Jay is from South Haven, MI, and just graduated from Michigan State last year, and decided to put his degree to the best use possible, and joined the Navy. He finished with OCS about a month ago and is currently a new Ensign and will be attending Supply School in Athens, Georgia at the end of the month. He wrote to tell me about his grandfather and also said, "I'm e-mailing you first of all, because I love your website, and it is people like you who have helped to inspire me to serve my country."
My Grandpa was Henry John Compton Sr., the youngest of 6 children of Katherine and Orville Compton of South Haven, MI. My family has called that area home since around the civil war and at the time of World War II, they were dairy farmers. My Grandpa dropped out of school after the 8th grade to stay home and work on the farm as he didn't like the kids who made fun of
him because of his smell from working with cows all morning. Later in life he was embarrassed by his lack of education and always pushed it on his kids. But, as I'm sure you know, people of that generation would have loved to have spent more time in the books, but the lack of time they spent in them had little or no bearing on how smart and successful they were, he and his brother Orville even built themselves a car out of old tractor parts. In 1942, he was drafted into the Army and was placed in the 87th Infantry Division (the Golden Acorn Division), 345th, Company E. In Oct. 1944, they embarked from New Jersey to Europe. It is on this trip that a short but lifetime friendship began as PFC Compton befriended a young PFC with a similar background from the small town of Benevolence, GA named Stanford Arnold. The two were literally inseparable when they first arrived for Europe. They practiced shooting, and all the activities that the young GI's of the time did while they awaited their fates. They were both tall, slender and handsome, with the rugged country edge that only farmers seem to have.
Once they arrived and began fighting on the mainland of Europe, they both rose swiftly through the enlisted ranks. My Grandpa's photo he had taken just after he made E-5 (Sgt.) shows a big grin on his face. Arnold was right there with him, and no to long after making SGT first class received a battle field commission as a 2nd LT. He wouldn't live much longer though. The regiment was in Olzheim Germany on Feb 8,1945, and was ordered to secure the small town. Arnold was to lead the attack which he did. A small company led by SGT Compton was ordered to secure one house, while Arnold (whom Hennessey was with) was going to take another one. Arnold went himself to the upstairs and was hit square in the chest by a shell and was killed instantly as the young private who was with him remembered. My Grandpa was devastated, but to make it more difficult, he was given a battlefield commission to take the place of his friend. 2nd LT Compton's commissioning photograph didn't have that same smile that he had when he was a SGT, instead, it was a stern serious look. He was soon wounded after a grenade blew up in his fox-hole. He returned home, having earned a silver star, bronze star, purple heart, a presidential unit citation, and the combat infantryman badge and was decommissioned at a Depot in Pennsylvania where he met his wife, Marty Jane Moyer, but had one stop to make.
He took a train down to Benevolence, GA and found Stanford Arnold's parents. He promised them that he would name his first born son after Stanford. "Hank" Compton, as we all knew my grandpa, then went home and started a construction company, and had 6 children, the fifth of which, is my Dad, Stanford Marc Compton, a name that I will make sure stays in my family
forever. What I am trying to do though, is find the Arnold family again, and try to close this loop. I just hope that someone remembers him in his home town. Maybe it's just family nostalgia.. but I love that story. Take care, and if you have any further questions, let me know. This is a passion for me too, and these stories need to be told. So thank you for what you are doing
Solemn Remembrance: Vet Returns to Pay Respects to Former Lieutenant
By ANDREW LERSTEN / H-P South Haven Bureau
The following article is ©1999 by The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph, Michigan, and is used here with permission.
November 9, 1999
SOUTH HAVEN - Kneeling beside Henry Compton's grave at Casco Township's McDowell Cemetery one recent afternoon, Jim Hennessey of Bayonne, N.J., had a flash of insight.
"It's ironic," he said, nodding to the beautiful fall foliage. "The trees were just like this in the Ardennes" at the start of what would become the brutal Battle of the Bulge in late 1944.
He should know.
Compton and Hennessey were both part of Company E, which was part of the 345th Regiment of the 87th "Golden Acorn" Infantry Division, one of several to fight in the historic World War II battle. Compton, who died in 1984 after operating his thriving construction business in South Haven for nearly 40 years after the war, was the platoon commander.
After all these years, Hennessey still visits his commander's grave out of respect whenever he and his wife, Dolly, are near South Haven. They've been back close to a dozen times since 1982, and always stay with Compton's widow, Marty, when they're in town.
It's a bond between soldiers that has lasted decades, through the trials and joys of life to the solemn remembrance of death.
"We come up here and pay respects," said Hennessey, who calls Compton "Hank." "He was a wonderful man and a wonderful soldier. I will always remember him."
The E Company was delivered into the jaws of battle one chilly night in December 1944 shortly after the Germans punched through the Allied Forces in the Adrienne forest region of Belgium, severing the allies into a northern and southern front. The E company was brought in as reinforcements following massive allied casualties in the first few days of the Battle of the Bulge.
"They brought us up in open trucks," Hennessey remembers. "And boy, was it cold!"
After hunkering down for an extended battle, allied forces eventually evened the score and were able to form another united front that began the final push into Germany. The end of the Battle of the Bulge marked the start of Hitler's Final 100 Days.
But the danger and the intense fighting was far from over, as both Hennessey and Compton would soon find out.
Not long after that, in February 1945, Compton was injured and Hennessey would not see him again for another 28 years after that.
Two weeks after Compton was injured, Hennessey was also injured in combat. He still has shrapnel in his skull today from that wound.
Henry Compton earned many awards during his years of military service, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
It wasn't until 1973 that he and Hennessey would be reunited, far from the battlefield at a Golden Acorn reunion in Valley Forge, Pa.
"It was instant recognition," Hennessey said. "Hank said, 'Hey I know you!'"
The Hennesseys first visited the Comptons in South Haven in 1981. Three years later, Compton died at the age of 64.
But the Hennesseys have kept coming back.
Why have the bonds between soldier and commander stayed so strong, for so many years, even after one man's death? It may be something only a soldier can know, Hennessey said.
"You lived together, and you could have died together," Hennessey said. "It was a buddy system. See (the film) 'Saving Private Ryan' and you'll see what I mean."
1973 Reunion at Valley Forge, PA
Clockwise, starting at 6 o'clock:
Sgt. Harold Craven (HQ2-345), T/Sgt. Reese Brantner, Pfc. Jim Hennessey, Ruth Brantner, Vi Berquest, Dolly Hennessey, Marty Compton,
Capt. Ed Bergquest (HQ2-345), Lt. Henry Compton
After running this site for a little over a year, I've found out how small this world really is. I'm happy to provide the information below and delighted to put a couple pieces of the puzzle back together as well as unite a few people from the past and present.
Original email I received this email in May of 2005:
I just came across your website and the article by Jay Compton regarding his grandfather and Stanford Arnold of Benevolence, GA.
I am working on genealogy of the Stanford family for which Arnold was named. I have a contact in Georgia who would be excited to have an opportunity to exchange email with Jay. Stanford Arnold was her uncle. When I found your article, I was checking some facts on Stanford as I was entering the letter his family received from the War Dept about his death.
I have a fair amount of historical information on the Stanford family and their involvement in the military, which I can share with Jay. I separated from the USAF in 1983 as a major and have a son who is a Capt flying F-16s for the Air Force currently. The military info on the Stanford's goes back through the Civil War to my g-g-g-g grandfather Rev Samuel Stanford who fought in the Revolutionary War under General Thomas Sumpter in South Carolina.
Jay certainly has a name to live up to in his family. Stanford Arnold was named for a great grandfather, Thomas Quincy Stanford, Capt, Company G, 39th Alabama Infantry, who was also killed in a charge against an artillery position at the battle of Stone's River or Murfreesboro on 31 Dec 1862. I am pleased to hear that there are still new generations coming who are interested in honor and duty and have respect for those who have given their all.
Would it be possible to get permission to use Jay's letter in a publication on the genealogy of the Stanford family, with proper citation of course?
Marion's Note: In the meantime I was able to put Bob and Jay in touch with each other and below you will see the outcome of this friendship. Ah, overjoyed to report another happy ending after so many years.
Hi there Marion,
I hope all has been well with you lately. Sorry I haven't been better about
keeping in touch but I've been very busy down in Georgia completing Naval
Supply School. And it's being in Georgia that brings me to my next subject.
I made a visit this past weekend to Cuthbert Georgia to see Flo Young who
you hooked me up with in regards to the Stanford Arnold story that I had
sent to you. Needless to say, it ended up being quite a trip that was very
emotional. I've attached some pictures for you to put up on your website
that might be of interest to you. I'm also going to get my mother to scan
and send me a copy of a picture of my Grandpa, as well as one of Stanford
while they were in the service together. In other news, I'll be stationed
soon in Bath, ME to commission a brand new Destroyer (USS FARRAGUT DDG-99),
and will be living up there for about a year before we bring it down to
Mayport, FL sometime next August. Again, I hope all is well with you!
Jay Compton at the gravesite of his grandfather's very good buddy Stanford Arnold. Jay I know this goes without saying, but your grandfather is very,very proud of you right now. It must have been a very emotional reunion. I'm getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it.