Thursday, October 13, 2011

NEWS: Legacy of Berlin Crisis to be remembered this weekend

10/13/2011 11:00 AM CDT

Contact: Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie
Office: 608-242-3050 or Cell: 608-516-1777

 Date: October 13, 2011
Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office

Five decades after being called to federal active duty as part of an American response to the Berlin Crisis, veterans of the 32nd Division will again muster to recall the year they spent preparing for a potential Cold War conflagration.

The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team headquarters at Camp Williams, Wis., will host the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Berlin Crisis Saturday (Oct. 15) from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event - open to veterans of the mobilization and their guests, but not to the public - will include historical displays at the Wisconsin National Guard Museum as well as the 32nd Brigade headquarters, video footage from the mobilization in the 32nd Brigade auditorium, and modern equipment displays. Food and beverages will be provided free during the day. Veterans are encouraged to bring scrap books from the mobilization.

Red Arrow veterans of the 1961 Berlin Crisis are not the only ones with ties to that historic event. In essence, until 1967 every Wisconsin Army National Guard unit was a Red Arrow unit. In 1967 the 32nd Division was deactivated and reorganized. While today's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team maintains the Red Arrow name and heritage, the precursors of most current Wisconsin Army National Guard units were part of the Berlin Crisis mobilization.

"The history of the 32nd Division is the history of the entire Wisconsin Army National Guard between 1917 and 1967," said 1st Lt. Brian Faltinson, the Wisconsin Army National Guard's command historian.

The distribution of that legacy will be seen Oct. 15, as flags from nearly 20 battalions of the 32nd Division will be displayed. Many battalion colors have remained with the 32nd Brigade, but others now reside in two other brigades - the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 64th Troop Command.

The 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade - Wisconsin's second largest major subordinate command - traces its heritage to the 32nd Division Artillery, which boasted six artillery battalions in 1961. The 157th today has but one artillery battalion, but also includes the 724th Engineer Battalion - a former 32nd Division unit that retained its name - along with such specialized units as communications, forward support, networking, and chemical detection and decontamination. The 157th's shoulder sleeve insignia still depicts a red arrowhead, and is headquartered at Richards Street Armory in Milwaukee, once the headquarters of the 32nd Division. But since 1967, the brigade has forged a heritage of its own.

Other units have reorganized several times over the past decades, obscuring their links to the 32nd Division.

"Just as horses gave way to armored tanks, the military has adapted to changing demands over the years, and the Wisconsin Army National Guard has kept pace," said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. "The 32nd Division is truly deserving of its proud history, but that history was forged by its Soldiers. The heritage of those Soldiers can be found in all of our units today."

"We were called to duty and became combat-ready to serve our country when needed," said Carl Birk, a rifle platoon sergeant with Company C, 2nd Battle Group of the 128th Infantry during the Berlin Crisis mobilization. "Few people remember the few thousand men called in for the Berlin Crisis, but we shall never forget that many left as boys and returned as men. We are proud to have served in a time of need."

Sean P Eagan

Former Chairman American Cold War Veterans
Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars
716 720-4000