COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — In our special report on Heroes of Tennessee, we salute veteran George Horne for his service to our country during WWII.
It was 1944, and Horne had just turned 18. He was working at a grocery store in rural Columbia. Until the war, that was the only town he ever knew.
“We were mostly country people, and really that was the best kind.”
Months after graduation, Horne would leave that small hometown behind to train. He learned about military law, how to abandon ship, and shoot.
“Target pops up and you shoot at it. That was the learning stages of it. I enjoyed it, really,” said Horne. “I never really had any fear. I felt like it was something that I had to do. So, really, I wasn’t scared.”
Horne was on a liberty ship, which left Massachusetts for England. Soon reality would set in when crossing the English Channel to France.
“They said, ‘nearly every time we cross the English Channel, we lose a ship.’ Now, that’s when I started getting scared,” said Horne. “About midnight, the biggest explosion you ever heard went off. And I looked up to see where the water was coming in. I just knew we had been hit.”
Fortunately, they had not. Horne later learned that the Americans were dropping bombs in hopes of scaring off the enemy. But at the time, Horne had no idea.
“That’s the thing about a private in the Army, they didn’t know anything. They didn’t want them to know anything. Evidently, because they never told him anything, except go right yonder here or go right there.”
April 1945, Horne arrived in France and was assigned a Jeep but not like any Jeep he had seen. On the front of it was a long pole sticking up into the air; it was a wire catcher.
“I said, ‘what’s that on there for?’ He said, ‘that’s to keep your head on. ‘ He laughed. What it was was the Germans were stringing piano wire across the road. It was just high enough that when you went under there, you get your head,” said Horne, running his finger across his neck. “So, that’s the reason that was put on there.”
Horne used that Jeep behind enemy lines where his role was to secure small German villages that had lost all contact with the outside world. History tells us that these weeks were the twilight hours of the war. But, for Horne living it, he had no idea how WWII would end.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. They come over the loud speaker on the ship that they dropped the atomic bomb. We were saying, ‘what the hell are they talking about? They’ve been dropping bombs for five years,'” said Horne.
“You didn’t know what that meant?” we asked Horne.
WWII would soon be over. And Horne returned to his hometown and his family.
“It’s like if you’ve been working under pressure or something for 4, 5 months or a year doing real hard work, and scared to death. And it was all over,” said Horne. “Yeah, it was worth it.”
Horne’s military service continued for decades with the Tennessee National Guard, American Legion Post 19, and eventually Brigadier General of the Tennessee Defense Force.