Henry Hoffstot went to Harvard and when he was drafted into the Army in December 1942 and joined the 44th Infantry Division as an infantryman. He later entered the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), and then he was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska for several months to study German. With such skills, Henry was then placed in the highly secretive Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC).
Henry’s CIC unit went throughout Germany occupying villagers’ houses and gathering information. On one mission, his unit received word that Magnus von Braun and his brother wanted to surrender. When the pair came down from the mountains to turn themselves in, it was Henry’s job to guard the prisoners. As a surprise to everyone, the CIC men had captured the famed German rocket scientist and missile commander, Wernher von Braun. As history shows, the capture was the beginning of Braun’s eventual journey out of Germany and into the American rocket program, where he became the father of the Saturn V rocket that launched the US into space and onto the moon.
Acclimating back into society in 1946 and leading a productive life after the war was a natural thing for Henry to do. Since the war he has had quite a distinguished career as a lawyer. Well into his nineties, he still goes to the office and serves on the board at Phipps Conservatory. However, above all his military and professional accomplishments, Henry’s greatest pride is in his children and grandchildren.
In April 2014, WWII veteran Henry Hoffstot joined us for our second veterans oral history educational project at Winchester-Thurston School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was part of our effort to work with teachers and students to provide an interesting workshop covering the oral history process, appropriate interview questions, special considerations when interviewing veterans, active listening skills, and oral history ethics.
The Final Story
Henry Phipps Hoffstot, Jr. died peacefully on June 29, 2015 at his home on Fifth Avenue. As was his wish, he died in the same bedroom where his mother had died nearly half a century ago. He was 97. Mr. Hoffstot was born on Dunmoyle Street in Pittsburgh on November 13, 1917, the second son of Henry Phipps Hoffstot and Marguerite Martin. He attended Misses Bradshaws’ School on School House Lane and was graduated from Shady Side Academy in 1935, Harvard College in 1939, and Harvard Law School in 1942.
He served in the United States Army from 1942-1946 as a Second Lieutenant in the Counter Intelligence Corps and was credited with the arrest of Werner von Braun.
He joined Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay in 1942, where he was Assistant Managing Partner from 1972 to 1983. He remained at the firm for seventy-three years, going to the office regularly until the end of 2014. In 1947, he married Barbara Snyder Drew, daughter of Mary Snyder and James Byron Drew, Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They had two children, a daughter, Thayer Drew, and a son, Henry Phipps Hoffstot III, who is married to the former Daryln Upson Todd Brewer. Mr. Hoffstot had five grandchildren: Ian Hoffstot Unterman; Megan Drew; Dominey Drew; Henry Fife Hoffstot; and Maeve Upson Hoffstot. Mr. Hoffstot served on numerous boards, including Carnegie Institute, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Phipps Conservatory, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the American Museum in Britain, the Morewood-Shadyside Civic Association, St. Edmund’s Academy, the Visiting Nurse Foundation, Family and Children’s Services, The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, among many others. He was director of the Pennsgrove Water Supply Company and the Heppenstall and Midvale-Heppenstall Companies. Over the course of five decades, he served as a Deacon, Elder, President of the Board of Trustees, Ruling Elder, and Clerk of the Session of Shadyside Presbyterian Church. He had homes in Pittsburgh, New Waterford, Ohio, Palm Beach, Florida, and County Galway, Ireland.