Allen is Bradley County’s only remaining survivor of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
After the death of his wife, Allen moved to Cleveland seven years ago to be near his daughter, Janet Allen.
Allen, 89, was selected as the 2011 recipient because of continued participation in veteran’s affairs and community activities by speaking in schools to promote patriotism, good citizenship and the value of freedom. He regularly visits nursing homes where he speaks to residents about the will to overcome.
He continues to overcome obstacles in his own life and sets a high standard many others can only strive to attain. Allen is a regular participant in distributing symbolic poppies on Veterans Day and participates in other service organization activities and fundraisers. He visits VA hospitals, veterans homes and spreads good will among disabled veterans. He participates in local patriotic events and often serves as guest speaker.
In addition, Allen volunteers daily to assist an elderly and disabled neighbor.
He is a lifetime member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and American Legion.
Allen was born April 10, 1922, in Portland, Maine, into a large family with little means of support. Though his interest lay in the field of music, there was no money for formal music lessons. He overcame that obstacle during his teenage years by collecting cans and bottles to supplement his mother’s meager income — and to pay for music lessons.
He enlisted in the Army in 1940 and served until 1945.
Shortly after basic training, he was attached to the 24th Infantry and shipped to Hawaii en route to the South Pacific to provide support to the Allied Forces in anticipation of war with Japan.
On that Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, Allen was assigned KP, or kitchen police, duty. He and an Army buddy had finished their inside tasks and were ordered to go outside and get 100 pound bags of potatoes to peel for lunch.
“We were sitting outside. I looked up at Kolekole Pass,” he said. “I was born in Maine and we used to see the geese coming from Canada and I thought, ‘My God, the geese can’t be coming back from Canada already.’”
A few seconds later, he said a “Jap Zero” fighter plane flew around the corner of the building and let go a blast that passed just over their heads. Fortunately for the two men, they were sitting on low stools at the time and the bullets went over their heads. Otherwise, he said, had they been sitting on the higher stools normally provided, they would have lost their heads.
After missing the two soldiers the first time, the plane made another very low pass, but instead of shooting, the pilot pulled back the canopy and waved at them. The pilot looked out of the right side of the cockpit at them and Allen says he couldn’t tell if the pilot said, “‘I missed you’ or ‘I’m going to get you next time.’”
After surviving the attack, Allen joined his unit in the hills where it had dug in and waited four months for another assault which never came.
Allen went on to participate in six major battles in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines, and other major engagements in the Pacific.
He said during his war experience, he never saw a bed for three years, but instead slept in a foxhole, or, when conditions permitted, he stretched a hammock between two trees.
Allen’s military decorations include: Army Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with clasp, World War II Victory Medal, Philippines Liberation Medal with two Bronze Stars, Combat Service Medal, Victory Over Japan Medal, Overseas Service Medal, Honorable Service Medal and Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
Allen was discharged June 6, 1945, and took advantage of the G.I. Bill in order to fulfill his life’s ambition of studying advanced music. He became an accomplished musician, music teacher, composer and music studio owner. He has taught renowned Nashville stars who excelled in their careers. He has traveled all over the country performing with professional bands. He still teaches the music he loved even as a little boy.