Thurman W. Horton
Biography: Thurman Woody Horton was born on January 10, 1916 in Leslie, Georgia. He was the son of John Nicholes and Effie Jenkins Horton and graduated from Clarkton High School in North Carolina. His father worked for the railroad so the family had moved around in the Georgia, North and South Carolina areas before finally settling in Clarkton, NC.
After leaving school, Thurman worked for the T.A. Loving Company, a large construction company, and in 1940, they were awarded the contract to expand the Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina. The company employed 23,000 people at their peak and gained other military projects, including the Marine Corp Air Station at Cherry Point, Pope Air Force Base, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Camp Butner, the US Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, FL, Bomber Command Base in Wilmington, Camp Davis, and Camp Lejeune. Thurman's specialty was sign painting, which at that time was all done by hand.
Service Time: Thurman entered the service on January 14, 1941, at Fort Bragg, NC. He was assigned to Company A of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion in December of 1942. After being activated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, on December 15, 1941, the 630th moved to Fort Hood, Texas, for their primary training with the TDs. They received additional training at Camp Bowie, Texas, Camp Blanding, Florida, and Camp Rucker, Alabama. They also participated in the Tennessee Maneuvers in March through June of 1943. During his training, Thurman qualified as a Sharpshooter with the .30 Cal. Carbine and an Expert with the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun.
The now Sgt. Thurman W. Horton was featured in an article about the tank destroyers in the national magazine, Popular Science. The five page article contained a number of of photos of Thurman and his crew and did a nice job of describing the training and mission of the TDs. Thurman was shown in full color on the cover of the magazine. In addition to Thurman, other members of his crew included driver Pfc. Morris Harper "Red" from Swainsboro, Georgia (age 20); gunner - Pvt. William F. Jean "Pop" of Buechel, Kentucky (age 36); asst. gunner - Ernest Hill of Sweetwater, Alabama, (age 22); Pfc., asst. driver and radio operator - Wayne D. NeSmith "Smitty", of Eastman, Georgia (age 21). At the time of the article, the unit was attached to the 79th Infantry Division. It is interesting to note the the painting of the Panther on the rear of the turret was done by Thurman who, as mentioned, was a painter by trade. You can see a photo of Thurman and his crew at the bottom of this page. Thurman is standing top right.
The 630th shipped out from the New York port on June 3, 1944 and arrived in England on the 12th. They boarded LSTs and landed in France on July 24, 1944. They were equipped with 3" towed guns and entered the line near Colombieres. They advanced across France with the 28th Infantry Division to Luxembourg and supported operations against the Siegfried Line in September–October. It was during this time that Thurman was injured and evacuated to a hospital. He was able to rejoin his unit in January of 1945. While he was away, the unit had begun operations in the Hürtgen Forest in November and shifted to the Ardennes sector with the 28th Infantry Division in late November. They were still located there at the start of German offensive in December.
The 630th shifted south to the Colmar area in January 1945, where the 28th Infantry Division operated under French control. They then returned north in mid-February only to redeploy south to the Saar region in mid-March, after which the battalion converted to the M36. They participated in the elimination of the Ruhr Pocket in April and then took up occupation duties at Zweibrücken on April 28th.
Thurman was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service for actions in France. He also received the American Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the EAME Medal with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. He left the service on October 26, 1945, at Fort Bragg, NC, at the rank of Sergeant.
Thurman returned to North Carolina and began his own sign painting business. In the early 60s, he soldl boats and Mercury out-board motors in addition to his painting work. In 1946, he married the former Rachel Winslow Hood who was born in Robeson County, NC, and was the daughter of George Henry and Etha Hooks Hood. The couple made their residence in Elizabethtown, NC. They had two children, Kayward, born in 1949 and Breece, in 1952.
When he wasn't working, Thurman enjoyed fishing and boating and was a member of the Elizabethtown Baptist Church. Thurman passed away on September 15, 1988, and was buried in the Bladen Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Bladenboro, NC. I want to thank Thurman's son, Breece, and daughter, Kay, for providing the photos and information for this tribute.