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Henry Martin Orth Jr.
Young American Patriots

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Henry Martin Orth Jr.

"I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."

Randall Jarrell, "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner"

Henry Martin Orth Jr. was born October 29, 1920, to Henry Orth Sr. and Elvina Rudburg Orth. Mr. and Mrs. Orth were both born in Pennsylvania, but were living in Morgantown in 1920. They were the parents of Laurence, Thelma, and Christina at the time of the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. Mr. Orth was a clerk in a tin mill office.

In 1930, the census taker found the family still in Morgantown, and Mr. Orth still a clerk. Henry Orth Jr. was now added to the list of offspring living with the Orths.

In 1940, the Orths were still in Morgantown. By this time, Mr. Orth was an accountant. His son Lawrence worked in radio services, and his daughter Thelma was a secretary. Henry Orth Jr. was 19 and living in the Orth home with his wife Helen. The family now included Kate, Mr. Orth's mother. Henry had attended Morgantown High School.

On November 23, 1942, Henry Orth Jr. registered for military service in Clarksburg, West Virginia. U.S. Army Draft and Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, note that he was married, had completed three years of high school, and was an electrician. According to the listing for him in Young American Patriots, he entered service on December 14, 1943, and was stationed first in Miami Beach and then in Italy. Next to Henry's photo is a photo of his brother, Lawrence, who entered in 1942.
Young American Patriot entry

Photos and biographical information for Henry and Lawrence are juxtaposed in their entries in Young American Patriots.

Henry Orth was assigned to the 725th Bombardment Squadron, 451st Army Air Force Bomb Group, 15th Air Corps. Somewhere along the way, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. The 451st was activated on May 1, 1943, and moved to the Mediterranean from November 1943 through January 1944 for training in Algeria before going on to Italy. The job of the 451st was as a strategic bombardment group, targeting aircraft factories, bridges, airfields, and oil refineries in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Greece. The 451st flew support missions and helped prepare the way for the invasion of France in 1944. They also flew supplies to troops. They supported the final advances of Allied armies in northern Italy in April 1945. The group flew its last mission on April 26, 1945. (Maurer Maurer, ed., "445th Bombardment Group - 452nd Bombardment Group," Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983. Accessed 6 July 2017,

The plane that Sgt. Orth flew in was a B-24 Liberator, 44-49418. The plane was called "Pretty Mickey." Of tremendous usefulness in World War II, first in European campaigns and then in the Pacific, the B-24 Liberator had a high loss record, and the ball turret gunner was especially vulnerable due to his position in the plane.

Henry Orth did not survive the war. On February 7, 1945, the 451st was flying mission 186, with targets in Vienna, Austria. ("Mission Summary for the First 200 Missions," Headquarters, 451st Bombardment Group, 24 February 1945, accessed 6 July 2017, Orth was initially listed as missing in action over Austria. Michael Hill and John R. Beitling, citing MACR #12059, in B-24 Liberators of the 15th Air Force/49th Bomb Wing in World War II, state that the crew was killed in action. (Altglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2006: 69.) The Find A Grave memorial for Sgt. Henry Orth Jr. (#152315653) provides additional detail: The plane "took direct flak hit into the bomb bay doors over the target area of Vienna, Austria, and the wing separated and the plane disintegrated." The crew consisted of 2nd Lieutenant Marion A. Palmer, pilot; 2nd Lieutenant James M. Loenshal, co-pilot; 2nd Lieutenant John R. Baxter, navigator; Sgt. Ralph E. Heatherly Sr., tail gunner; Sgt. Eugene W. Hoffpauir, nose gunner; Sg. Carmen A. Magistro, engineer-top turret gunner; S/Sgt. Michael Maslanek, photographer; Sgt. Henry M. Orth Jr., ball turret gunner; Sgt. Sidney L. Perkins, lt. waist gunner; and Sgt. Robert S. L. Wilson, rt. waist gunner.

Lawrence Orth, in the meantime, had become a second lieutenant in the Army. He served in India, Africa, and Egypt. Unlike his brother Henry, Lawrence survived the war and lived on until March 15, 2004, according to his obituary in the Washington Post.

military marker

Parents' headstone and military marker for Sgt. Henry M. Orth Jr. in East Oak Grove Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

While it is unclear whether Sgt. Orth's remains were recovered, it is most likely they were, as the war was winding down. Search of the American Battle Monuments Commission's website indicates he was neither buried nor listed on the tablets of the missing in an American military cemetery in Europe. In 1949, his father signed an application for a headstone, which includes the verbiage "[I agree to] properly place it at the decedent's grave.." Thus, we can assume that Henry Orth Jr. rests in East Oak Grove Cemetery, once again with his parents.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens, with editorial assistance from Patricia Richards McClure
June 2017


Henry Martin Orth Jr.

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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