On December 21, 1944, Horace Marvin “Buddy” Thorne died from wounds he received while displaying incredible courage during the Ardennes Counteroffensive, better known as “the Battle of the Bulge,” in Belgium, during World War II. Thorne would later be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor for members of the United States military, for his heroic actions on the last day of his life.
Buddy Thorne was born on September 29, 1918, in Keansburg. He grew up on a 53-acre farm in the nearby North Middletown section of Middletown Township. He and his eight siblings attended Port Monmouth Elementary School and Leonardo High School.
On December 16th, 1944, numerous elements of the German military launched a surprise offensive into the relatively weak Allied lines through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. Taking advantage of poor visibility that grounded Allied air forces, the Germans had achieved complete surprise, and the Battle of the Bulge would go on for another five weeks before the Allies regained the upper hand. On the fifth day of that battle, Buddy Thorne made his own stand.
On December 21, 1944, Thorne was serving as a corporal in Troop D, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Armored Division, U.S. Army, near Grufflingen, Burg-Reuland, Belgium.
Thorne’s heroic actions are described in his official Medal of Honor citation from President Harry S. Truman:
Corporal Thorne was a leader of a combat patrol on 21 December, 1944, near Grufflingen, Belgium, with the mission of driving German forces from dug-in positions in a heavily wooded area.
As he advanced his light machine gun, a German Mark III tank emerged from the enemy position and was quickly immobilized by fire from American light tanks supporting the patrol.
Two of the enemy tankmen attempted to abandon their vehicle but were killed by Cpl. Thorne’s shots before they could jump to the ground. To complete the destruction of the tank and its crew, Cpl. Thorne left his covered position and crept forward alone through intense machine gun fire until close enough to toss two grenades into the tank’s open turret, killing two more Germans.
He returned across the same fire-beaten zone as heavy mortar fire began falling in the area, seized his machine gun, and without help dragged it to the tank and set it up on the vehicle’s rear deck.
He fired short rapid bursts into the enemy positions from his advantageous but exposed position, killing or wounding eight. Two enemy machine gun crews abandoned their positions and retreated in confusion. His gun jammed; but rather than leave his self-chosen position he attempted to clear the stoppage; enemy small arms fire concentrated on the tank, killing him instantly.
Cpl. Thorne, displaying heroic initiative and intrepid fighting qualities, inflicted costly casualties on the enemy and insured the success of his patrol’s mission by the sacrifice of his life.
Buddy Thorne was 26 years old.
Horace Thorne was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor nine months later, on September 19, 1945; he was the first New Jersey native, and the only person from Monmouth County, ever to be so honored. In a brief presentation at Fort Monmouth, Brig. Gen. Stephen H. Sherrill, Commanding General of the Eastern Signal Corps Training center, made the presentation to Mrs. Leah Thorne, the hero’s wife, and Mrs. Lester Thorne, his mother.
Thorne was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge, among other honors. In 1950, he was awarded Belgium’s highest military honors, the Croix de Chevalier of the Order of Leopold II with Palm, together with the Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm.
His remains are interred at Fair View Cemetery in Middletown and Thorne Middle School in Port Monmouth is named after him. Thorne’s medals and other artifacts are on display at the Middletown Township Public Library.
A commemorative monument to Buddy Thorne sits in the middle of the War Memorial Park at the Middletown Township Municipal Building at 1 Kings Highway in Middletown Township. Another commemorative monument to Thorne was erected in Grufflingen, Burg-Reuland, Belgium, on the spot where his heroic actions took place.
Horace Marvin Thorne. (2021). Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Available: https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/horace-m-thorne
Jans, Reg. (2018). WWII MOH Recipient Horace “Bud” Thorne Honored with Monument. September 29, 2018. Available: https://www.worldwarmedia.com/2018/09/29/wwii-moh-recipient-horace-bud-thorne-honored-with-monument/
Medal of Honor Recipients. (2020). Home of Heroes. Available: https://homeofheroes.com/medal-of-honor-citation/world-war-ii-medal-of-honor-recipients/
Staff Correspondent. (1945). Widow of Thorne Receives His Medal. Asbury Park Press, November 16, 1945, P. 1.
Thorne, Horace M. (2002). https://battleofthebulge.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/thorne-horace.pdf
Top Belgian Honor Given County Hero. (1950). The Daily Record, Long Branch, N.J., November 2, 1950, P. 1.