Written by John Plestina
Korean War veteran Joe Anderson with some of his medals and citations from his service in the Air Force.
(Photo by John Plestina)
The second photo is Joe Anderson (circled) while in Korea.
Serving our country in the war known to some as the Forgotten War and called the Korean Conflict by others, a Wolf Point man reflected on his service with Veterans Day approaching.
Joe Anderson, now 83, enlisted after graduating from Wolf Point High School in 1949; a time when he was 17 and homeless. Anderson returned to Wolf Point in 1953 after serving four years in the United States Air Force, two of those years in war- torn Korea.
United States armed forces began a combat role in Korea following an invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces supported by China and the Soviet Union in 1950 and remained engaged in battle against North Korean and Chinese forces until a little more than three years later when an armistice was signed in July 1953.
Anderson went to Butte with several friends from Wolf Point after his 17th birthday, which was Oct. 15, 1949. The recent WPHS graduates went to an Army recruiter to enlist.
To enlist in the army 66 years ago, recruits were required to be a minimum of 150 pounds. The 149-pound Air Force hopeful got on the scale. A doctor helped him gain an instant pound by putting a thumb on the scale.
“The doctor said, ‘Son, you just made it,’” Anderson said.
“I joined the Army but they told me they were starting a new branch and if I joined that, I would probably get a promotion faster,” he said.
The Army Air Corps had become a service of its own two years after World War II ended. Anderson became a member of the two-year-old United States Air Force and trained at Lackland Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas. The likelihood of a faster promotion came true as he went from recruit to staff sergeant within a short time.
According to Anderson, a little-known fact is that the U.S.A.F. entered North Korea and took over an air base that Anderson said he believes that Chinese had built. It was the only American base ever established in North Korea.
General Douglas MacArthur was scheduled to visit. A second lieutenant ordered Anderson and others to spruce up the buildings with fresh paint.
An Air Force general spoke to Anderson.
“He said, ‘Can you keep a secret? The Chinese are coming. They are going to be here in a couple of days,’” Anderson said.
U.S. forces burned the buildings on the base, preventing the Chinese from being able to use them,” according to Anderson.
The remainder of Anderson’s tour of duty in Korea was in South Korea. He was later stationed in California.
Anderson was going through a difficult time in his life when he enlisted at 17.
His family was from Scobey and he grew up during the 1930s and 1940s in a house that stood on the corner of First Avenue South and East Edgar Street. The house is long gone and the Lord’s Table and Overcomers Church stands on the Anderson family’s former property.
His father worked on the construction of Fort Peck Dam and his mother earned 65 cents per hour doing laundry at the hospital that was then on the 100 block of Custer Street where Clayton Stevenson Memorial Chapel is today.
Anderson became homeless at 16 when his father left his mother and five children. His mother returned to Scobey, where she was originally from, due to illness and to live near her family. His two brothers had enlisted, one in the Army and the other in the Navy. There were also two sisters.
Anderson stayed behind in Wolf Point and remained homeless for about a year with jobs to support himself and sleeping at a former passenger railroad station and a Greyhound Bus depot in Wolf Point during his senior year at Wolf Point High School, which was then located at the current site of Southside Elementary School.
“There were some good people in those days. I had some good jobs,” Anderson said.
Since returning to Wolf Point in 1953, Anderson worked for Montana Job Service for 25 years in Wolf Point and other locations in Montana. He also worked for Peavey Company grain elevators, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as a paraprofessional aide at Wolf Point High School.
He and his wife, Marilyn, have been married 54 years.
Written by Marvin Presser
“The young men in the Montana National Guard sacrificed much for their country before and during the conflict we remember as World War II. Theirs is a story that needs to be told.” ─ Marvin Presser
The Wolves’ loss of probable senior starter Dan Bushman to the Army National Guard was not an isolated event in Montana that September 1940. With a sluggish economy and the lingering Depression, jobs and pocket money were difficult to come by.
Many young men joined the Guards and enjoyed the good food plus the income paid when they attended drills and training exercises. Although new recruits were required to be 18 years of age, it was fairly common that younger applicants signed up and the age prerequisite was overlooked. The Guards needed the numbers. Dan’s brother Martin and cousins John and Melvin were also National Guard members.
The political climate during the time was steadfast in favor of isolationism. The young men in the Guards gave little thought to the war raging in Europe. The possibility of the peacetime soldiers getting involved in actual combat was not a consideration to most. Therefore, when the Montana National Guard, which was officially known as the 163rd Infantry Regiment, a part of the 41st Division, and was composed of National Guard units from western states, was federalized and shipped to Camp Murray, which is adjacent to Fort Lewis, Wash., for one year of training, it seemed like a lark to the young troops. For those that were still in high school, the army provided night school at Fort Lewis.
When their year was up in September 1941, training was extended by Presidential Order. Then came the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and any thoughts of going home were dashed.
After several months of patrolling the Oregon coast, the 163rd traveled by train to San Francisco, Calif., where they boarded the largest ship afloat, the Queen Elizabeth, with no idea of their final destination. The QE had the capacity to haul 14,000 troops and attain a speed of 29 knots. After 17 days at sea, traveling with destroyer escort, they arrived in Sydney, Australia, on April 6, 1942. Several days later they continued on to Melbourne where they began training for jungle warfare. Their next stop was Rockhampton for further training in a sub-tropical climate.
On Jan. 1, 1943, the 163rd loaded into DC-3s and flew to New Guinea for their initial introduction to the horrors of war. They were well trained and proved to be formidable fighters; they gained notoriety when the English speaking Japanese propaganda broadcaster known as “Tokyo Rose” called them “the bloody butchers of Sanananda,” a name that spread to all of the 41st Division. Sanananda was a Japanese stronghold on the coast.
After six months of fierce combat, the Montana boys returned to Australia to help train green recruits for a few months and then in May 1944 took part in an amphibious landing at Aitape, which is further west on the New Guinea coast. Next was the invasion of a little island named Wakde, then another called Biak, both needed for their airplane landing fields.
Finally, in March of 1945, the 163rd found themselves in the Philippine Islands, again involved in difficult and hazardous jungle warfare. In early August, the United States ended the war when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. In December 1945, the 163rd infantry was deactivated.
Many members of the Montana Guard served for five years — a long time in their young lives. A number had spent considerable time in hospitals, incapacitated by tropical diseases. The 163rd was one of the most decorated outfits that fought in the Pacific Theatre.
In Montana, U.S. Hwy. 2, a total of 670 miles from border to border, has been named the 163rd Infantry Regiment [Sunset Division] Heritage Highway in memory of the many sacrifices made by the valiant Montana warriors.
(Author’s Note: As a young man, I had the privilege of knowing a number of these brave soldiers. They include: Robert “Pete” Coffey, Richard Courchene, Albert Elston, Len Hickel, Les Hudiburgh, Donald “Dunc” Larson, Ernest “Tuffy” Shamley, Harold “Doc” Shamley and Don Stennes, all from Wolf Point. From Poplar I remember James Helmer; from Frazer were Dusette “Duke” Grandchamp and my uncle Ed Funk; from Glasgow was Bert Osen. These men are gone now, but I still have fond memories of them. They went through hell but came home and contributed a great deal to their eastern Montana communities. Editor’s Note: This will be included in an upcoming book titled Bob Lowry — A Legend In His Own Time.)
Written by Steve Page and Tom Markle
While the Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial at Fort Peck is not complete, phase one is. The memorial with a 38-foot high main monument, 10 walls of honor, pathways and bases for sculptures is functional and landscaping will soon be finished. The dedication is set for May 29, 2016. Future phases include adding sculptures. Pictured during the flag-raising Thursday, Nov. 5, are (from left to right) David Biggar, Tracy Stone, Reid Coldwell, Ann Kulczyk, Tim Newton, Tom Markle, John Jones, Connie Schultz, Steve Page, Jed Kirkland, Arlie Gordon, Don Gudgell and John Lamb.
(Photo by Sean R. Heavey)
It has been a privilege to watch the progress as the Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial takes shape in Fort Peck. This summer, with the help of some heavy equipment, cleared and leveled ground gave way to the 38-foot high main monument, 10 walls of honor, pathways and bases for sculptures. The dedication on May 29, 2016, [the Sunday before Memorial Day], will fulfill five years of planning and work by scores of Northeast Montana volunteers.
On that day next May, nearly 900 black granite tiles carrying the names of veterans and their branch of service should be placed on the Walls of Honor. The American flag, state of Montana, POW flags, and one for each branch of service will surround the main monument. An entry sign will lead visitors to an entry kiosk topped with a freedom eagle sculpture. Beginning landscaping of sod, trees, and shrubs should be in place.
All the bills are paid, no money is owed, and the budget is on target and expected to stay that way through all of Phase No. 1.
When the Memorial is dedicated, will it be fully functional? Yes. Will it be complete? No. There are still goals to be met to fully complete the site. Under consideration are KIA and MIA vigil areas, a water feature, and additional sculptures. A Wall of Honor directory and a Taps bugler sculpture created by Pamela Harr and Harvey Rattey are in future plans.
We sincerely hope the friends of this memorial will keep this project in mind when planning holiday giving. Wall of Honor tiles make a perfect holiday gift for a veteran. We have room for 2,800 more tiles on existing walls. Applications are available online and at most area banks. All veterans from all branches of service, including National Guard and Reserves, can be honored on the wall. Any veteran who is important to a northeast Montana resident can be included on the Wall regardless of where they live. A qualified veteran is anyone who has served at least six months and has been honorably discharged.
We should also note that benches, tables, flags and signs are available for sponsorship and are appropriate donations for individuals and organizations. Donations are still extremely important and especially welcome.
Despite the loss of some of our veterans, the Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial preserves a loving memory, showing the highest respect and honor for the sacrifices of all veterans. It forever preserves our appreciation, and gives appropriate honor to their service.
It has been our goal to work on behalf of all veterans, and to do this memorial right.
Our intention is also to provide this memorial as an educational resource for future generations.
The Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Fund Inc., was incorporated in 2013, after two years of extensive background work for one purpose: to promote, develop and fund, design, build and maintain a world class veterans memorial for nine Northeast Montana counties.
It is located in the center of Fort Peck on land the town of Fort Peck transferred to the Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial by permanent easement.
Construction began on phase one of the Memorial in May 2015. Phase one includes all preliminary surveys, soil tests, architecture, design and construction engineering, entries and flat work, the main monument, entry sign, flagpoles, vigil area foundations, basic electric, irrigation, sod, trees, shrubs, an eagle sculpture on an entry kiosk and 10 Walls of Honor.
LSC Contractors of Fort Peck is building the memorial and the Fort Peck office of Interstate Engineering provided the engineering, with professional input from Norval Electric, G&D Electric, Mike Kaiser Associates and Fossum Ready Mix. Aakres of Green Grass and Mogan Lawn Service plan to irrigate and sod the site, weather permitting. DBA Architects of Minneapolis created the design.
Volunteers have planned and directed the project. There are no hired employees.
To date, individual, organization, professional and business donations have funded the project through the sale of Wall of Honor tiles, raffles and general fundraisers. Grant applications are pending. There has been no budgeted government funding.
The by-laws establishing up to a nine-member board of directors were approved in 2012. We are encouraging board of director applications at this time. Board members may reside in any northeast Montana county. The Memorial is a qualified 501(c)19, as a non-profit for tax-deductible contributions.
The Montana Legislature passed HB 0578 in the 2015 session requiring that the Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Park in Fort Peck be designated on official Montana State Maps.
With the exception of landscaping, work was completed on phase one in November.
The memorial will be dedicated on the day before Memorial Day, 2016.
Written by John Plestina
The 47th basketball season starting in December on the aging Wolf Point High School gym floor might be the last, as a new floor now appears likely to be installed in time for the 2016-2017 school year.
The Wolf Point School District has established a committee to address the needed replacement for the floor, costs and ways to pay for it.
WPSD officials met with representatives of the Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, local organizations and representatives of Western Bank to discuss funding options to replace the floor Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Improvements to the bleachers to make them function better and comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act will take a few days and are scheduled to begin Nov. 30, and be completed prior to the annual preseason Tip-Off Classic tournament, Dec. 11 and 12.
Superintendent Gary Scott said work on the gym floor could begin in May 2016 with completion in June.
Jeff Tutt of Jeff Tutt Construction of Billings is doing the design work for the floor
Scott said the cost of the new gym floor will be $366,477 or less.
Tutt will present a formal proposal to school district trustees at a future meeting.
There are only three companies in the West that do gym floor replacement.
Scott is writing a $50,000 grant from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, but it is unknown if the school district will get it.
Additional grants will be sought.
Advertising on the walls and possibly on the gym floor is being considered as a means of raising money each year to offset costs.
Local business will be asked for donations and to advertise in the gym.
Activities director Brett Scott is looking for companies that make removable signs that could stick to the walls.
Alumni will be contacted through personal contact.
Jerald Petersen of Western Bank suggested setting a fundraising goal.
There is also a possibility that small chunks of the old gym floor could be sold.
The WPSD is also looking at replacement of the track.
Scott also said a maintenance fund should be established for the track.
The gym floor committee will next meet Monday, Nov. 23, at 5 p.m., in the WPHS library. The public is welcome.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point School District trustees voted Monday, Nov. 9, to accept a sealed bid for the 1996 Ford Crown Victoria former school resource officer’s car to the Wolf Point Police Department.
Acceptance of the $1,000 bid — the sole bid for the 19-year-old car — came after a discussion that the bid was too low.
The board considered rejecting the bid and readvertising before finally voting unanimously to accept it.
Wolf Point Junior High/High School assistant principal Brett Scott said the car books for $1,383. There is also a police light bar and equipment in the vehicle.
Sealed bids were accepted through Nov. 6.
In other business, the board approved the hiring of several people pending satisfactory background checks.
They are: substitute teachers Edward Hentges and John Marmon; assistant custodians Maverick Smith, Robert Bledsaw, Michael Heath and Trent Hamilton.
The board also approved hires and rehires for coaching positions. They are: R.C. Page, high school head track; Eric Peterson, high school assistant track; Josh Eastman, high school assistant track; Ryan Wilson, junior high track; Nicole Boos, high school head tennis; Nicole Paulsen, high school assistant tennis; and Rodney Paulsen, high school head golf.
The trustees approved the following adult education teachers: Dawn Garfield, Ruth Boysun, Judy Holum, Vivian Schultz, Keri Sansaver, Jerrelynn Whitmus, Lorene Hintz and Ellen Sievers.
In another matter, the board approved an early graduation request for a Wolf Point High School senior who will complete the Montana Youth Challenge program in January 2016, and has met graduation requirements.
The male student has passed all tests and has high honors, according to principal Kim Hanks.
The unnamed student will enlist in the National Guard and plans to attend Montana Western. He also plans to participate in graduation at WPHS in May 2016.
The board held two student disciplinary hearings and two employee termination hearings during a one-hour, six-minute closed executive session.
In open session, the board voted to fire two unnamed employees, to readmit a Northside Elementary School student with a behavior contract and expel a junior high student for the remainder of the current school year with a readmittance hearing required for reentry to school in August.
The board voted to move the next monthly board meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m.