Members of  the Hayward-Cable area Wisconsin National Guard unit who were called to active duty at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1961-62 during the Berlin Crisis held their 58-year reunion Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Hayward Veterans Community Center. 

Of the original call-up of three officers and 101 enlisted men from Company B, 724th Engineer Battalion, based at that time at the Hayward Armory, there are 54 surviving members. 

According to Wikipedia, the Berlin Crisis of 1961 involved an ultimatum issued by the Soviet Union demanding that allied forces withdraw from Berlin, Germany’s capital city, during the Cold War after World War II ended. The crisis culminated with the building of the Berlin Wall by East Germany to keep people from East Germany from emigrating to the west.

On Aug. 30, 1961, President John F. Kennedy ordered 148,000 Guardsmen and Reservists to active duty. The 32nd Division of the Wisconsin National Guard was activated from Oct. 15, 1961, to Aug. 10, 1962.

Prior to Company B’s departure for Fort Lewis, the City of Hayward presented it with $800 to use as it saw fit.

In addition to the Company B Guardsmen who made the trip to Fort Lewis, 54 families also made the journey, “which made quite a dent in the population of the Hayward area,” according to a history of the unit. The company commander was Captain Ernest Lein.

During their deployment at Fort Lewis, Company B members spent 10 days training in the Mojave Desert of California. The company also participated in 32nd Division maneuvers at Yakima Firing Center, Washington, for three weeks. The 724th Engineer Battalion was sent in advance to improve roads and construct an airfield.

Upon the Guard’s deactivation, Company B returned to Hayward, where a parade and ceremonies were held. 

One of the speakers at Saturday’s reunion, General Jerry Berard, paid tribute to the late Arvid Vallem for keeping the reunion going. 

“This is the only (unit) left from the 32nd Division which was mobilized at that time that still has a reunion,” he said. “We probably wouldn’t be in this building if it wasn’t for Arvid,” Berard said. “He was very instrumental in fundraising for this facility and in the management of it after it was opened. It seemed that he was involved in everything relating to veterans.”

Vallem “had a memory that you wouldn’t believe,” Berard added. “At one time he knew the serial number of everyone in the company.”

Vallem’s sister Florence and daughter Connie were among those attending Saturday’s event. 

The member who came the farthest for the Sept. 7 gathering was Delmar Jerome of Fond du Lac.

Unit members voted to hold their next reunion in two years.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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