By Lasca Randels
WINONA LAKE — James Horn of Winona Lake was honored as Veteran of the Month at the Kosciusko County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, June 8.
He was born Nov. 19, 1948, at McDonald’s Hospital in Warsaw to Paul and Joanne (Shearer) Horn, who resided in Bourbon. The family later moved to Plymouth and he graduated from Plymouth High School in 1967.
After graduation, Horn spent a year at Grace College. Rather than enrolling for a second year, he decided to visit the naval recruiting office in South Bend where he aced the test he was given. He signed up that day.
He attended basic training in Waukegan, Ill., where he played trumpet in the Navy band. Horn said there were special privileges for band members, such as not having to work in the mess hall.
While at bootcamp, Horn selected his rating (Yeoman) and ocean (Pacific) and requested to be placed on a submarine.
He attended submarine school for four months in Groton, Conn. After that, he was sent to San Diego, Calif. Horn made the trip out west in his 65’ VW Beetle, which had a broken starter. By parking on a hill each time, Horn had no trouble pushing the VW and popping the clutch to start it.
He attended Yeoman school in San Diego during the summer of 1969. After graduating, he received orders to the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Flasher SSN613, stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
He reported for duty on a Monday morning, just as The Flasher was headed out to a week of war games.
On Horn’s first dive, he received his initiation into submarines. After diving down to 700 feet, the flooding alarm sounded. The flasher, which was 239 feet long and weighed over 4,000 tons, did an emergency blow and headed for the surface.
Needless to say, this was not a smooth ascent to the surface.
Following several months of preparation, The Flasher headed out to sea on a top-secret mission requiring the sub to remain submerged for 65 days.
This mission was a success and each crew member received a Presidential Citation from President Richard Nixon.
Submariners are required to learn all systems of the submarine as well as how to operate it, controlling bearing and depth.
After completing all requirements, the submariner is considered “qualified in submarines” and earns the dolphins uniform breastpin. The Submarines insignia is considered one of the Navy’s three major enlisted warfare pins, along with the Surface Warfare Badge and the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist insignia. Horn passed and became submarine qualified.
After spending a year and a half on The Flasher, Horn received orders to submarine staff Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), which is the principal advisor to the Commander, United States Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT) for submarine matters. He worked for the assistant to Admiral Paul Lacey in the communications department, which was a big deal during the Cold War.
While on staff duty, Horn heard a rumor that a submarine in the Western Pacific needed a Yeoman, so he volunteered and was selected. He was given three hours to pack and board a plane at the Hickman Air Force Base.
Horn was the only sailor on a jet full of soldiers headed for Vietnam. They proceeded to Clark AFB in The Philippines.
Horn joined the crew of The USS Gudgeon SS567, after being initiated by being tossed into Subic Bay waters.
“I was glad I had my tetanus shot,” Horn said.
The Gudgeon was a new experience. Since Horn was on temporary duty, they didn’t have a bunk available for him. His bed was a mattress placed on a torpedo.
The Gudgeon left Subic Bay and patrolled the South Pacific. Diesel submarines can visit ports that nuclear submarines cannot, and The Gudgeon ported at Zamboanga, Philippines; Port Moresby, New Guinea; Brisbane, Australia; and Suva, Fiji.
During the trip south, The Gudgeon passed the equator.
This is a big deal in the Navy. Sailors who have never crossed the equator before are initiated and become “Shellbacks.” A ceremony referred to as “The Order of Neptune” has been a Navy tradition for 400 years.
The initiation was rough for the majority of the crew, but fortunately for Horn, they took it easy on him since he was on temporary duty.
After leaving Fiji, The Gudgeon headed back to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and returned to staff duty at COMSUBPAC.
Horn enjoyed his time in the Navy, but prior to re-enlistment, his father became ill, so Horn returned to Plymouth to help work on the farm.
After his father passed away, Horn’s mother sold the farm. Horn then went to work in the art department at L.M. Berry in Warsaw, creating yellow page ads.
In 1977, he returned to Grace College, graduating in 1981 with a Bachelor’s in Art Education. He received a teaching degree, but chose to pursue a different career.
Horn was hired by Chet Dekko of Dekko Foundation fame. He worked for Group Dekko, starting as an engineer and working his way up to international sales. He had customers in China, Australia, New Zealand and South America. He was influential in opening a Dekko manufacturing plant in Ballina, Ireland.
Horn retired from Dekko after 28 years.
He currently resides in Winona Lake with his wife, Mary. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Horn plays golf and is a member of the American Legion 253 in North Webster.
‘It’s hard to believe you can get an award for something you enjoy,” Horn said after being presented with a certificate at today’s meeting. “I thank everybody for coming here today and I’m thankful for this award.”