Horace Frank Allen, Jr.
|HOME OF RECORD:
|NEXT OF KIN:
Father, Mr. Horace F. Allen, Sr.
|DATE OF BIRTH:
1/22/1943 – 2/1946
1949 – 1951 (Reserve)
|DATE OF DEATH:
Purple Heart with Gold Star
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Horace Allen was born to chauffeur Horace Allen Senior and his wife, Grace, in 1924. He grew up at 200 Vail Street in Northport, Long Island.
Allen enlisted in January, 1943, and trained at Parris Island with the 10th Recruit Battalion. When he finished boot camp, he was ordered to the Reserve Officer’s Class at Quantico–not as a candidate, but as a maintenance worker. In July, 1943 he was promoted to Private First Class, and shortly after was transferred across the country to join Company C, 24th Marines–part of the 4th Marine Division, training at Camp Pendleton, California.
PFC Allen was introduced to combat on February 1, 1944, during the invasion of Namur. The battle lasted only two days, but the Marines still took casualties–one of whom was Allen, slightly wounded by an enemy projectile. He was treated and returned to the company, but got something of a frosty reception. “My captain [Parks] was mad!” he recalled. “I was supposed to be back on the hospital ship, not back on the line.” Young Allen went on to help with mopping up the last resistance and burying the dead. He would have to wait for two months to receive his Purple Heart–but eventually wore it proudly on his uniform at a ceremony at Camp Maui.
During the spring of 1944, Allen’s squad was designated as a demolitions unit, and Allen himself was trained to operate the bulky, dangerous flamethrower. Tactics dictated that was that when a rifle squad ran into a Japanese bunker or fortification they couldn’t subdue, the demo squad would be on call to help out with automatic weapons, TNT, and the flamethrower. In addition to the operational hazards of the weapon, carrying a flamethrower had another consequence: “It made you the least popular guy in the company, in combat anyway. They [the Japanese] would watch for that puff of smoke, and they’d come after you. Nobody wanted to stand next to the guy with the flamethrower.”
When not training, Horace Allen got together with his buddies – Johana Parrish, Adolph Popielarski, Pete Locatelli, Hatley Stanfield, Nelson Burke, Mike Mervosh – for a little relaxation. One clever Marine discovered an answer to Camp Maui’s lack of refrigeration: one could take a case of beer cans, dunk them in aviation gas, and then set them in the sun to dry. The beer would cool instantly–the perfect thing for a hot day, if one didn’t mind the smell of high octane fuel. Allen’s favorite method was to bore a hole in a coconut, fill the cavity with Aqua Velva, and bury it for two days. The resulting cocktail was less refreshing than a cold beer, but “boy was it potent” said Allen. “Knocked your head off.”
In May of 1944, the Fourth Marine Division prepared to ship out for the invasion of Saipan. Embarkation rosters were passed around, and Allen was surprised to find himself listed as “Corporal Horace Allen.” He approached Captain Parks to see if there had been a mistake. No, said the skipper, Allen had been promoted “in the field” for displaying competence and courage in the battle of Namur. The promotion had gone through every necessary approval, but nobody bothered to tell Allen himself. Delighted, the newly minted corporal lost no time in teasing his friends who still carried the rate of Private First Class. At nineteen years of age, he calculated that he was the youngest NCO in Charlie Company.
Corporal Allen landed on Saipan in command of a demolitions team. His memories of the battle itself are understandably jumbled. Taking a ridge. Waiting. Moving forward, slowly. Taking out one bunker, then another. Digging in. A counterattack. Heavy casualties. Artillery. Buddies going down dead or wounded, then being wounded himself on June 18, 1944. The voyage aboard the USS Solace, where he ran into the brother of one of his friends, also wounded in action. And then the hospital at New Caledonia, treatment, and a return to the United States.
There was no chance of returning to combat for Horace Allen. He had worried about losing his unit when he was hit on Namur–it was one of the reasons he went back to the company instead of to the hospital ship. Marines once wounded could be transferred anywhere the Corps so chose, and nobody wanted to be separated from their comrades. But two invasions and two wounds earned Allen his ticket home. Assigned to Camp Lejeune in 1945, he became an instructor at the base demolitions school, training new replacements in the finer points of operating a flamethrower or blowing up a blockhouse.
After the war, Horace Allen returned to his Long Island home. He joined the New York Police Department, decided cop life “wasn’t exciting enough,” and moved to Maine to work as a lumberjack. Allen dutifully reported in when summoned for the Korean War, but was brusquely told “you’ve been wounded too many times, we can’t send you overseas.” Eventually, Allen settled in Windsor County, Vermont, where he served as the sheriff of Pomfret, built his own log cabin within sight of his favorite cross-country ski trail to Suicide Six, and developed an affinity for motorcycles.
Today, Horace Allen is retired and living in Florida. At almost ninety years of age, he finds he “can still get around pretty good” – something of an understatement, as his hobbies still include riding his motorcycle. His voice still carries traces of the Vermont accent that distinguishes a real Green Mountain resident from a mere flatlander. And he has been a regular attendee at Fourth Division reunions, but feels it may be time to pack it in. “At the last one , well, there wasn’t too many of the guys there. You go and see these guys, and you get talking about old times and it helps you sorta put things in order, connect the lines. But when you get down to just three members of the Company… you know, I guess there just aren’t that many of us left.”
All information and quotations herein courtesy of Mr. Horace Allen, telephone interview conducted August 28, 2014.