Whitesboro World War II Vet Who Escaped Death Now in Hall of Fame
It is Veteran's Day and we should all take time to reflect on those who have served in our nation's military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. One World War II Veteran who lives in Whitesboro received a huge honor from Senator Joseph Griffo and the entire New York State Senate.
On Wednesday, Senator Griffo announced that John "Jack" Hensel of Whitesboro would be indicted into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame. The Senate Veteran's Hall of Fame was founded to honor the state's veterans who standout not only as a civilian, but for what they accomplished during their time in the service.
96-year-old John "Jack" Hensel was drafted into the Navy to fight in World War II on June 22nd, 1943. He was drafted one day before receiving his high school diploma. During his time in the service, Hensel served on the Naval Aircraft Carrier U.S.S Franklin CV-13, or "Big Ben." Hensel volunteered as an aircrewman and fought several combat missions as an aerial gunner. That's no easy job.
Hensel had a brush with death when he was only 20-years-old. On March, 19, 1945 two Japanese bombs stuck "Big Ben" and ignited the gas lines on the carrier's deck and the fully loaded airplanes. The explosion of the bombs and subsequent explosions on board caused Hensel to be severely burned and was thrown from the aircraft carrier and landed in the ocean. Hensel then regained consciousness while in the water and struggled to stay afloat as he was wearing all his clothes, heavy shoes and a steel helmet. Hensel says,
I remember seeing the burning carrier going away from me. I remember several sailors popping to the surface with me. They had a strange stare with no expression, and in my struggle they just seemed to disappear. I thought afterwards they must have been killed. For a few moments, I felt all alone in the wide ocean and scared.
While Hensel was ultimately rescued, along with a few other sailors, by the U.S.S Hickox and taken to a hospital ship. That particular attack killed 800 of Hensel's fellow service members were killed and 400 injured. Due to these events Hensel received a Purple Heart and several other honors. He has been an active member of the CNY Chapter 490 Military Order of the Purple Heart and received the Military Order of the Purple Heart Distinguished Service Award in 2015 in recognition of his activism and dedication to helping veterans and their families.
Senator Joseph Griffo said Wednesday,
Jack selflessly served his nation in the Navy and has remained dedicated to helping other veterans and their families in the region. He is the epitome of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ and we are eternally grateful for all that he has done on our behalf.
Hensel married his now late wife Mary Follett in 1949 and the couple resided in Whitesboro and they had a total of six children. He also has 15 grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.