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The 24th Infantry Division Association

Founded August 1945 on a Philippine Island beach
 

 

THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BALTIMORE CONVENTION

(The first reunion was held in Baltimore, MD in 1948)

by Kenwood Ross in the Taro Leaf, 1997 Vol 51(3) Fiftieth Anniversary Issue

The first of an anticipated long series of reunions drew nearly two hundred members of the 24th Division Veteran's Association to the inaugural convention at Baltimore on August 13 and 14, 1948.

Many of the boys brought their wives. Some few of them had their youngsters in tow. The final counting of heads showed that the Victory Division was able to muster nearly three hundred assorted enthusiasts for that first get-together at the banquet. Next time it looks like a thousand, easily.

Convention activities were divided rather unequally between business and pleasure. Pleasure naturally had the bulge on allotted time.

The City of Baltimore, officials of the Lord Baltimore Hotel and the ordinary citizen of that fine town did everything possible to make our stay enjoyable. And they succeeded beyond our hopes.

Much of that perhaps was due to "" Colonel William F. Verbeck of the 21st Infantry who is now sweating out a tour of duty at Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. Col. Bill rounded up an energetic on-the-spot committee which really went all out to make the meeting a smashing success.

Entitled to step forward for bows and applause were the following committeemen: John B. Farrell. 21st Rgt., Riderwood, Maryland; William V. Davidson, Div. HQ., Swedesboro, New Jersey; Captain Cecil Curies, Cannon Co., 21st Rgt., Baltimore; Major Francis Dice, 21st Rgt., Baltimore; and Coleman Freeman, 21st Rgt.• Baltimore.

When the first wave of the Division's veterans hit Baltimore, they were greeted enthusiastically by Col. Verbeck and his committee. And in practically no time, the first arrivals were on the line as unofficial greeters for the later visitors.

Friday the thirteenth was devoted to registration of delegates, sightseeing and to activities, which the program committee euphemistically described as "informal get togethers!” Informal was the precise word as old comrades recounted war –and post war activities. These procedures were followed far into the night-with casualties amazingly low considering the sustained engagement and the numerous frontal assaults on the fluid opposition.

Major convention activities came on Saturday with the business meeting in the afternoon and the convention banquet in the evening.

Temporary President Major General Kenneth F. Cramer called the meeting to order. You may recall that our former CG is now Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The first order of business was the report of the temporary secretary, Edmund F. Henry of Attleboro, Massachusetts. Comrade Henry first discussed the financial status of the Association. He delighted everybody with the intelligence that, for the moment at least, our books are in the black.

As of the report date, the association had $502.65 in a checking account and $1346.31 in a savings account. It was pointed out that our happy state of solvency was due almost entirely to the generosity of former PFC Richard Krebs, better known as the best-selling author, Jan Valtin.

Krebs has donated all his royalties from "Children of Yesterday to the Association. You doubtless know that Valtin's splendid book concerns the war-time activities of our own 24th.

Originally the fund had been earmarked for the relief of needy veterans and their families but during the year Krebs made it available for the general purposes of the Association.

Secretary Henry reported that, as of the convention date, the Association had five hundred and sixty dues-paying members. He traced the history of the organization of the veterans' group at Talamo Beach, Mindanao, and Miltsuyama, Japan. And then, as is the cust0m of secretaries, he asked the delegates to provide him with more names and addresses of former division members, who, they thought, might be glad to perpetuate the comradeship of war-days in this 24th Division Veterans' Association,

Henry, as unofficial editor and official spark plug of our semi-occasional publication, "THE TARO LEAF", also outlined the need for such a sheet to keep the association as a functioning and growing entity.

At the conclusion of the Henry report, it was voted to accept it as presented and to extend the Association’s thanks to him for his services as temporary secretary-treasurer.

Colonel Verbeck then ascended the rostrum to outline the preconvention activities of his committee. He said that Baltimore had been chosen as the convention city because it was felt to be the most accessible point geographically for the Association membership a. presently constituted. The convention dates were designed, of course. to coincide with the anniversary of Japan's surrender offer.

Discussion of proposed sites for the 1949 convention brought several suggestions. Colonel Thomas Compere, G-l, urged Chicago. Victor Backer, president of the 34th Regimental Association of New York City, argued for his home town. He said that if Gotham were to be chosen as the convention city he would personally see to it that four hundred members from his area would attend.

However, most of those at the meeting felt that to choose a convention city then and there might be unwise. They based this view on the assumption that development of the Association during the next few months might result in a change in the present geographical preponderance of the membership. And that such a change would indicate the ideal convention city without too much difficulty.

In line with this view, it was voted to leave the choice of the 1949 convention city to a future committee. However, it was determined that the 1949 convention will be held during the week-end nearest August 14th.

The business meeting concluded with votes of thanks to General Cramer for his services as temporary president and to Colonel Verbeck and his committee for their masterful handling of convention arrangements.

The Association cabled General MacArthur as follows:

"Your recent wire expressing praise and affection for the 24th Infantry Division enthusiastically received by veterans V-J day convention. Resolution of thanks and comradely greeting voted. We hope you will be with us next year.

And to Major General James Lester in Kyoto, Japan, went the following cable:

“Veterans of Victory Division at V -J Day Convention heard your name with great enthusiasm and resolved that an affectionate greeting be dispatched."

Col. Verbeck received the following wire from Rev. Charles J. Brady, former Gimlet Chaplain:

"Sincere greeting to you and my friends. Circumstances make it impossible for me to be there personally but assure you I am there in spirit, God bless you all,"

In the absence of Father Brady, who had been scheduled to conduct the memorial service, Captain Chris J. Berlo, former chaplain of the 19th took over conduct of the tribute to our departed comrades.

The banquet and the convention ended with a stirring musical rendition of "The Rock of Chickamauga" by the convention orchestra.