In last week’s column, I introduced you to Raymond Alender whose service during World War 2 at 101 Picadilly may have seemed like a choice duty.
At least that is what I thought about it at first glance until I realized he and his comrades were ‘sitting ducks’. Do you know who else was at 101 Picadilly? The entire Allied Central Command.
Embassies of various nations lined the streets and Buckingham Palace was a stone’s throw away – perfect target, one would think.
Raymond separated from the service February 23, 1946, and, returning to Vandalia, joined Crawford-Hale Post 95, American Legion.
One evening along in Nov. 1948, a number of men were sitting around in the Legion Hall and discussing their army service when one of them commented that if they could get enough people interested they could get a reserve unit in Vandalia.
Ten men volunteered: Maurice Wright, Floyd Collingsworth, Charles Steinhauer, William Henager, Mitchel Miller, Everett Devore, Edward Gross, Robert Powell, Dallas Hopkins and Raymond Alender. Membership in the Army Reserve was in three-year increments.
In 1949, they received men from the Altamont area including Capt. Darwin Barr, their new Commanding Officer, and were assigned to the 405th Anti-tank Co., 102nd Infantry Div. and later Co. C, 35th Armor.
One room at the Legion home was secured and they received weapons. In 1951, the headquarters was moved to 101 N. 6th St. and along with a 2 ½ ton truck, the unit received a weapon carrier, a jeep and trailer.
In 1952, reserve members were required to attend summer training. Four officers and 16 enlisted men attended taking a bus to Mattoon where they boarded a troop train for Ft. McCoy, WI. Ft. McCoy is still the training site for the Army Reserve.
Raymond smiled as he told how their division commander liked parades. The men paraded every Saturday morning followed by a three-day retreat.
Capt. Joe Case became Company Commander in 1953, and most of the ranking NCOs, who had been doing the paperwork did not re-up. Raymond volunteered to take over this task and was appointed First Sergeant in 1955.
In 1957, their home was moved to 1127 N. 5th St. where they had more room and a better area for training. Three years later saw them settled on Sunset Drive where ‘Red’ Walton operated his garage for a number of years. The building stands today still surrounded by Army Reserve fence.
While here they acquired a tank and were sent to Ft. Knox to learn how to use it. They also trained on the operation of a 9 mm gun. Their tank appeared in one downtown Legion parade.
Capt. Case retired in 1962, and Lt. Herb Woolsey took command the following year. The same year Wayne Hathaway took the job as unit aide and recruiter.
Raymond recalled that in 1954 the air conditioning was not working on the troop train so the windows were opened. Passing through a long tunnel the smoke and soot from the engine filled the car and collected on their uniforms. This is how they arrived at training camp.
Another time the men took a bus to St. Louis and a troop train to Camp Graying, MI, traveling all Saturday night and all day Sunday. It was almost dark when they arrived but the men were required to start training then and there. They slept on the field for the next 11 days.
Between the years 1955-1958 members were required to attend four meetings a month for two hours or more. They received one day’s pay for each meeting and they used the time in training which included lectures.
In December 1965, the Army decided they were no longer needed and Company C was deactivated. A few of the men who did not have enough service time were activated to serve more time in the Army.
Eventually the Army took back the tank and other materiel issued to the Company.
The men continued to meet twice monthly and their last summer training took them to the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry OH. The men who retired with their service in the Reserve included: Herb Woolsey as a Col.; Everett Landrus, Sgt. Major; Norman Baggett, Master Sgt.; Donald Hall as Sgt. First-Class and Ray Alender, 1st Sgt., also the highest ranking enlisted man.
A total of 158 men joined Co. C, 35th Armor unit during the 17 years of organization. Today, 73 of these men are living, each with their personal memories of service to their nation.