Henry James Hoffbauer

1906 - 1950


Their Story

Henry James Hoffbauer was born November 18, 1906, in Chicago, Illinois, to John H. Hoffbauer and Mary M. Murphy Hoffbauer.[1] He had one sister, Gertrude, and two brothers, Charles L. and William. His father was a salesman for a poultry house and was born in Germany. Henry married Ruth C. Carpenter in Chicago on June 21, 1930,[2] but he was listed as being single when he registered for the draft October 16, 1940. He was 5 feet 5 ½ inches tall and weighed 145. He was unemployed and 33 years of age.[3] He was living with a friend, Arthur Richards, in Marion, Juneau Co., Wisconsin, worked as a shipping and receiving clerk, and had received four years of high school.[4]

He enlisted in the Army April 10, 1942.[5] He served in WWII with the Medical Detachment, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.[6] During WW2, Medical Detachments were attached to each Infantry Regiment. Their mission was to help conserve the strength of the Regiment by taking necessary preventive and sanitary measures and provide medical and dental treatment.[7] Enlisted men were not only trained for duties such as dental, medical, sanitary and surgical technicians, but also as record clerks, litter bearers, podiatrists, and light truck drivers. They were the first to provide medical treatment in combat situations, including emergency medical treatment in the field, removal of battle casualties, and establishment of aid stations for the reception, triage, temporary care, and treatment of casualties. When not in combat, the Medical Detachment provided basic medical care, emergency care and treatment of the sick and wounded, proper sanitation, examinations, first aid, personal hygiene, and clerical work related to medical services.

Henry participated in a 95-day training program in amphibious operations, then on May 1, 1943, received his orders to arrive at Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia on May 24. His cohort boarded transports on June 4; 20 of them, accompanied by cruisers and more than 20 destroyers. Four days later they were under steam to an unknown destination.[8] While enroute, U-boat contacts were made on June 13, 15, 18 and 21 with the destroyers attacking them with exploding depth charges. On July 5, their secret destination was revealed. They were headed for Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. They would land fighting as part of the 7th Army commanded by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

On July 10, the 45th was among the first Allied forces to attack the European Continent at Sicily. They were known as the Thunderbird Division. The landing crafts were lowered from the ships’ decks into the rough sea. The first assault wave of the 179th was at 3:45 a.m. As they approached the beach, they discarded their life jackets and fixed bayonets. That first day, they took all their objectives with minimum losses. Gen Patton later said of the 45th in his August address to the 45th troops, “Born at sea, baptized in blood, your fame shall never die.” The 45th went on to fight at Salerno, Anzio, Rome, Southern France (Aug. 15), Alsace and Germany and had 511 days of actual combat to its credit.[9]

In Italy, the 179th and the 45th had success after success and pushed the Germans back. They pushed them into higher ground, into the mountainous region. It was there that the battle raged all through the day and night. It was there that both sides hurtled tons of artillery and mortar shells, the Germans using six-barreled mortars, the Nebelwerfers, that shot six shells at once. They screamed through the air like dying banshees, earning them the nickname “screaming meemies.” [10]

The casualties were high as they fought hand-to-hand through October 15, 1943. Officers fell and the sergeants took their place. Sergeants fell and privates assumed command. By sunset, the German machine gun nests and pillboxes were demolished, and the Germans were pushed from the heights south of Faicchio. They were relieved on October 18. They had spent 43 consecutive days in battle. From September 10 until October 18, 133 men had been killed, 619 wounded, and 157 were missing in action.

Daily rain downpours, in addition to constant, prolonged exposure to the elements, resulted in large numbers of malaria and physical exhaustion cases. The total evacuated sick was 987 officers and enlisted men. The 179th had lost over half the men in the regiment.  During the Sicily campaign, 21,000 troops were admitted to the hospital for malaria, and only 17,000 as casualties of war.[11]

Henry was admitted to a hospital in October 1943 in Italy. He was 35 years of age. His wound was a penetration of his left forearm by a shell explosion from artillery during battle. After treatment he returned to duty. [12]

In January 1944, the 179th got a break from the fighting. Their strength was now under 3,500. In the last 3 ½ months, 302 had been killed, 1,213 wounded, and 235 were missing in action. Eventually, 40 percent of the sick and 25 percent of the wounded returned to duty, but many were unable to adjust to the rigors of combat. Many returned sicker than when they left, and some returned with open wounds.

They had two restful weeks and then were told they would be heading for another amphibious landing. They headed for Anzio. They suffered many attacks on that beach and many from the air. The infantry was not the target but the 179th lost men from falling flak (bursting shells from antiaircraft artillery) and unexploded 90 mm shells: tons of steel that swished up, then down, and splattered the area with hot fragments.

While stopping the German offensive, the 45th Division had borne the brunt of the 4-day attack. The 179th and elements of the 157th had taken the heaviest blows. Between February 12 and February 19, the 179th lost 55% of its men and officers: 142 killed, 367 wounded, and 670 evacuated as exhaustion or psychiatric cases. These numbers would have been greater if it were not for the efforts of the Medical Corps. Stretcher bearers, aid men, field surgeons, ambulance men, and field hospital staff, under fire from the front lines to the surgical tents, saved hundreds of lives, and hundreds more from being permanently crippled.

Henry was hospitalized on two more occasions. In February, he was diagnosed with sinusitis. He was listed as being with the medical department. He was discharged that same month.  From April through August, he was in the hospital diagnosed with furunculosis, chronic arthritis, and Malaria, vivax (tertian). Furunculosis, also known as a boil that has spread throughout the body, is painful and can form abscesses. The boils can leave scars. People who have suffered from frostbite, who are obese, diabetic, and basically unhygienic or live in an unhygienic environment are more prone to getting furunculosis than others. Furunculosis usually occurs in places where the skin rubs against the clothes like the neck, waist, hips, and chest. [13]

Malaria is caused by the infective bite of a mosquito. It is spread when the mosquito is carrying one of five different species of a parasite called Plasmodium. The parasite attacks the red blood cells and liver. Even mild malaria is debilitating, causing high temperatures, violent chills, severe body aches, and weakness that could linger for months. Other symptoms of Malaria are headaches and nausea and vomiting. It can also reoccur, flaring up at any time.[14]  Due to the parasite life cycle, patients with P. vivax malaria tend to have recurrent fevers every 42 to 56 hours. P. vivax is sometimes referred to as “tertian fever.” [15]

After Anzio, they pressed on to Rome-Arno, then to Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. The 45th made their 5th amphibious landing when crossing the Rhine in March 1945.

The 45th smashed through the Siegfried Line on March 17 and crossed the Rhine between Worms and Hamm on the 26th.[16] The advance continued with Nuremberg falling on the 20th. The division crossed the Danube River on April 27 and liberated 32,000 captives of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. The division captured Munich during the next two days, occupying the city until V-E Day and the surrender of Germany. During the next month, the division remained in Munich and set up collection points and camps for the massive numbers of surrendering Germans. The number of POWs taken by the 45th Division during its almost two years of fighting totaled 124,840 men.

During World War II, the 45th Division fought in 511 days of combat. Eight soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during their service with the 45th Infantry Division. Sixty-one received Distinguished Service Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, 1,848 Silver Star Medals, 38 Legion of Merit medals, 59 Soldier’s Medals, 5,744 Bronze Star Medals, and 52 Air Medals. The division received seven distinguished unit citations and eight campaign streamers during the conflict, three with Arrowhead.  A bronze embroidered arrowhead is placed ¾ inch before the inscription on the streamer to indicate the unit made a parachute jump into enemy territory, participated in an amphibious landing on enemy territory, or made a helicopter assault landing in enemy held territory as part of an organized force carrying out an assigned tactical mission.[17] The division suffered 3,650 killed in action, 13,729 wounded in action, 3,615 missing in action, 266 captured, and 41,647 non-battle casualties for a total of 62,907 casualties.

Most of the division returned to New York in September 1945, and from there went to Camp Bowie, Texas. The 179th returned on the Aquitania (ship) arriving on September 15. Henry was discharged September 12, 1945.

Henry began working for the Chicago and North Western Railroad on October 8, 1948. He was a trucker and lived in Chicago.[18]

He died at the age of 44 in Chicago on December 14, 1950.[19] He was listed as divorced.


[1] Henry Hofbauer in household of John H Hofbauer, “United States Census, 1910” • FamilySearch

[2] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 – Ancestry.com

[3] Page 1 WWII Draft Registration Cards – Fold3

[4] United States Census, 1940

[5] Hoffbauer, Henry James in U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 – Fold3

[6] Henry James Hoffbauer (1906-1950) – Find a Grave Memorial

[7] The WW2 Medical Detachment Infantry Regiment | WW2 US Medical Research Centre (med-dept.com)

[8] The story of a regiment, a history of the 179th Regimental Combat (bpl.lib.me.us)

[9] 02 Aug 1945, 1 – The Beggs Independent and Okmulgee County Record at Newspapers.com

[10] The story of a regiment, a history of the 179th Regimental Combat (bpl.lib.me.us)

[11] Silent But Deadly: Malaria in WWII – Ordinary Times (ordinary-times.com)

[12] U.S., World War II Hospital Admission Card Files, 1942-1954 – Ancestry.com

[13] What is Furunculosis & How is it Treated? (epainassist.com)

[14] CDC – Malaria – About Malaria – Disease

[15] Plasmodium Vivax Malaria – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

[16] 45th Infantry Division (United States) | Military Wiki | Fandom

[17] Campaign, War Service and Unit Award Streamers – Army Education Benefits Blog (armystudyguide.com)

[18] U.S., Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970 – Ancestry.com

[19] Henry James Hoffbauer, “Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1871-1998” • FamilySearch