Four generations of family members pose with Patton’s Third Army 65th Division soldiers at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. I have so much to say about this group of people, but two items absolutely must be printed. First of all there is the matter of dancing soldiers – the soldier dancers are together in this photo. Immediately behind the baby, the soldier in the gray jacket sitting in the wheelchair danced! And the soldier standing behind him danced too! As a matter of fact, the baby and his mother in front also danced! Perhaps there was something special about that piece of ground they occupied? Secondly there is another soldier in this photo that needs to be recognized; Robert Morgenweck from the State of New York did not attend the banquet so I want to identify him here. Morgenweck wears a gray shirt and he is standing behind the soldier in the purple jacket sitting in a wheelchair. PHOTO BY JIM HANSON.
Submitted by Sandy Kalman
Don D. “Buck” Tague of Gorin was one of 14 soldiers who attended the 65th Infantry Division Association annual reunion in Washington, DC, September 18th through the 21st. I am his oldest daughter and I tagged along (pun intended).
As a point of fact, more than 13,000 soldiers answered roll call in the 65th Infantry Division at one time or another during World War II. As a point of history, we are now 69-years -post both VE Day (May 8th, 1945) and post VJ Day (The USS Missouri battleship hosted Japan’s surrender September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay).
Buck graduated from high school before he joined the Army. He and two of his 1943 Gorin High School classmates, Johnny Shibley and Francis Swearingen, signed up together at the draft office in Memphis sometime early in 1944. There were a lot of people signing up then, he said, and the local paper, the Memphis Reveille, published the names of the men going into the military: “They put a ‘V’ by their names, meaning volunteer, if they signed up without being drafted. Most of them [with a ‘V’] are in Boot Heel [the cemetery].” Just in case readers do not know, in 1969 the Memphis Reveille changed its name to Memphis Democrat.
Home base for the reunion was the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, VA, where the 65th soldiers were pampered. For instance, Buck came into the hotel before breakfast and, even though check-in time was posted as 4:00 p.m., Buck was given his room promptly with a smile. Later when a hotel waiter asked me to take a photo of himself with Buck (using the waiter’s phone) I realized the true rock-star status of these men. I was asked by total strangers at the Holocaust Museum to take photos of themselves with Buck since they said they heard his comments, realized who he was, and just had to have a picture with him.
Scheduled events included visits of the Capitol, World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Holocaust Museum and Smithsonian Museum.
Standing left to right: Edwin Waite, MA; Edmund Lewis, FL; Don Tague, MO; Charles Rein, NJ; Maynard Hanson, SD; Alfred Affenito*, NY; Norvin McClure, IN; Emil Beck, TX. Seated left to right: Felder Phillips, FL; Richard Thomas, MA; James Smith*, IL; Art Newell, OH; Benigno Diaz, CA. See Robert Morgenweck’s photo at the WWII Memorial. *Asterisks following a soldier’s name mean he danced!
The final event, the banquet, included a group of swing-band dancers who brought their own music in a box. Boy oh boy, was I wrong when I wrote last time (after the spring reunion in Tampa) how the reunions have changed – particularly with regard to dancing. I said I thought the soldiers would not dance at the next reunion (like they did not dance in Tampa). What a lack of foresight! At least two soldiers danced in DC and at least one-of-the-three soldier’s widows at the banquet danced – a beautiful fox trot.
Guided tours of the Capitol were given by interns from the office of Senator Mark R. Warner of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Buck told our guide as we stood in the Rotunda that he had been in a ceremony in the Rotunda and Gen. David Petraeus shook his hand as he gave him a medal there. The guide said such an occurrence would never happen – the Rotunda was reserved only for the highest of honors and for bodies lying in state such as Lincoln, Kennedy, and Eisenhower. Dad told him there were chairs here and the podium was there and the guide cut him off. I had no doubt the Rotunda is reserved only for events of the highest honor, but I knew Dad was right. Sure enough, numerous published accounts speak to Buck’s truthfulness of being honored in the Rotunda April 15, 2010 – when he and 119 other liberators were thusly honored in the Rotunda. All of the 14 soldiers who attended this reunion are liberators and would have been honored that day if they had signed up and been present. Among the articles I found online was one written by my brother, David Tague, in this paper, Memphis Democrat, dated May 25, 2010. Also, ABC News interviewed the other 65th Division soldier who attended that ceremony, Robert Patton. I urge you to view that interview online because it contributes to the truthfulness of other matters about the concentration camp, Mauthausen, and dates of the contribution of the 65th Infantry Division in that liberation. Patton has now passed away but his daughter, Anne, attended this DC reunion and I talked to her to see what she would say about the Rotunda. Anne confirmed such an event in the Rotunda did occur. She knows firsthand because she was there – or almost there. Anne said the Rotunda was too small to allow everyone inside during the speech and presentation of medals, so she waited outside while it happened. PHOTO BY SANDRA KALMAN.
Buck photographs the grave the group searched out at Arlington National Cemetery, that of Don Carlos Faith, Jr., a Korean War Medal of Honor winner whose body was recently found in a mass grave in Korea and brought to Arlington to be buried next to his father and mother. Look at the other two Arlington photos to see that Faith’s parents honored their son on the back of their head stone, never thinking their son’s body would be found. PHOTO BY SANDRA KALMAN
Left to right: William Phillips, Tom Phillips, Mary Phillips, Don Tague, Sandra Kalman, Steve Schell. William “Bill” Phillips, son of Felder Phillips, knew Buck wanted to see a specific grave at Arlington National Cemetery so Bill and Buck went to a computer at the welcome center to print out a map. The map looked great . We set out for the grave while others watched the changing of the guard at the tomb(s) of the unknown soldiers – only to discover the map had no detail; there were no street signs; there was no way to tell where we were; and there was no way to tell where we were going. Before I knew it, Bill had enlisted several other people and more than one smart phone – only to discover the Arlington Cemetery site was down. In the end we all knew we each contributed to mission success and in that regard it felt a whole lot like a military mission. Perhaps more particularly important to our success was Bill’s final enlistee, Torrese, the local intelligence guy with the local resources. PHOTO BY TORRESE.
Torrese and Buck look at Faith’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Torrese said he left a job in Montgomery County, Maryland, to take this job at Arlington National Cemetery even though this job paid less money. Torrese said this job at Arlington, he thought, would give him the ability to serve his country as he wished and would be a job of honor. Torrese wanted to join the military but his two older brothers died in recent wars and his parents would not allow him to enlist. One of our 65th Division soldiers said, after I told him the story, that if Torrese was the last son in the family he would not have been accepted as a recruit anyway. I thank you, Torrese, for helping Buck find Faith’s grave. PHOTO BY SANDRA KALMAN.
Left to Right: Debbie Cole, Don Tague, Felder Phillips. At the Holocaust Museum, Buck and Felder posed beneath a flag with the 65th Infantry Division insignia, a flag hanging among several flags recognizing concentration camp liberators of the Holocaust. The purpose of the Holocaust Museum is to ensure folks never forget the Holocaust, because as you know there are detractors who say just that. Felder Phillips was the president of the 65th Division Association during 2014 (for both the Tampa and DC meetings); and he was instrumental in locating this reunion in Washington, DC, his old home town. As we walked together toward the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian for our tour, Felder pointed out the floor and window of his former office in a building ahead of us. It was the second or third window from the left and the second floor down from the top. In that building Felder worked as an aerospace engineer for the Apollo program sending our astronauts to the moon. He said the trees have altered the view because they are now so much taller, but he is sure that was his office. The building used to say: “NASA” on the side. Later, during the banquet, as Felder turned over the presidential gavel to the next president, he said reunions have changed and now he hears the cries of babies at the banquet. He said: “All I have to say is: ‘That was what we were fighting for.’” PHOTO BY SANDRA KALMAN.