By BRAD KELLAR
GREENVILLE — Reprinted from the Dec. 7, 2011 Herald-Banner:
As America pauses today to remember the 70th anniversary of the “Day Of Infamy”, a local man wants to make sure Hunt County remembers the name of who may have been the first county resident killed during World War II.
William Caldwell of Greenville said James Albert Horner was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“That’s my wife’s brother,” Caldwell said.
The distinction, however, depends on how you look at things. Another Hunt County native also died at Pearl Harbor, in a valiant act of heroism.
Most local histories note the name of Lt. Truett Majors as the first Hunt County native to perish in World War II. He was the first to have been killed in action after the war was officially declared. Majors was killed in the 1942 Battle of the Philippines in January 1942. The airport in Greenville began operations on June 26, 1942, as a training center for the United States Army Air Forces and was named Majors Field in his honor.
But Caldwell refers to an article from “Memories in Blue and White”, the History of the Celeste Schools. The book, written and edited by Sarah Swindell, David Kent and Vickie Griffis, which told of Horner’s death as reported in the Leonard Graphic newspaper.
“That’s where I got the story,” Caldwell said.
The article notes that Horner had sailed for Hawaii in November 1941 as an aviation mechanic for the Army Air Force. Horner, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry M. Horner of the Prairie Hill Community, about halfway between Celeste and Leonard in Fannin County, and had graduated from Celeste High School in 1938.
Horner was a PFC serving in the HQ Squadron with the 11th Bombardment Group and was killed in the attack on Hickam Field. Horner is buried in the Leonard Cemetery.
The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese killed more than 2,400 Americans, with 1,282 wounded.
Horner may not have been the first Hunt County casualty, as newspaper records show Campbell (some records say Lone Oak) native Fred Kenneth Moore, a seaman first class, was also killed at Pearl Harbor.
Moore was on board the USS Arizona and accounts show he remained at his station on antiaircraft gun No. 1 in spite of orders to take cover when the Japanese strafing became severe. With two other members of the gun crew, he assisted in keeping the gun in operation until he was killed by an explosion. Moore was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross “for distinguished service, extraordinary courage and devotion to duty, and disregard for his own safety.” The USS Moore was named in his honor.
Caldwell and his wife Louise have spoken about Horner before, but with today’s milestone anniversary, he wanted to make another effort to clarify Horner’s place in Hunt County history.
“I agree Majors was the first Greenville boy,” Caldwell said. “If people were going to write a story they should have the story correct.”