Larry Kahn: Life As A Bugler In One Man's Army
Larry Kahn is a New York native who was born on June 14, 1919, Flag Day. It seems only appropriate that he decided at the age of 18 to enlist in the United States Army. If asked why he joined the Army, though, his answer would be a desire to fill a simple human need for belonging and have friends as well as a sign of patriotism. He was interested not so much in annihilating the enemy during World War II but more in befriending anyone and anything around him.
From a young boy, Kahn went through cycles of having very close friends and then losing them under his life's particular circumstances. In his household, he always felt disparate and isolated. Finding himself with extra time and entertaining a fantasy to become the next Harry James, he picked up the trumpet and taught himself what he could by ear. But Kahn did more than learn an instrument—he inadvertently saved his own life.
Kahn volunteered as an Army bugler. He immediately took classes to learn all the calls a bugler must know, such as reveille and taps. Along with many other recruits, Kahn expected to be in the Army for only one year. When Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941, however, everyone's service time was extended and his division, which included many of his new friends, was sent overseas to Europe to fight. But the Army needed Kahn for duty as a bugler in Kodiak, Alaska, so with a new company of men he had to face the coldest climate he—and they—had ever endured.
The indomitable Kahn still considers sleeping in summer huts in the frigid temperatures of Alaska the best time of his life. His duty meant keeping early morning hours in order to wake the other men but that meant he frequently was the only one at breakfast, where the food was hot and plentiful, and, in his opinion, delicious.
Whether it was a horn, a person, or breakfast Spam, Kahn seemed to find the value in anything that was around him and it was these connections that made every day worthwhile for him during his time in the service. He even befriended a stray dog while in Alaska and described the day that it died as the saddest of his life.
Eventually, Kahn's outfit was moved from Alaska to Texas for more training and then shipped out to Europe, where many of his original Army friends had lost their lives. He arrived toward the end of the war and once again managed to stay off some of the most dangerous paths of World War II. Following Army orders, when surrounded by enemies in Germany, he never once blew his bugle. Luckily, he never had to fire his gun, either.
The sight of the Statue of Liberty as his troop ship sailed into New York Harbor made Kahn feel he had truly arrived at home. He described his look at The Lady With the Torch as one of his best memories, besides the overall experience of the Army.
Kahn went to war with a good and open heart that gave him energy, which seemed to carry him through, safely and peacefully. He thinks of himself as neither hero nor survivor but simply a normal young man who felt lonely and found a place to belong.