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WWII veteran remembers D-Day
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Seventy years ago today, more than 160 thousand Allied troops landed along 50 miles of Nazi fortified French coastline. Among them was a Southeast Texas native.
Arlie Ray Horn was born in Magnolia Springs, Texas. His older brother was drafted into the Air Force, and he wanted to go with him.
"My daddy went to the draft board and he said, 'don't take both of them at the same time,'" said Horn.
About 5 or 6 months later, 19 year old Horn was drafted. He was special forces assigned to the 29th division, 175th infantry regiment. Days before the D-Day invasion, he and the other troops were taken to a barracks.
"Our company commander got up and told us, 'this is it fellows,'" said Horn. "And then they showed us all the pictures of where we were going to hit... To study the pictures and kind of get ourselves oriented to what we were gonna look at and see when we got there. And as I said earlier, I thought, I know what it is to sit on death row."
Before setting out for the beaches of Normandy, Horn says they had quite a meal prepared for them.
"I looked down and had all this food stretched out in front of us, on tables, ice cream and all kinds of stuff I hadn't eaten the whole time I'd been in England," said Horn.
Because of bad weather, the Allies couldn't land the morning of June 5th, the day D-Day was originally planned for. They returned the morning of June 6, and landed at 6:30 a.m.
Horn was a platoon sergeant, with about 40 men in his outfit. They landed on Omaha Beach.
"When your life is on the line, and I had my people in my platoon, a lot of people there would be crying, and, 'don't make me do this or do that,' you know. And I said, 'don't worry about it. Stay behind me,'" said Horn.
He tried to keep up his men's courage by not showing his own fear. "But the good Lord gave me one thing that I thank him for. I was probably as scared as anybody, but I didn't show it," said Horn. "So, that was one good thing."
Thousands of Allied troops died on the beaches of Normandy. Survivors continued to face danger.
"Twenty-four hours a day, anytime a day, you could be killed," said Horn. "If you slept any you'd be standing up in a foxhole some place. When bombs hit the ground you'd be in a hole."
He was later sent home for 30 days, in December of 1944. He returned to Western Europe in January of 1945.
"It was something about wanting to be a part of something. It's just in you. I had left my people to come home," said Horn. "We had fought together, the ones that were still there, and I felt like I was a part of them and I just wanted to be back with them."
He'll carry the memories of war his entire life.
"The war itself, it's just in your mind, it will always be there," said Horn. "I've seen some of the worst things that could be done to human beings. And how the Germans treated the ones they had in all those detention centers over there. You know, starved them to death. And to see men, and women, and children, and old people with no clothes on and just bones walking around. It's sad."
Now, Horn is 89 years old. He's glad to have come home, and seventy years after D-Day, sit and visit with his grandson.
"You're my hero Pa-Paw," said his grandson, Seth Danna, sitting on the couch next to his grandfather. "I'm proud to have you as a grandpa. Proud to be a part of the family. I know I wouldn't be here if you hadn't made it off that beach. That's a fact."
"I love you boy, thank you," said Horn, clasping his grandson's hand.
Horn was shot three times during World War II, and earned three Purple Hearts. He also earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and is in the process of earning the French Legion of Honor.