Veterans Day and Memorial Day are special days for Americans. especially for our veterans. On these special days all across America, we gather ’round our war memorials to pay tribute to our men and women who have served and to those who have given their lives for their country.
War memorials can be nothing more than a small plaque on the wall of a town hall, a special area in the local cemetery, or in many cases a large relic from a past conflict. Many towns have a cannon or a statue in the middle of the town square, or a captured field gun like the town of Greece once in front of the old Town Hall on Ridge Road.
It was in August 1931 when a Greece Legionnaires committee, headed by Police Chief Milton H. Carter, acquired a 105 mm German Howitzer. The field gun had been captured from the Germans during the World War and was obtained from the government with the cooperation of Congressman James Whitley.
After some cleaning and polishing, it was placed on a concrete base in front of Town Hall. For a decade, the field gun was the centerpiece of the town’s Memorial Day ceremonies. However, the last time a ceremony was conducted at the field gun during peace time, was on Memorial Day 1941, when Supervisor Gordon Howe placed a wreath on the cannon, followed by a parade to Falls Cemetery, where the Rev. Alfred Wangman, pastor of Dewey Avenue Presbyterian Church, prayed “not for victory but for peace.”
Within a year we were totally involved in World War II. Everyone on the home front was doing their patriotic duty by participating in their local salvage campaign. Here in Greece, residents were collecting old newspapers, tin cans, rubber, you name it, when it was realized that that one field gun was worth more than a 1,000 tin cans.
Soon a decision was made by the members of the American Legion Post, headed by Commander Cyrille Ver Weire, and town officials that the cannon would be dismantled and the metal turned over for the salvage campaign “to help keep Uncle Sam’s war industries humming.”
On Sunday, Nov. 14, 1942, 66 years ago, a delegation including Carter went to Town Hall for the last look at the war relic before its dismantling.
In some respects, it must have been a sad occasion to lose their prized field gun, but the Legionnaires were informed that in return for their contribution of the gun to the salvage effort they would receive another war relic at the close of the war.
That war relic was a long time coming. It wasn’t until June 1999 that the post received an American M-60 tank, which is now on display in front of their building on Dorsey Road.
We can wonder if those Legionnaires in 1931 ever realized that their obsolete captured German field gun would someday be used to help with win another war against the Germans.
Let’s hope that we are never again in a situation that we have to salvage parts from an obsolete war relic.
Originally published in the Greece Post on November 13, 2008