Alexander R. Horanzy, World War II vet who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, dies at 98
When Dec. 7, 1941 was over, five Japanese fighters had been downed by Mr. Horanzy's unit - the first to feel the wrath of Imperial Japan and the first to fight back, he said.
Alexander R. Horanzy, 98, of Northeast Philadelphia, a World War II Army veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor, died Thursday, Oct. 1, of heart failure at Holy Redeemer Hospital, Meadowbrook.
Mr. Horanzy was present on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked American forces at Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii.
Stationed with the 24th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, he had gone to bed late when the sound of incoming planes and machine guns jolted him awake at 7:50 a.m., according to a 2015 account of that day on a website devoted to the history of Pearl Harbor.
“There was no mistaking it,” the account read. “Japanese planes were flying so low their red circle insignia and even the heads of the pilots could be seen from the ground.”
Because of rumors that the Japanese were going to land troops on the island’s north shore, Mr. Horanzy and his comrades were ordered to load trucks with ammunition from storage that could be used to defend the area, the account said.
But when they heard the Japanese Zeros directly overhead, they stopped and sought cover.
“To this day, I wonder why they never fired upon us or bombed the warehouse that was full of explosives," Mr. Horanzy noted in his submission to the Pearl Harbor Survivors website. “They could have fired upon us while we were running for cover in the middle of the open field; maybe they were saving their attack for the grand prize, Pearl Harbor, in which they succeeded.”
In a 2014 interview with Shaun Illingworth, the Rutgers University Oral History Archives director, Mr. Horanzy said: “When the day was over, five Japanese fighters had been brought down by the 24th Division’s small arms fire. The fledgling division was the first Army unit to feel the fury of Imperial Japan and the first to fight back.”
En route to deliver supplies, Mr. Horanzy discovered a Japanese flag under the seat of a downed enemy plane and saved it as a souvenir. It would figure later in the public lectures he gave.
In 1943, Mr. Horanzy was trained in jungle fighting. He fought in New Guinea, where mosquitoes and black flies abounded. He contracted malaria and was honorably discharged on July 13, 1945, with the rank of private.
He was given the American Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star and the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal with two Bronze Stars. In addition, he received the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement.
After returning home, he helped found the Philadelphia Liberty Bell Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and was the chapter’s last surviving member, his family said. He outlived the association, which dissolved in 2011, according to pearlharbor.org.
He was in great demand as a speaker.
“He was so outgoing and wonderful, especially when I took him to events,” said his friend and neighbor Elsie Stevens. “He would go to schools and talk to the children. He had a Japanese flag from a downed plane. The eyes of the kids would get big because he was showing them what happened that day.”
Born in Janow in eastern Poland, while his family was on vacation, Mr. Horanzy grew up with six siblings in Manayunk. He attended public school and was a golf caddie to help his family during the Great Depression.
He worked as a quality assurance specialist for the Department of Defense at the Frankford Arsenal before retiring in 1977.
He married Katherine S. Long. They settled in Holmes Circle to raise three children.
Mr. Horanzy enjoyed his family and playing craps at the casinos in Atlantic City.
His wife died in 2011. He is survived by children Sandra Mattia, Nancy Ray, and Joseph Horanzy; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will be Friday, Oct. 9, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Church of St. Jerome, 8100 Colfax St., Philadelphia, followed by a 10:30 Mass. Burial will be in Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Ambler. Social distancing will be observed and masks must be worn.
Memorial contributions may be made to http://www.pearlharborphilly.org, or checks made payable to Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Association, and sent to Dale Jones, Treasurer, 81 Lower Holland Rd., Holland, Pa. 18966.