Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 25 September 1923, Henry Hodges turned down his acceptance to Stanford University to volunteer, in 1943, to serve in the US Army. Trained as an artillery repairman, he joined the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale, Colorado. Seriously injured, he recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, and was medically discharged in 1944.
Hodges soon turned to a career and a passion that he would pursue for the rest of his life, developing off-road, wheeled vehicles. In 1946 he joined his father's company, Wetmore Hodges and Associates, as Director of Laboratory and Field Service. In 1953, his company established and managed the Detroit Arsenal Test Operation for the US Army at Camp Bullis, Texas, with Hodges as Director. He tested combat vehicles from jeeps to main battle tanks on a series of courses replicating beach heads, desert dunes, mountain trails, and mud pits.
In 1957, the Detroit Arsenal Test Operation was closed, but the test programs were transferred to Nevada, where Hodges and a staff of four established the Nevada Automotive Test Center. He continued his work conducting vehicle testing for the US Army, with a staff that grew to more than 60 employees by 1968 and 200 by 2007. Hodges served as President and, starting in 1988, Chief Executive Officer of the test center.
Hodges not only developed new and better ways to test vehicle mobility, but also pioneered in new technologies for off-road vehicles and tires. He wrote more than 100 technical reports, many on the performance of vehicles being developed by the Army, to included jeeps, the GOER, the Twister, the Heavy Equipment Transporter, the Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle, and the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), among others. He was responsible for important developments in tire technology, championing the use of radial ply tires, devising new techniques for testing tires using high speed film and flash x-rays, and playing a key role in developing the Central Tire Inflation System, whereby tire pressures can be adjusted from inside the vehicle.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hodges was instrumental in developing the concept of independent suspension systems. In the early 1970s, he introduced his Vehicle Dynamics Seminars, which taught military and civilian drivers how to maintain control during a tire blow out. In 1976, he built a Dynamic Force Measurement Vehicle that recorded forces acting on the vehicle and tires under a wide range of conditions. His test center played a pivotal role in developing the HMMWV, and Hodges personally drove a HMMWV across much of China and Asia and reported his findings.
During Operation DESERT SHIELD Hodges joined a team that analyzed the terrain in northern Saudi Arabia to determine if it would support the passage of large armored forces. The team's report on soils and terrain was instrumental in developing the famous "Left Hook" plan to envelop Iraqi forces. After devoting a lifetime to enhancing cross-country, wheeled-vehicle mobility, a capability vital to our Army, Henry Hodges, Sr., died on 16 June 2007 at age 83.