James R. Hendrix, 77, an Arkansas farm boy who in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II braved hostile gunfire to save fellow soldiers and take a dozen Germans prisoner, actions for which he received the Medal of Honor, died Nov. 14 at his home in Davenport, Fla. He had throat cancer.
Within a span of hours on Dec. 26, 1944, then-Pvt. Hendrix -- a 19-year-old with an elementary school education and good hunting skills -- performed the feats for which he was presented with the nation's highest award for valor.
He had been in the Army about a year when was sent on a mission to Belgium to rescue paratroopers hemmed in at a garrison in Bastogne.
As his armored halftrack was moving along a road, the vehicle came under attack. Mr. Hendrix jumped out, but the rest of the squad was killed.
On foot and with a rifle to defend himself, he ran to the base of a thick hedge. Looking up, he saw to his astonishment the firing end of two German 88mm long-range guns.
He later recalled that he was nervous, sweating even in deep snow that brutal winter.
As American troops' guns began pounding that area, the Germans' gun crews jumped into foxholes. When the Allied guns stopped, Mr. Hendrix leapt out, began firing fiercely and then yelled in Southern-accented German for the enemy to surrender.
The Germans crept out of the foxholes with their hands up and were turned over to the advancing Allies.
Afterward, Mr. Hendrix came to the aid of two wounded Allied soldiers. He silenced two German machine-gun nests and held the enemy at bay until the injured men were evacuated.
Later still that day, he helped another soldier escape from a burning halftrack.
"Braving enemy sniper fire and exploding mines and ammunition in the vehicle, he extricated the wounded man and extinguished his flaming clothing, thereby saving the life of his fellow soldier," his Medal of Honor citation from 1945 said.
Never wounded, he was one of the few Medal of Honor recipients ineligible for the Purple Heart. He did not mind.
"I never got wounded," he told a reporter. "That's really what made Christmas great for me."
After the war, he stayed in the Army. He made headlines again, in 1949, for a near-deadly mishap while training as a paratrooper at Fort Benning, Ga.
His main parachute became ensnared in his boot buckles, and the emergency chute got caught up in the main chute. He cried out in terror as he fell, hoping the remaining flapping silk would save him. Moments before hitting the ground, he formed a "V" with his body -- keeping head and feet high, grabbing his ankles.
He landed on his back in a plowed field, cushioned enough by the remnants of the chutes to escape with severe bruises but nothing more serious.
The press of the day called it a "miracle fall," and Mr. Hendrix never discounted the power of prayer in his ordeal. His drop was featured in a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" cartoon.
He also served in the Korean War as a paratrooper.
James Richardson Hendrix was a native of Lepanto, Ark., where his parents were sharecroppers.
He completed high school during his Army career, which took him to Germany during the Cold War. He retired from the military in 1966 as a master sergeant and moved to Florida. He held a succession of odd jobs, from security guard to truck driver.
Survivors include his wife; four daughters; two sisters; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.