06 January, 2013

Henry Mucci


Henry Andrews Mucci was a colonel in the United States Army Rangers. In January 1945, during World War II, he led a force of 121 Army Rangers on a mission which rescued 513 survivors of the Bataan Death March from Cabanatuan Prison Camp, despite being heavily outnumbered. It is widely considered the most successful rescue mission in the history of the United States military.

Mucci was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to parents who had emigrated from Sicily, Italy. Henry came from a family of 10 siblings. Two of his brothers also served in the Army and Navy during the Second World War, while his sisters worked at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in America and made bazookas in factories.

He enrolled at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, graduating 246th of 275 in his class in May 1936. While at West Point he participated in lacrosse and, due to his early years growing up with horses, was on the equestrian team.

In February 1943, the US Sixth Army put Mucci in charge of the 98th Field Artillery Battalion, previously a mule-drawn pack artillery unit. Mucci announced that the Battalion was being converted from Field Artillery to Rangers, downsized the battalion from 1,000 men to 500, and held a training camp in New Guinea where he utilized commando type training techniques for over a year. Thus, Mucci created a new battalion of Army Rangers. Mucci survived the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the liberation of the Philippines, General Walter Kreuger and one of his top men, Col. Horton White, chose Mucci to head the liberation of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp due to both the difficulty and the peculiar needs of such a mission.

In January 1945, Mucci led 121 Army Rangers in liberating the Cabanatuan Prison Camp with the loss of only 2 men killed in action. Mucci refused to sit back on the mission and joined his soldiers on the ground in combat, an unusual position for a colonel.  The raid was supported by some 250 Filipino guerrillas, many of whom were unarmed, who guided the Rangers through Japanese held territory and held off Japanese reinforcements while the American Rangers freed the POWs. For Mucci's actions in the raid he was personally awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.

Mucci returned home as a national hero in his home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  He ran for Congress in 1946 but was defeated. He became the President of Bridgeport Lincoln Mercury as well as becoming an oil representative in India. In November 1974, the portion of Route 25 between Bridgeport and Newtown was named the Col. Henry A. Mucci Highway.

Colonel Mucci died at age 88 in Melbourne, Florida, on April 20, 1997.


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