Friday May 27 2011
World War II vet recalls battle on two fronts
By: Eileen Wilson Press Tribune Correspondent
Horne served under generals Patton and MacArthur in Europe, Pacific
Memorial Day is a day for honoring heroes, and Roseville hero Lloyd Horne is one of our country’s finest. With a firm jaw and a trace of good humor in his flinty blue eyes, a decades-old photograph of Horne, along with a picture box filled with shining medals, commands the wall. The photo, shot in 1933, features Horne in his blue, Class-A uniform — a boy who promised to do a man’s job — and did. The medals — Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart among them — tell of a man who is selfless, serving his fellow man and his country. Today, at 94, Horne’s story is one of the true American heroes who served under two famous generals, and in two vastly different parts of the world, before settling down in Roseville. Horne served in his high school’s ROTC program, and always knew he wanted to join the army when he grew up. “I wanted to see the world,” Horne said. He signed up at 17, after lying about his age and began his career in Tien Sien, China. “At that time, I had no idea where Tien Sien was,” Horne said. “I had to get an atlas to see what part of the world I was headed to. I was detailed with the 16th Infantry to rescue missionaries that were being trapped there. It was like they were prisoners — they couldn’t even come out of their billets without getting fired on or having rocks thrown at them.” Though Horne and his group rescued 38 missionaries — mostly women, they lost two men, a fact that leaves him saddened, still. Horne decided to go to paratrooper school, and obtained his Airborne training with the 82nd Division, and was later splintered off to the 101st. “They taught us how to jump out of airplanes — how not to be afraid,” he said. “They didn’t know if the Germans were going to use gas or not, so we trained for that, too.” General Patton had a plan for the members of the 101st — to head to France in preparation for a battle with Germany. Horne recalls the time he carefully navigated his way through a French war zone. “We had been in a minefield, and the men were following behind in my footsteps,” Horne said. “I was about a mile ahead of my company and a runner caught up and said, ‘the old man’ (that’s what we called our commander) was hurt. I took a medic back with me — I didn’t know how bad the commander was hurt.” Horne described the horrific scene. “He had stepped on a mine — it blew his left leg off. When I got there, I took all my gear off and got him. He was screaming and bleeding — I took the webbed belt off my waist and used it as a tourniquet. He had lost a lot of blood and he was scared to death.” Horne saved his commander’s life that day, but was unable to save the leg — though he went back, at medics’ request, to retrieve the severed limb. “They gave me a Silver Star for saving his life,” Horne said. Numerous missions were to follow, including a drop on Normandy on June 5, 1944 — the day before D-Day. “He was in Patton’s Army at the time,” said B.T. Lewis, Horne’s friend and fellow Veteran. “The paratrooper mission was the night before the invasion of Normandy. They went ahead of the invasion, in enemy territory, to facilitate the landing.” Horne reports that his unit was attempting to take Orly Field, which was occupied by the German Luftwaffe as a combat airfield. “They were firing at us with machine guns,” Horne said. “I felt a bullet tear into my leg and I was knocked backwards.” It was a blow that took Horne down, but not for long. After spending time on a hospital ship, “a big, white beautiful ship,” as he describes the U.S.S. United States, Horne headed back to the action. B.T. Lewis explained. “MacArthur had a program where they were deploying men in the Pacific to get ready for the invasion of Japan,” he said. “Because Lloyd’s unit was so experienced, MacArthur used the men to jump onto the islands in advance of the invasion of the Pacific.” Lewis said that the fact that paratroopers were used to prepare the Pacific islands for invasion is not widely known. “I’ve never seen anything written about it,” Lewis said. “Lloyd was with a group of about 600 men who were island hopping, getting the islands ready.” Horne explained that his unit was billeted on a ship a few days before an Air Force group would strafe an island, then the 101st would drop in. “By the time we got there, the residents were ready to give up. We were lucky; my platoon only lost two men,” Horne said. Of the 28 islands in the area, Horne and his unit were on 19 of them. “It was kind of a unique club we had — men who have been in both theaters,” Horne said. A unique club that still gathers when they’re able, though their numbers are dwindling. “Only about 2,500 of us served in both European and Pacific theaters,” Horne said. Under MacArthur’s command, Horne considers the famous general a role model and a hero. “He was a grand general,” Horne said. “Whatever he wanted to do, he would just do it.” Horne said he will always value the military part of his life, but he values his years spent with his late wife, his daughter, Linda Soto, his grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.