Henne, Robert K.

Robert K. Henne U.S. Navy WWII
Robert K. Henne U.S. Navy WWII

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Date of Birth: 10/17/1917
Died On: April 9th 2017
Street Address: 14 Bulkley Place
Service Number: unknown
Branch of Service: U.S. Navy-WWII

Veteran Code: USN-89

Robert “Bob” K. Henne

Robert “Bob” K. Henne was born to parents Alphonse and Sarah on October 17th, 1917. He had one brother John Frederick Henne. The family lived at 14 Bulkely Manor in Rye and were members of Christ Church. Bob’s father passed away in 1925, and by 1940 Bob’s brother had moved away, so at the time of the 1940 census the only people in the house were Bob, his mother, and his uncle (Charles Kniffin).

His mother rented their home for $25/month ($475 in today’s dollars). Bob went to Rye High School, graduating in the class of 1936. Robert did a number of extracurricular activities while in school, such as being a member of the Ring Committee, a football player, and a baseball player. He was awarded the title of “Hater of Opposite Sex” in his senior yearbook. After graduation he worked as a Bookkeeper. In the last week of March in 1940, he worked 48 hours, and in 1939 he earned $1,040 ($19,760 in today’s dollars) and worked 52 weeks of the year.

Bob enlisted into the U.S. Navy during WWII, serving in Okinawa in the United States Construction Battalions (Seabees). Seabees in the Pacific Theater of Operations earned the gratitude of all Allied fighting men who served with them or followed in their wake. Their deeds were unparalleled in the history of wartime construction. With eighty percent of the Naval Construction Force concentrated on the three Pacific roads, they literally built and fought their way to victory.

The Seabees also played a key role in the last big operation of the island war, the seizure of Okinawa. The main invasion forces landed on Okinawa's west coast Hagushi beaches on Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945. Off the amphibious landing craft and over pontoons placed by the 130th Naval Construction Battalion went the 24th Army Corps and Third Amphibious Corps. Right beside them were the 58th, 71st and 145th Naval Construction Battalions. A few days later, two additional Naval Construction Battalions, the 44th and 130th, landed. The fighting was heavy and prolonged, and organized resistance did not cease until 21 June 1945.

The Seabees' task on Okinawa was truly immense. On this agrarian island, whose physical facilities a fierce bombardment had all but destroyed, they built ocean ports, a grid of roads, bomber and fighter fields, a seaplane base, quonset villages, tank farms, storage dumps, hospitals, and ship repair facilities. Nearly 55,000 Seabees, organized into four brigades, participated in Okinawa construction operations. By the beginning of August 1945, sufficient facilities, supplies, and manpower were at hand to mount an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

After the war Bob would marry, Julie Manning, on September 21, 1946. Bob began working in construction with Barber and Coccola of Rye, N.Y. and would eventually become vice president over a 43 year career. Bob was a long time resident of Daytona Beach Shores after moving from Westbrook, Connecticut, in 1987.

On April 9th 2017, Robert (Bob) Kniffin Henne passed away at Good Samaritan House in Daytona Beach. He was 99 years old. Bob was predeceased by his wife of 52 years, Julie and by his daughter Claudia. He leaves behind his son Robert K. Henne Jr. and his wife Jeanne Cardinal.

John Melfi
RHS 2021

Sources: 1940 Census, 1936 Rye High School Yearbook, Marriage Record, Obituary, Daytona Beach News-Journal Apr. 24, 2017.
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