Colonel Thomas Henry, who served his country during three wars — World War II, Korea, and Vietnam — and as an Army Ranger and in Special Forces Operations, will be laid to rest on July 28 at Riverside National Cemetery.

Henry, 89, who died peacefully at his home in Palm Springs on June 29, is credited with co-founding Delta Force, an elite Army unit used for hostage rescue and terrorism response. Its counterpart is the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, often referred to as SEAL Team Six. These two groups are the U.S. military’s premier counterterrorism units.

According to historical reports, in late August 1976, a conference was conducted at the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, to examine the role of the light infantry division. During this conference, it was suggested the Army should organize a unit similar to the British Special Air Service. That formed in 1941 to engage in covert reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, direct action, hostage rescue and human intelligence gathering.

Colonel Charlie Beckwith, commandant of the Special Forces School, and Colonel Henry were assigned the task of developing this special force. During the many months of development, Colonel Beckwith suggested the name of Delta, which was approved. On Nov. 19, 1977, Delta Force was activated.

Henry, a 33-year Army veteran, was an enlisted man during World War II, where he served in the Pacific Theater of Operations. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of Tech Sergeant. In 1948, while serving in the reserves, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1949 and in 1950, while working on his graduate degree in geology, and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.

While serving as the Senior U.S. Army Advisor to the Imperial Iranian Ground forces, he and his wife were the target of a Communist terrorists briefcase bomb attempt. This incident sparked his interest in terrorist operations, culminating in his work establishing Delta Force as the primary U.S. Army antiterrorist unit.


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