Raised in a small Kentucky city named Georgetown, Horace spent a lot of his time on the family farm. He attended public schools and played football in high school, graduating in 1941. Being a fairly big young man with some talent he did rather well. He attended Riverside Academy for a year where he also played football, and then went on to the University of Kentucky at nearby Lexington.
After spending over a year at the University, Horace was offered an opportunity to train as a Naval officer, but he did not want to wait to serve his country; he went to Cincinnati and enlisted in the Army.
Before Horace was shipped out he married Jeanne Armour Valleau, whose father was a professor of agriculture at the University.
Because of his background with horses at his dad’s farm, Horace was assigned to a cavalry unit about the middle of May, 1943. And soon he was shipped out to the South Pacific in a convoy of ships which zig-zagged its way across the ocean. The convoy was dogged by Japanese submarines, which sank the ship that carried the horses.
Horace was assigned to the 112th Cavalry. (Known as the “Little Giant of the Pacific,” the 112th Cavalry Regiment, part of the 56th Cavalry Brigade, Texas National Guard, was mobilized for active duty on 18 November 1940.) With this unit Horace began a two and a half year tour of wild and fierce battles with the Japanese on Pacific Islands, including New Britain (Jan.-June, 1944), New Guinea (Jun. 19-July 26, 1944), and Luzon (May-Aug, 1945) in the Philippines.
A writer on the Internet recalled, “. . .on 15 December 1943, MacArthur’s forces crossed the straits and invaded Arawe on the western tip of New Britain. The 112th Cavalry Regiment tried to surprise the enemy at Arawe by a predawn attack in rubber rafts. Although Japanese gunners shot the flimsy boats to pieces and repulsed this diversionary assault, the 112th’s main force did get ashore by more conventional means. After suffering through numerous Japanese air raids, the 112th repulsed a Japanese counterattack at the end of the month and eventually pushed the enemy away from its perimeter. Thereafter the cavalrymen, despite the swampy ground and thick mud fed by almost continuous tropical rains, successfully performed every task that the limited nature of their mission allowed.”
At one time, Horace and a few others were cut off by the Japanese in a jungle for about twenty-five days. Surrounded, wounded (July 22, 1944), and rained on every day at four P.M. The Japs attacked in planes just as their foxholes had 6-8 inches of water in them. The soldiers suffered foot-rot, malaria, and clothes that never dried. At night when they stretched out to rest they could see by large leaves that glowed with phosphorous a Japanese soldier sneaking their way. They were frightened, starved and almost captured, but they did not give up. When they were rescued, Horace was sent back for recuperation from his wounds.
After recovering from his injuries (Nov. 30, 1944), Horace went back into battle when he was 21 years old, a battle-hardened veteran. He was made a staff sergeant and given a group of teen- age boys whom he directed in battle. The terrible conflicts they took part in are described in various places on the Internet by several of those Americans who survived them. He went on to be part of the occupation army in Japan during September of 1945.
Horace returned to Georgetown in October of 1945. With Jeanne he began a varied career that centered itself around their family and their family farm with its historical background. (If it weren’t the farm begun by his ancestor in 1784, it was very close to that farm.) He and Jeanne had two daughters, Carol and Susan. He lost Jeanne to cancer about 1975.
Horace never quit serving his community. He was a deacon in the First Christian church and was in its choir for thirty-nine years. On the board for education for twelve years, Horace served on the committee to integrate Georgetown schools. He was also on the Scott County draft board and was a director of the First National Bank and the Georgetown Cemetery. He was fortunate during the last twenty-nine years of his life to have his good friend Nancy Phares to share the hours with. He was blessed with grandchildren and good health almost until the end.
Not allowing the misery, death and destruction of the war to get him down, Horace maintained high lifetime standards. He did not whine, sue, complain and make false accusations against the president; he just went to work on the rest of his life as did so many other brave, heroic soldiers after the WWII.
The great General George S. Patton was fond of the term “Full Duty.” Here, in his words, is what he meant: “Each, in his appropriate sphere, will lead in person. Any commander who fails to obtain his objective, and who is not dead or severely wounded, has not done his full duty.”
Horace Grover Gaines did his Full Duty. He was a brave fighting man. Afterwards, he was a useful, contributor to society. What more can a nation ask of its citizens?
Born November 20, 1923, Horace died October 14, 2006