Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lest we forget

May 16, 2007

The "Salute To Veterans" event Saturday at Landmark Baptist Church focused this year on both World War II and the Korean War, and recognizing veterans who served in them. The event, organized by the Bonner Springs Olsen-McGraw-Thompson-Goins Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 640, featured demonstrations, memorabilia, military vehicles and food and drink.

The demonstrations were courtesy of a war re-enactment society, G Company, 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, whose members fired weapons used in both wars.

Members of the society dressed in uniforms from one or the other war, and displayed on two tables under a tent the typical supplies an infantry soldier might carry in his pack.

One of the differences between the two eras' supplies was the pack itself: in the one used by American soldiers in the Korean War, the pack changed to a more modular design, with a separate bag that attached to the bottom.

Dan Fullerton, a member of G Company, said the supplies themselves mostly stayed the same from World War II to the Korean War, except that soldiers came to have more choices in their supplies in the later war.

The Korean War came as a surprise to America, and to its military. American soldiers who tried to fight in Korea with weapons and equipment left over from World War II quickly learned the inadequacies of the old gear -- and sometimes the weapons, which had been stored since the end of World War II.

Fullerton's knowledge of World War II goes beyond what he's had to learn as a re-enactor. He's a professor of military history at Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College.

The group's purpose is not just to educate the public, as with Saturday's event, Fullerton said.

"We want to honor veterans," he said, "and to teach kids what they did for us."

The group stages not just mock battles -- they've even done a D-Day landing reenactment with landing craft on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Quoting a television commentator, Fullerton said of World War II veterans, "they sacrificed their tomorrows for our today. That's why we're here today, to thank them."

Fullerton said he's learned a lot from talking to veterans at various reenactments he's participated in. For instance, he said, he learned that the wool uniform worn by Army soldiers in Europe in World War II had originally been the uniform for them in the Korean War, with the cotton uniform worn over that. The temperatures on the Korean peninsula soon changed that practice, Fullerton said.

Besides the demonstrations by the G Company, members of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association of Kansas City brought vintage military vehicles to look at, including an armored four-wheel drive British vehicle called the Ferret, vintage U.S. Army trucks and a World War II-era Jeep.

The observances borrowed two other pages from the military manual: VFW members conducted a memorial service for veterans inside the church; then, as an army travels on its stomach, Timbers Barbecue provided sandwiches and beans.

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