersch and Bonnie's home near Ava, Missouri in 1998.

Henry 'Hank' Landry
Henry "Hank" Landry joined Butch O'Hare's Fighter squadron in the spring of 1943 while it was reforming at San Diego. The squadron was then called VF-3 and later in the summer of that same year the name was changed to VF-6 while we were training at Maui, Hawaii and remained that way until the end of WW-II.
Hank came from Mississippi and brought with him many characteristics that were unmistakably southern.

He checked out in the new F6F-3 Grumman Hellcat fighters like the rest of we young Ensigns. As he became acquainted with this new airplane he also grew into his place with the rest of the squadron pilots who were destined to be his buddies for life. I am proud to be one of them.

Before leaving San Diego, Willie Callan remembers that when the squadron was first organized into divisions, Al Vraciu was Butch's wingman Sy Mendenhall and Willie made up his second section and Hank Landry was the spare or fifth man in O'Hare's division. While in San Diego we had a taste of dog fighting with some Army P-38 fighters and made carrier qualification landings just off the coast of California, on the USS Altamaha CVE-18.

The trip west to Hawaii was made with our new airplanes right with us on of the USS White Plains (CVE-66).

Shortly after arriving at Puunene Field on the island of Maui in Hawaii, Hank was mysteriously not present when the squadron photo was taken in July of 1943; however, we all remember him conducting his own physical fitness routine and laying in the sun on a big rock near the ready room whenever he had time between flights or other training activities.

I also remember that he was in the squadron and participated with the rest of us on the 5th of August '43 while we were embarked on the new USS Independence (CVL-22). We were working with the two new big carriers, USS Yorktown (CV-5) and USS Essex (CV-9).

This three-carrier task force was operating some distance south of Hawaii, the big island. The higher commands were trying to determine the best way to operate with the two different type carriers in the same force. Several more of the small fast carriers, which were built on a cruiser hull, were expected to be joining the fleet during the next few months.

It came to pass that a late afternoon recovery of a flight was being made on the Independence when a plane messed up on it's landing and went into the catwalk and hung up there. The ship did not have heavy lifting equipment to lift the plane back on deck so it was decided the best thing to do was steam back into port and have a yard crane lift the plane back on deck.

The problem was that we still had two aircraft airborn and needing a place to land. The pilots, Bob Locker and Hank Landry were given a vector to the nearest airfield, which was at Helo on the big island. It was calculated that they should have enough fuel to reach their objective.

The two fighters became separated in an early evening rain shower so they proceeded individually. Bob Locker managed to reach the field at Helo before his fuel gave out, but Hank was some distance short of Helo when his plane ran out of fuel and he landed in a soft lava bed. It looked like it was a hard surface so Hank put his wheels down and opened his canopy. Unfortunately, it was a bed of loose cinders, so with his wheels down, the plane flipped over on its back and left Hank hanging by his safety belt. When he unlatched his safety belt, his head went into the loose volcanic ash. Our helmets in those days were made of light bird cloth material and did not afford much protection. Even though Hank had a badly injured arm and shoulder and was losing blood, he managed to route his way down and tunneled his way out to fresh air.

It was a cold night up on the side of this volcano, which helped some as he was suffering from severe pain, loosing blood and drifting in and out of consciousness. Hank was a big strong guy and had always taken pride in staying in good physical condition, which played a key part in his survival.

During the night, Hank walked, stumbled and crawled toward dim lights that he could see intermittently in the distance. The lights were coming from a small settlement known as Kmula.

Some time before daylight, Hank crawled up on the porch of a small house and passed out, but not before making enough noise to get the attention of the two ladies living there. They thought that he might be a drunk from the near by Army training camp, and called the military police. The MP's determined that there had been an accident and took steps to get him into the hands of a military hospital not far away.

The next morning the crash site was found six miles away.

This information was reported to the Navy; however, communications were poor and it was a long time before the message ever reached VF-6 on the Independence.

Hank's road to recovery was long and difficult. After spending some time in the hospital near Pearl Harbor, he was back in flight status in time for the raid on Wake Island in October. At that time we were having some difficulty identifying Jap planes from our own. [See "Friend or Foe" story in the "Things of Interest" section.

While on the first flight when they encountered some enemy fighters, Hank got shot at by another F6F Hellcat that had mistaken him for an enemy plane. He took some hits, but none were in a vital spot. Later that same day while flying with Butch O'Hare, they shared credit for shooting down a twin engine enemy bomber known as a Betty.

Following the Wake Island operation 14 and 15 Oct 1943, Butch was promoted to the rank of Commander and became the CO of Air Group Six on the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Air Group Six was made up of Fighting Squadron One, Bombing Squadron Six and Torpedo Squadron Six. Harry "Stinky" Harrison became the new CO of VF-6 on the Independence.

Hank remained in flying status and participated in the raid on Rabaul on 11 November 1943 and also the Invasion of Tarawa on 18 November 1943. He was also aboard when the Independence was torpedoed by enemy planes on 20 November 1943.

Hank's arm and shoulder was not right yet so the Flight Surgeon grounded him and started making preparation to send him back to Pearl Harbor for further treatment. However Hank remained on the ship as it proceeded to port at Funafuti at Ellis Island for emergency repairs.

Hank left the ship before it sailed for Pearl on 7 December 1943 and was transported by air back to the hospital near Pearl.

Hank's treatment was difficult and lasted for months. Eventually he was returned to flight status and sent to a shore based training unit near "Jax" (Jacksonville), Florida, which was a real insult to a combat seasoned fighter pilot who had been serving under exceedingly difficult conditions.

Some time later after a level headed flight surgeon happened to review his record who seemed shocked and indignant when he declared "Enough is enough! This pilot should not be here; he deserves a medical discharge". This set the stage for Hank's discharge from the Navy.

The remainder of the story about Hank Landry and his lovely wife Elbess (with some good photographs) appears in the story of "VF-6 reunions" in which Hank and Elbess played a very important part.

During the 70's and 80's, bad luck again overtook Hank when he had to endure two very serious treatment to deal with two different malignant breast tumors. In two separate unrelated surgeries, he had to have radical masectomies. In Hank's own words "I'd like to have died both times!". Hank, with the help of his dear wife, Elbess, managed to pull through both times.

For the rest of this Hank Landry dedication story (with photographs), can be found as a part of the VF-6 reunion stories. See Links below for these mentioning Hank. Use your "Back" Button to return here...

  • Hank is part of the New Insignia story here.
  • He also relates how he was shot at by another Hellcat on the same page here.
  • He is mentioned coming to the Mini-Reunion at the home of Willie and Sue Callan on Page #2 here.
  • Hank also appears in a Photo Shoot here on Reunions Page #6. And still another on the same page here.
  • Hank is mentioned in the story on Reunions Page #7 here and then in a photo of a presentation and discussion during the 55th Anniversary get-together at Oceana, Virginia here.
  • Then on Reunions Page #8, he's shown here in a photo shoot at Hersch Pahl's departure from the Oceana Reunion in 1998.
  • And Lastly, Hank is shown at the last night of the Oceana Reunion in 2000 on Reunions Page #9.

In 1998 Elbess and Hank Landry visited Bonnie and Hersch Pahl at their "U bar 7" Farm home on Hunter Creek, east of Ava MO.

L-R Bonnie Pahl, Elbess and Hank Landry. Hersch Pahl was the photographer.

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L-R Bonnie and Hersch Pahl with Hank Landry on far right. Elbess was the photographer..

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Unfortunately Hank "took his last cut" and passed from this scene during the summer of 2008.

- Hersch Pahl

"For those who fought for it...
freedom has a flavor the protected will never know!"

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October 1, 2007