Company F Remembered

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Company F Remembered

As we approach Veteran’s Day this year, I am reminded of the sayings, “All gave some, some gave all, and “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.”  Serving in the armed forces is more than a job—it is a calling.  This calling is based on principles, honor, oath, and love of country.  Relentless commitment to a cause and to the fellow soldiers at their side are the hallmarks of service.  Physical and mental discipline are mandatory.  Not all casualties are in battle, and not all wounds heal quickly.  We owe our veterans for much more than battlefield sacrifices.  Our indebtedness includes their time away from families, cumulative stress on soldiers and family members, dealing with bureaucratic frustrations, and insufficient benefits and care after their return.

If we knew more stories from firsthand sources, we might better understand and appreciate our veterans.  So was the thought of Glynda Turner when she undertook a recent project to display and honor some local heroes.

Turner partnered with Paul Olle at the Gallery to prepare a large high resolution print including names.  The photo is now proudly displayed inside Sam’s Table restaurant on the east side of the Huntsville square.  Turner hopes the print will begin conversations and perpetuate shared stories to honor veterans past and present.

And yes, the project is personal for Turner.  Major Milton Steffen in the photo was her mother’s first husband and was killed in action January 1944.  Turner inherited the daily correspondence between Steffen and her mother from 1936 throughout the war.

Also in the photo are the Bruce brothers, who also perished in the war. In 2010, the Huntsville airport was rededicated as The Bruce Brothers/Huntsville Regional Airport in honor of Capt. Harry Bruce and Lt. Reeves “Jeep” Bruce.

So, stop in, pay your respects, and toast Company F, as well as all of our Veterans past and present!

Doughboys of the 36th Division again took up battle positions on Nov. 15, 1943…10 miles south of Cassino…The mountain passes that lay ahead on the rocky road to Rome were occupied by fanatic Germans with defensive positions deeply embedded in rock.

In all the fighting from the beaches of Salerno, San Pietro was one of the bloodiest, most bitter, and toughest battles of World War II, just 100 days after the invasion.  Men of the 143rd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division called it “Death Valley” because death was on a rampage for 48 hours as they stormed this enemy fortress ringed by fortifications, dug into the terraced slopes commanding the Liri Valley.

Following the fall of San Pietro…the name “Rapido River” is engraved in the memory of those men who fought across this icy, bloody stream that runs in front of Cassino.  Two crossing attempts failed, and at the last moment, the third try was cancelled.

Tacticians say the effort served its purpose—that the distraction to this crossing made possible the ease with which the original assault at Anzio was carried out.

They were called “Men of Texas,” but these heroes were listed from every State in the Union and two of the territories.  To them, Rapido River, with almost 2,000 casualties in 48 hours, spelled an incident unequalled in the chronicle of the 36th Division.

Of the battles and of winter months that followed, Major General Fred L. Walker, then Commanding General of the 36th Infantry Division, said, “I do not recall any campaign in the whole history of the United States Army in which soldiers have had to endure greater hardships or have performed greater deeds of heroism than this campaign in Italy.”

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