Identical twins celebrate 99th birthdays, share WWII stories

PROVO — Ralph and Boyd Henderson didn’t ever want to be remembered as war heroes.

“They get very uncomfortable when you talk about awards or anything of that nature,” said Lon Henderson, Ralph’s son. When he asks his dad about his World War II service, Ralph Henderson says he just went and did his job and came home.

The identical twin brothers celebrated their 99th birthdays on Wednesday. Friends and family members traveled from far and wide to throw a birthday party for the two of them in Provo on Saturday. They sang birthday songs and shared stories of when the brothers served together in World War II.

“It’s joyous to be here, but to see the last of the World War II veterans leave, it’s sad,” Lon Henderson said. “Their spirits still, I believe, are blessing this great country.”

Boyd Henderson was born on Sept. 6, 1918, in Arimo, Idaho. His twin brother, Ralph, followed almost two hours later. The family moved to Pocatello a few years after the stock market crashed in 1929. The brothers grew up together working at their father’s feed store, and their mother budgeted $3 a week to buy groceries for the family.

The twins graduated from Pocatello High School in 1936 and attended a year of college. About that time, the brothers were considering serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

But everything changed when Ralph’s draft number was read on the radio in 1941. Boyd decided to join his brother in enlisting in the National Guard, in the 183 Field Artillery Battalion.

After training at Fort Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Boyd Henderson took a three-day leave to marry Ethel Chilton in the Salt Lake Temple.

Ralph Henderson joined a convoy headed to defend the West Coast after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. The convoy stopped to refuel in Pocatello, where Ralph had fewer than four hours to marry his high school sweetheart, Lena Rawlins.

“If I got killed,” he said, “she could get my insurance. I wanted her to have it.”

Throughout the war, the brothers tried to keep track of one another as they served in parts of North Africa and Europe. Though the twins were assigned to different companies within the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, they were often unaware whether the other one was alive.

“I worried to death until I finally found him and we talked together. What a great…

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