Francis (Hank)Henggeler was born and raised on a farm in Northwest Missouri. From an early age he knew thathe wanted to fly. In order to be a pilot in the Army Air Corps, one was required to have a college degree.Hank had two years of college completed when he found out that he could join as an enlisted man and after oneyear of service apply for pilot school. Rather than complete his college degree, he decided to join and takehis chances that he could get into pilot school a year earlier.
Hank enlisted in 1936 and was assigned to radio school at Chanute Field. After one year of service, he was acceptedat pilot school. He went on to become a flight instructor. He was instructing B-17 pilots at Gowen Field, ID when ChesterCox selected him to be the original commander of the 563rd Squadron. After that he organized and trained his nine original crews before being they were all deployed to Knettishall.
Flying across the Atlantic was risky business in those days. Not only was the navigation equipment very primitivebut the B-17 did not have a very long range. There was limit room for any navigation error. At that time (June 1943) each B-17 that ferried over to England flew alone because formation flying required too much precious fuel. Hank did not have a crew but flew the 563rd support staff in an old B17-E named Lighting Strikes (42-3073)A navigator was assigned specifically for the trans Atlantic flight. On the hop from Greenland to Iceland, Hank felt that the heading given by the navigator was incorrect. Once they were due south of Iceland, he was able todetect a radio beam and turned the aircraft north to Iceland. Had he not done that they would have surely ditchedin the middle of the Atlantic.
Hank flew 27 combat missions and many of those as deputy or group commander. His most memorable missions wereas group commander to Brux, Czechslovakia, as deputy commander on D-Day and to Poltava, Russia.