I got an email from a man whose uncle was on Strong. David Bailey sent me a note about his uncle, Norman Britt Carpenter, who survived the sinking. Over the years, Uncle Norman told David many stories and David ended up sharing them with me. One such story was the memory Norman had of one of the ship’s doctors taking home movies on the ship with a 16mm movie camera. That set me on the path to locate the two doctors who served on Strong, Dr. Henry P. Laughlin (plank owner to May 1943), and Dr. Albert M. Horne (April – sinking in July, 1943). I was excited about the possibility of there being film taken on board the ship that made it past censors. It didn’t take long to track down Dr. Laughlin’s family, and it turns out that Dr. Laughlin is still alive, 97 years old and frail but he was willing to answer a couple of questions. We found out he was not the one who shot film, so that left Dr. Horne. He was on board the ship for a short time, and the likelihood of any film being sent home prior to the sinking of the ship was miniscule. It was worth a shot however, to try to locate his family. I had found and downloaded his obituary as Dr. Horne died in 1997. The obit listed the names of his children and their cities of residence, so it was some place to start. I had every intention of finding time soon to begin searching for contact information. A few days later, I get up and open up my email that’s specifically attached to the contact page on the web site, and out of the blue I get this, from a Russell Horne:
“I have a photo of my father if you are interested. He was the Medical Office on the Strong. I don't know his exact dates of assignment. Those can probably be obtained somewhere. I am new at this so I am sure I will learn these things as I move forward with this research. He was on the Strong when it sunk in the Kula gulf. Anyway, if you are interested in a pic, please let me know where to email it.
Thus, the speechless part. Even more interesting, after a couple of email exchanges it seems that Dr. Horne always had a camera in hand taking film of whatever was going on around him. I found my movie making doctor! At present, his family is searching through the things he left behind and have not been able to locate any film he may have shot on Strong. It’s most likely the camera he took with him and any film are indeed at the bottom of the Kula Gulf. However, there have been other things to learn from this family. Before I get to that, let me briefly introduce you to Albert Horne. From his obituary from March of 1997:
“Dr. Albert Merrill Horne, 86, died peacefully at his home, March 22, 1997, after a prolonged illness. Born September 11, 1910 in Salt Lake City, he was the youngest of six children of George Henry Horne and Alice Smith Merrill Horne. He married Laura Callis November 12, 1940 in Salt Lake City. As a teenager, Albert worked summers on the Nevada and Colorado ranches of his brother-in-law and older sister, Leo and Mary Horne Winder. He graduated from East High School where he was in ROTC.After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Utah, he attended medical school at the U. of U. for two years. He graduated from George Washington University Medical School after 2 further years of medical study. He did post graduate medical training at Cornell /New York University Medical Center. During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was the medical officer aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Strong and was among the survivors when in July 1943, that ship was sunk in a nighttime naval battle near Guadalcanal. Subsequently, he was assigned to the Seabees and was on Okinawa when the war ended. After the war, he completed a residency in Radiology in Dallas, Texas. Following that, he practiced in Lubbock, Texas and then in Midland, Texas until his retirement in 1980. He was a member of the AMA, Texas Medical Association, and the American College of Radiology. He belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving faithfully in various positions as stake missionary, branch president and a district high councilor. Albert was a remarkably kind and gentle man who thought of others before himself. He is survived by his wife, Laura; their five children: Merrill (Deborah), Salt Lake City; Steven (Susan), Orem, Utah; Charlotte (David) Williams, Salt Lake City; Russell (Susan), Lubbock, Texas; Daniel (Kristine), Dallas, Texas; nineteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Also survived by his sister Zorah Horne Jeppson of Salt Lake City.”
A couple of emails later, Russell had this to tell me:
“As a medical officer, our father had other assignments as there were not always wounded or sick people to care for and sometimes medical officers had nothing to do. His other assignment was to help the communications officers on board to intercept and to decode enemy communications. When the Strong was hit, he was below deck, and he and the other communications officers were busy destroying all of their material (which included decoded enemy communications, etc). As the ship took more enemy fire and began to list, our father was called up on deck to help with the wounded. Very soon, thereafter was when the Strong was rammed by the Chevalier and our father was able to make it to that ship. All the communications officers that our father was helping remained below deck and they were killed as they went down with the ship.
Tammi. I am not sure as to the complete accuracy of this story and my brother, Merrill is the one who was told the story by our mother or our father. If it is accurate, it is possible that our father was one of the last people to see and/or speak with William Hedrick.”
According to a newspaper interview with Dr. Horne that was published upon his return home, he mentions the lieutenant he was working with in the communications area, and helping to destroy the documents and equipment – that would have been Lt. Benjamin Frazier Jetton, Billy’s superior officer and yes, that meant he was one of the last people to see Billy alive. This is strangely comforting to know.
I look forward to learning more from the Horne family, and hold out hope that perhaps there might be a small piece of film from the ship that made it home before the sinking. Either way, I’m very happy to have another Strong family on board.