Ack-ack was vital for 99th years ago
Members of an Army unit linked to the 99th Infantry Division and its adventures in Europe can look back on 40 years of reunions at cities ranging from Cincinnati OH to Las Vegas NV, and several return trips to Europe. Activities of the 535th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion also have included the publication of two volumes of unit history and the printing of more than 85 newsletters.
Veterans of the 535th organized their reunion group in 1967 at Quanah TX.
"We were on the border of Belgium in 1944, firing at Hitler's V-1 rockets when the 99th moved into our area," said Ted Van Arsdol of Vancouver WA, the 535th's corresponding secretary. "We had begun landing on D-Day in Normandy and later were involved in the liberation of Paris, while accompanying other First Army units.
"When the 99th arrived along the Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944, we were assigned to protect the division's artillery with our 40mm guns and half-tracks which were mounted with multiple machine guns. So we experienced our share of the din and excitement that developed suddenly and became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
"After the U.S. offensive was resumed and the Remagen bridge over the Rhine River was captured, the 535th set up gun positions close to the bridge. Swift German jet planes wanted to knock out the span, which was on a vital supply route for our Army."
Van Arsdol said a memorial plaque has been provided for the 535th in the Riverside National cemetery at the site of the former Camp Haan anti-aircraft training center in California. The 535th group was represented at the ceremony.
Also, members of a Cannington, England, church have installed a memorial to the 535th men killed during the war. The plaque adjoins another marker honoring deceased Cannington area soldiers. The 535th battalion was stationed near Cannington before participating in the invasion of Europe. Red Amond of the 535th has been active in establishing contacts with Cannington residents.
John Findley, 535th reunion group president, died this year in California. The organization's numbers have declined, the same as in other groups of World War II veterans. Two members of families that included 535th soldiers have agreed to roles in continuing the association. They are Larry Hallum, Bakersfield CA, president, and Ray Fernandez, Napa CA, vice president. Guy Jellison of Sacramento CA, continues as treasurer.
The group is considering a meeting of the veterans' descendants in a few years at Utah Beach in Normandy, where the 535th went ashore in June 1944. Cannington residents also would participate.
Ted Van Arsdol
417 Miami Way
Vancouver WA 98664