Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TFH 11/16: Major Freeman V. Horner, USA

The fourth verse of our national anthem starts with these words:

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.

Freeman Victor Horner was born on June 7, 1922 in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. He served with the 119th Infantry Regiment, part of the 30th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II. The 30th Division landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy on June 11, 1944 as a follow-on reinforcement to the invasion. By November, the division was driving into Germany. The motto of the 119th Regiment was "Undaunted". On November 16, 1944, then Staff Sergeant Freeman Horner demonstrated without any doubt what it means to live up to that motto.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II:


Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company K, 119th Infantry, 30th Infantry Division. Place and date: Wurselen, Germany, 16 November 1944. Entered service at: Shamokin, Pa. Birth: Mount Carmel, Pa. G.O. No.: 95, 30 October 1945. Citation: S/Sgt. Horner and other members of his company were attacking Wurselen, Germany, against stubborn resistance on 16 November 1944, when machinegun fire from houses on the edge of the town pinned the attackers in flat, open terrain 100 yards from their objective. As they lay in the field, enemy artillery observers directed fire upon them, causing serious casualties. Realizing that the machineguns must be eliminated in order to permit the company to advance from its precarious position, S/Sgt. Horner voluntarily stood up with his submachine gun and rushed into the teeth of concentrated fire, burdened by a heavy load of ammunition and hand grenades. Just as he reached a position of seeming safety, he was fired on by a machinegun which had remained silent up until that time. He coolly wheeled in his fully exposed position while bullets barely missed him and killed 2 hostile gunners with a single, devastating burst. He turned to face the fire of the other 2 machineguns, and dodging fire as he ran, charged the 2 positions 50 yards away. Demoralized by their inability to hit the intrepid infantryman, the enemy abandoned their guns and took cover in the cellar of the house they occupied. S/Sgt. Horner burst into the building, hurled 2 grenades down the cellar stairs, and called for the Germans to surrender. Four men gave up to him. By his extraordinary courage, S/Sgt. Horner destroyed 3 enemy machinegun positions, killed or captured 7 enemy, and cleared the path for his company's successful assault on Wurselen. 

Horner later received an officer's commission and continued to serve in our Army. He went to war again for the defense of liberty in Korea. He passed away at age 83 in Columbus, GA on December 1, 2005. He rests with so many of our Nation's honored dead in Arlington National Cemetery.

The remaining words of our anthem's fourth verse are:

Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust;"
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

The 119th Infantry Regiment was disbanded around the year 2000. The 30th Infantry Division, nicknamed "Old Hickory" in honor of Andrew Jackson, became a unit of the North Carolina Army National Guard until its deactivation on January 4, 1974. The "Old Hickory" lineage lives on in the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, part of the National Guard from both North Carolina and West Virginia. The 30th HBCT has deployed twice to Iraq, first in 2004 and again in 2009. Thanks to the brave citizen-soldiers of today, and great heroes of yesterday like Freeman Horner, we are assured that the Star-Spangled Banner will continue to wave in triumph.

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