Horace Bratcher is a dear friend. He has been around nearly twice as long as I have, and he likes to say that he has spent his life “collecting experiences”. He is quite the philosopher, and has spent untold hours at the local Public Library reading voraciously, expanding his knowledge, always looking for tidbits of wisdom that he can incorporate into his already vast storehouse, and can then share with others.
Horace comes by my office nearly every day to visit. He almost always has one of those tidbits of philosophical wisdom to offer, usually accompanied by a story. Horace has lots of stories. I have learned much from Horace Bratcher, from his homespun philosophy, and from his stories. Now, it is time to tell Horace’s story.
(The following article appeared in the Waxahachie Daily Light on Tuesday, August 19, 2008.)
Ellis County Honor Flight Profile: Horace Bratcher
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have asked the participating members of the upcoming Ellis County Honor Flight to share their experiences of World War II. Below are the experiences shared by Horace Bratcher of Waxahachie. He was one of the first World War II veterans to register for the trip to Washington, D.C., scheduled for Nov. 4-5 allowing veterans from the area to visit their memorials.
By Horace Bratcher
U.S. Navy veteran
I feel unworthy of writing about myself because I know so many others that deserve more recognition than me. But since I was requested to do this, I will give it a go.
I was taught how to work when I was a small boy. Like others, the only way we could make it was to work. I worked for 10-cents an hour and was glad to get it. We were taught to go where we were needed and to answer the need.
When the war came, I joined the U.S. Navy at Grand Prairie along with my friend Maurice Morgan. I left Waxahachie at 5 a.m. on the Interurban along with my good friend Bub Booher. We were on our way to Dallas, where they put us on a train that took us west to the naval base at San Diego.
After six weeks of boot camp training, we found ourselves at the waterfront ready to be shipped out. It was the middle of the night and pitch dark because of the blackout conditions in the harbor. I couldn’t see any ships, only the dark water lapping up against the dock.
An officer called out everyone’s name except mine and sent them on their way to different assignments. They did not call my name and there I was, standing all alone in the dark, thinking that the navy must have made a mistake and forgot about me.
After awhile, I heard a small boat coming in my direction, but I couldn’t see who or what it was. Finally, it pulled up alongside the dock and a man told me to put my sea-bag and hammock in the boat. We went out into the bay and came up to a huge aircraft carrier.
I went aboard, saluted the officer of the deck, turned aft and saluted the fantail of the ship, and they took me down below decks and gave me a bunk to sleep in. When I woke up, we were on the high seas headed west. This was my first time to be at sea onboard a real fighting ship.
They assigned me to a carrier aircraft service unit, CASU 31. I was land-based on an island and my job was to work on the planes that were coming out of combat. I worked on fighter planes and dive bombers, the F6F Hellcat, the F4U Corsair, the SB2C Dive Bomber and other planes.
Some of these planes had been used hard in combat, so we had to really roll up our sleeves to fix them up and get them back in fighting shape. We replaced what needed to be fixed and did whatever we had to do to get the planes back into action.
I worked the night shift and sometimes had to get the job done out in the middle of a tropical downpour. Whatever needed to be done, we found a way. It was my job and it was where I was needed. I did the best I knew how.
I had one close call during my war experience. I was towing a fighter plane back out to the flight line with my Ford tractor when I noticed a flight of planes coming in, so I was in a hurry to get out of their way. But when I braked to stop, the tow bar came loose from the plane and that fighter plane rolled up on top of me and pinned me down hard against the steering wheel.
I couldn’t move or even breathe when a friend rushed over to help. He got the plane off me by pushing against the wheel strut with his tractor. It is probably not a stretch to say that he saved my life.
I still have the scar where my head was mashed down against that steering wheel. I was lucky not to have been really hurt.
When the war was over, they brought me back to the states aboard the aircraft carrier White Plains CVE-66. As we entered San Francisco harbor under the Golden Gate Bridge, I was on the flight deck manning the rails and standing at parade rest.
A large boat came to escort us into the bay. On that boat there was a band playing and many people waving. As the boat turned in front of us, we then saw a large banner hanging on the side that read: “Welcome Home, Well Done.” I would not take anything for that experience!
During those times, I did not think that what I had done was all that important. But as time passed and I have gotten older, it all means much more to me now.
———— [end of newspaper article] ————
Horace Bratcher is also a star. A couple of years ago, country singer Neal McCoy came to Waxahachie to film portions of a music video for his song “The Last of a Dying Breed”. Horace is in the video, along with General Tommy Franks, Nolan Ryan, and Karl Malone.
Horace appears 2 minutes, 8 seconds into the video with a group of men hanging out at the local feed store. Horace is on the far left, sitting, wearing his trademark Cowboy hat. He appears a second time at 2:42. You can watch the video below.
[Disclaimer: The song starts off with the line, “He’s a cold beer drinker…” For the record, I don’t condone “cold beer drinking” (or any other kind of beer drinking, for that matter), nor do those words describe Horace Bratcher. Just wanted to get that out of the way right up front. Enjoy the video.]