Horn remembers Pearl Harbor Day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 8, 1999

Features Editor

Dec. 7, 1999 10 PM

December 7 will live in infamy. However, that day was the beginning, not an ending.

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On that day, the United States was drawn into a world war that would claim the lives of 405,399 Americans before it ended.

On that day, many young men suddenly changed the direction of their lives and marched off to serve their country.

Ray Horn, Sr. was one of those young men.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Horn was attending an air show at the grass airfield in Troy. The 19-year-old was having a great time watching the daring feat of Wilmer Ivory.

"Ivory had announced that he was going to put on an air show and, on one of the passes, he was going to get out of the cockpit and sit on the wing," Horn said. "He came by a couple of times and we thought he had chickened out. But the next time he came by, he was out on the wing."

Ivory’s wife was standing near Horn and announced, "If he doesn’t get killed up there, I’m going to kill him when he gets home!"

Everyone was having a good time of that sunny December Sunday.

B. F. Goodrich demonstrated the toughness of their inner tubes by stretching one between two cars capping off the excitement of the day – or so everyone thought.

The came the news that would change the mood of the country and the lives of everyone.

"Somebody came out and said they had heard on their car radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor," Horn said, adding that a hush fell over the crowd and it began to disburse. "Everybody just wanted to go home. I started walking toward mine."

The next morning, Horn went to his place of work and told his boss at Whaley’s Lumber Company that he was going to enlist.

"I went down and joined the Navy with my friend Bryant Mathews," he said. "The took us to Montgomery and on to Birmingham and then to San Diego for boot training. In eight weeks, I was a Pearl Harbor."

What Horn saw was the devastation of the Japanese attack. What he felt was the gloom of the death.

"They had just started raising the ships that the Japanese sunk when I got there," Horn said. "That was a sad sight, knowing that all of those men had died. When they pulled those ships from the water, the smell of death was everywhere. It was awful to see all of that."

Horn said the bodies were taken from the raised ships and buried at sea.

"They could never raise the USS Arizona because a bomb went down its smokestack and it was damaged so bad," he said. "It sank in 40 feet of water and I was assigned to the Command Air Force Pacific Fleet and my job was really as an admiral escort. As we took admirals back and forth across the harbor, we could see the Arizona at low tide."

More than 1,000 crewmen were killed aboard the USS Arizona and most of them are still entombed within, Horn said.

"They have built a memorial to the Arizona," Horn said. "It spans the mid-portion of the sunken ship. I wish I could go there and see it. It would mean a lot to me being back there and paying my respects to those who lost their lives."

The USS Arizona Memorial has become a monument to all military personnel killed in the Pearl Harbor attack. The memorial is a military cemetery and shrine to the memory of those who gave their lives.

"I know that everybody remembers Dec. 7," Horn said. "I’ll never forget it and I’ll never forget the days that came after. I hope none of us ever forget those that died at Pearl Harbor and in all of the other battles in all the wars."