Red Arrow: On alert
By Kris Leonhardt
Part III in a series on the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division
Thousands of people gathered at depots and along the rail lines, as wives, families, and community members said good-bye to the guard troops headed for the West Coast during the Berlin Crisis.
The divisions left their home stations beginning on Oct. 23, with many of them traveling via nearly 20 troop trains.
In November, Marshfield’s Melvin R. Laird, the District 7 congressman at the time, was sent to Fort Lewis as a member of the House Defense Appropriations and Military Construction subcommittees.
There he reported shortages in equipment and supplies, which caused “some delay” in their training.
“Such inconveniences and hardships were accepted in good spirits, however, by the overwhelming majority of the men of the division. It has been unfortunate that the public has gained the impression from public statements which have been made that the shortages have caused a serious morale problem. This is simply not true,” he said.
The troops began training heavily following the Christmas holiday.
But by February 1962, the Pentagon was removing non-activated units from their ramped up training schedules, and in April, central Wisconsin families were receiving the news that their guardsmen would be making their way home.
“That’s when they built the wall in Berlin, so they settled everything,” Joel Strack recalled.
“We trained in Fort Lewis to go to Berlin and to protect the area in the east against the west.
“We had a lot of alerts, where they would blow the sirens. You never knew 100 percent if it was the real thing or if it wasn’t, to pack up to go to Germany.”’
In August, Wisconsin’s 32nd Infantry division formally went back from federal to state control.
“Little by little, we loaded everything back on flatbeds and came back, but the trip back, they didn’t have a train that came back. A lot of people that were married had cars there, not all of them,” Strack explained.
“I bought (a car) out there. It was a piece of junk, but it got me home, and I drove it for two years yet at home,” Lee Burt recalled.
“They issued us travel pay to get home, then you could find your own means of travel,” added Mert Fischer.
Find the conclusion in an upcoming edition