Military history to be feted

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 27, 2000


Monday, March 27, 2000

ST. ANSGAR, Iowa – Circle April 22 on the calendar.

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That will be Military History Day.

It’s a first-ever event planned at St. Ansgar, Iowa, by Phil Fleischer, an Army veteran and military historian.

"The theme is ‘Honoring Our Veterans – Past and Present’ and we believe we have a great lineup of special guests to do that," Fleischer said.

The events begin at noon April 22 on St. Ansgar’s main street in front of the local American Legion Post. The post is not a sponsor of the event.

A year ago, Fleischer organized a reunion of his former medical unit during the Vietnam War and it was a success in reuniting soldiers and their families.

Now, he is organizing a Military History Day that seems destined to be an event to remember.

"We hope families will attend," Fleischer said. "Adults and children. We will notify all the veterans organizations, such as Legion and VFW posts in the northern Iowa and southern Minnesota area. It will be a great opportunity to learn about military history."

Fleischer’s guests will include exhibits and re-enactors who will recreate history from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War.

The 8th Texas Dismounted Calvary of Confederate soldiers and the 16th U.S. Medical Corps of the Union Army will be among the Civil War re-enactors in uniforms complete with weapons including a canon.

Lee Booton, a former Navy Seal in Vietnam and vice chairman of the Iowa Governor’s Committee on Battleflags Preservation, will share military history.

Booton has 47 relatives who fought in the Civil War.

Dressed in an authentic Civil War uniform, Booton will have a battleflag display and the director of all Iowa veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Mike Vogt, curator for the Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge near Des Moines, Iowa, will make a presentation. Vogt is historian specializing on the World War I and Spanish-American War era and will have several items from that era.

Several military vehicles will be on display, including those brought by the 1133rd Transportation Company of the Iowa National Guard at Mason City, Iowa, and the 482nd Transportation Company of Garner, Iowa, of the U.S. Army Reserve.

Recruiters from every branch of military service will be there, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army and Navy Reserve and National Guard.

They will be able to discuss career options for young men and women graduating high school or college this spring.

"We’re even going to have a submarine there," Fleischer said.

That’s right. The Navy will bring a 3-foot model submarine for all to see.

But, not to be outdone, the U.S. Air Force will bring a miniature T-38 jet fighter with a 10-foot wingspan and modeled after the famous Thunderbird exhibition aircraft.

According to Fleischer, the Iowa Air National Guard also may have an F16 aircraft on display April 22.

Meanwhile, the Army Reserve will bring a Palletized Loading System, or M9-15 cargo vehicle.

Soldiers will display M1-A2 rifles, night-vision goggles and other equipment.

Veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf will be wearing their ordinal uniforms.

But one much smaller display may touch more people than any on Military History Day.

The "Veterans of St. Ansgar" collection of military histories, GI photos and other documents will be unveiled to the public.

Fleischer has collected more than 800 veterans’ histories going back to the Civil War and included the little-known Cedar Valley Rangers Iowa Militia of 1864.

"This was the forerunner of the Iowa National Guard and used in Mitchell County to protect settlers from Indian attacks and other dangers in the middle-1800s," Fleischer said.

The military histories are a poignant reminder of those who served.

Some are lengthy and some are brief.

Some include pictures. Most do not.

Kerman C. Wenger, an Army veteran from World War II, is among them

Wenger was an auto mechanic, who saw combat duty in Burma.

Wenger’s and the other more than 800 histories of area veterans have been painstakingly compiled in nine books.

Also recorded for posterity is the military service of John Solomon Stratton, a former African-American slave in Virginia who fought for the Union in the Civil War and was a member of the Cedar Valley Rangers Iowa Militia.

The militia is a particularly intriguing topic for Fleischer to research, who credits a cousin at Northwood, Iowa, will helping him "immensely" with the research.

In the dedication to the histories in the first volume of the collection, Fleischer writes: "The military histories are dedicated to the "past and present, young men and women of the St. Ansgar area who said ‘yes’ when their country called."

"Some were brave soldiers. Some made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. Many others served their country well in a wide variety of military occupational specialties."

"All of them have very interesting military histories to tell," it concludes.

What are his motives for such an elaborate event as Military History Day?

"This will be an opportunity for people to learn about the history of our veterans and current military," he said. "There will be history and high technology and more," he said.

"Military recruiters will be there to discuss their branches of the service and answer questions about today’s military," he said.

If there is anything he has missed, tell Fleischer immediately.

History is a long road to travel.