The proceedings kicked off Friday evening as attendees were treated to a barbershop quartet performance and a slideshow composed partly of pictures from the Pacific Theater in World War II and from Germany in 1950.
Although the 43rd is known best for its efforts in World War II and Korea, it was also redeployed to Germany five years after World War II during the Marshall Plan era. The 2010-2011 National Commander for the 43rd‘s Veterans Association, Colonel William Coffey, explained this lesser known portion of the division’s history:
“The 43rd has the distinction of being the only infantry division in America to hold occupation status in Japan during the war and also Germany afterwards,” he boasted.
Saturday’s events began with a solemn memorial service honoring those who passed away since the last reunion. When Coffey read their names, he became emotional several times, particularly when he read the name of his military mentor.
The afternoon featured a members meeting during which participants grappled with the possibility of future dissolution or discontinuation of the reunions, due to declining numbers and attendance. The prospect is one that numerous World War II and Korean War veterans groups have had to confront as many of their members can not travel to events and many more have gone on to meet their Commander-in-Chief.
The members also heard details from the Association’s Secretary-Treasurer, David Thiede, about a planned monument in . Thiede explained the rationale:
“The 43rd contained units from Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island, but it was based out of Hartford. Local ancestor units fought in the Revolutionary War. Local descendant units serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, Connecticut is the only one who hasn’t built a monument.”
A second slide presentation followed the meeting, this one courtesy of an MIT professor whose deceased father belonged to the 43rd. The Association accepts children of members of the 43rd, not just those who served. The slides were split between photos from his father’s time in Korea and his own pilgrimage to the site of his dad’s service many years later. The images stirred emotion and discussion among those present.
Afterwards, attendees gathered for a cocktails, and the reunion then culminated with a banquet, during which donated items were raffled. Raffle proceeds went to support the Association.