Veterans, friends and family gathered Feb. 3 at Rehoboth Beach VFW Post 7447 to offer a Hero’s Welcome Home to World War II veteran Bayard Horn. Rebecca Bristow, a student at Sussex Central High School and a member of A Hero’s Welcome Delaware, saw Horn on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk wearing his Purple Heart hat. She struck up a conversation with him and the two became fast friends. Bristow then began the process for A Hero’s Welcome for Pvt. Bayard Horn.
Horn served with the Army’s 36th Infantry in 1943. After helping to liberate Rome in June 1944, his unit was involved in the invasion of southern France. In August 1944, his entire company was surrounded and captured by the Germans. Shipped off to German POW camps in unmarked boxcars, Horn and several other POWs jumped out of a boxcar during a raid, and he was hit by shrapnel on his leg. German doctors operated in unsanitary conditions and without anesthesia. Lacking medication and suffering from improper nutrition, Horn suffered infections and nearly lost his leg twice. Finally, when he was under the care of a British POW doctor and with antibiotics provided by the Red Cross, his leg was saved and his condition improved.
On April 29-30, 1945, the Army 14th Armored Division liberated the largest German POW camp near Moosburg, Germany. Horn was among the prisoners freed. He was sent to Camp Lucky Strike in France then returned to an Orangeburg, N.Y. hospital for a month to help him recover from his injuries. He then married his childhood sweetheart, Violet, in 1946 and the couple had two children. They moved to Rehoboth in 1971. In 2013, Violet passed away.
Horn’s friend and fellow veteran Denny Aylor (Vietnam ‘63-’66) navigated the military bureaucracy for seven years before the military honor was bestowed on Horn. On Veterans Day in 2014, Horn finally received a Purple Heart for heroism in WWII from Aylor during an informal presentation at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand. The formal presentation was made April 11, 2015, at Rehoboth VFW Post 7447 by retired Brig. Gen. Terry L. Wiley, a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Delaware. The medal was 70 years coming, but Aylor refused to give up hope to get his friend the medal he deserved.
Friends and family say that he never allows the past to define his future, calling him a true American hero who has been through a lot, never complained and remains a joyful person. He enjoys spending time at the VFW and with his friends and family. He was featured in a photo in Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation.”
Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, offered a Delaware General Assembly Tribute, and Rehoboth Beach Commissioner Kathy McGuiness honored him with a certificate of appreciation. Vietnam Veterans of America recognized him for his valor. Maj. Gen. Carol Timmons offered a written welcome home.