Henry Edward Maes

1919 - 1983

Vietnam WarWWII

Their Story

Henry Edward Maes was born on December 16, 1919, in Moline, Illinois, to Henry B. and Mary H. (VanGetson) Maes. His parents were born in Belgium and spoke Flemish. They came to the U.S. in 1901 (Mary) and 1909 (Henry). Henry B. was a roller at a steel mill.[1] He had two sisters: Margaret and Catherine. In November of 1922, his brother Raymond, an infant, died at home.[2] His parents divorced and his mother was later remarried to Fred Campbell in 1932.[3] Henry graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1937.[4] He was then employed as a desk clerk at the Harper House.[5]

Henry enlisted in the Army January 29, 1940. He was sent to Puerto Rico in April 1941, promoted to technical sergeant in August 1942, and sent back to the U.S. to attend officers’ candidates school.[6] He graduated from the quartermaster school at Camp Lee, Virginia, in November of that year, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant. In September of 1943, Henry, now a first lieutenant, arrived in North Africa.[7]

In July of 1945, Henry visited his family for 30 days after returning from Italy and five years in the Army.[8] He had participated in the Africa and Italy campaigns as platoon commander of the transportation group with the Fifth Army. He was present during the first bombing of Mount Cassino. At that time, he had enough points (108) to exit the Army but chose to make it his career. In May 1947 he returned to Travis Air Force Base in California from Tokyo.[9]

After discharge from the Army, Henry attended Northern Illinois College of Optometry where he was a member of the Key and Tomb Honor Society, Illinois Club.[10] The Key and Tomb Society was founded in 1934 to recognize academic excellence and to promote ethics within the field of Optometry. It is the College’s highest academic honor organization.[11] He graduated in 1949.[12]  The college was later named Illinois College of Optometry in 1955.[13] In September of 1949, Dr. Maes opened his optometry office at 901 ½ 15th Avenue, East Moline, Illinois.[14] (see ad from newspaper)

Henry re-enlisted in the Army February 7, 1952.[15] He was stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington, in 1953.[16] He arrived in Japan as a captain in the early fall of 1956.[17] From 1956-1959, he was an optometrist at Camp Zama. He had a three-year tour as medical operations officer, HQ 5th Region, U.S. Army Air Defense Command, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. He was promoted to major in December 1960.[18] From 1961-1962 he served with the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, (MACV) as an advisor to the J-4 of the Joint General Staff of the Republic of Vietnam. MACV was a joint-service command of the United States Department of Defense created in response to the increase in United States military assistance to South Vietnam.[19] Henry was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July 1964.[20] In August of 1964, Major Maes attended an 18-week course at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.[21]

Then he became Chief of the Material Division at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, until he was assigned to the Biological Services Branch of the Life Sciences Division.[22]  He was promoted to colonel in July 1969.[23] In June of 1971, Col. Maes was named to head the Optometry Section of the Medical Service Corps of the Office of the Surgeon General.[24] He and Elizabeth lived in Arlington, Virginia. He served in that capacity until his retirement January 31, 1974.[25] He had been a member of the U.S. Army for 34 years.

Henry Edward Maes Gravesite

During his career he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, European Theater of Operation Ribbon with three stars, and Pre-Pearl Harbor and American Defense Campaign Ribbons.

During the time he had his optometry business, Henry served on the educational committee of the East Moline-Silvis Association of Commerce. The committee conducted a school and educational survey of the needs of the two communities. The survey was designed to strengthen the system and bring public attention to actions necessary to provide an adequate and modern education program.[26] 

In San Antonio, Texas, in April 1959, Col. Maes married Major Elizabeth Pesut, who had just retired from the Army Nurse Corps. He was 39 and she was 44.[27] She had a long and exciting career as well, and is also buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. (Read her story on this site, including how she was working at a hospital in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked.)

In 1975, Henry, one of 15 surviving members of his 16-member 1937 St. Mary’s Catholic High School graduating class, met for a reunion. It was the first reunion since their commencement.[28] In his later years, he was a vocal member of the community, writing letters to the editors of newspapers about such things as home rule and jail issues.

He died at the former Moline Lutheran Hospital at the age of 64, leaving his wife, Elizabeth, who lived another 10 years. He is buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery.


[1] 1940 United States Federal Census – Ancestry.com

[2] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 28 Nov 1922, Tue · Page 13

[3] 27 Apr 1963, 13 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

[4] 24 Aug 1964, 6 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

[5] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 18 Nov 1942, Wed · Page 17

[6] The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) · 24 Jul 1943, Sat · Page 14

[7] The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) · 17 Sep 1943, Fri · Page 19

[8] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 9 Jul 1945, Mon · Page 11

[9] Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., Arriving and Departing Passenger and Crew Lists, 1900-1959 – Ancestry.com

[10] Illinois College of Optometry 1949 Yearbook

[11] ico.edu/clubs-and-organizations

[12] Obituary for Henry Maes (Aged 64) – Newspapers.com

[13] ico.edu/history

[14] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 30 Sep 1949, Fri · Page 33

[15] U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 – Ancestry.com

[16] 22 Dec 1953, 14 – The Dispatch at Newspapers.com

[17] The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) · 8 Oct 1956, Mon · Page 11

[18] U.S., Select Military Registers, 1862-1985 – Ancestry.com

[19] Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Wikipedia

[20] Page 246 Army Registers, 1798-1969 – Fold3

[21] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 24 Aug 1964, Mon · Page 6

[22] Army Research and Development Magazine

[23] U.S., Select Military Registers, 1862-1985 – Ancestry.com

[24] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 11 Jun 1971, Fri · Page 15

[25] History | AMEDD Center of History & Heritage (army.mil)

[26] The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois) · 16 Feb 1950, Thu · Page 6

[27] State of Texas Marriage License dated April 9, 1959

[28] The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois) · 17 Jun 1975, Tue · Page 8