THE 2008 POLAR BEAR REUNION
The 2008 reunion of the Polar Bear Association of World War II was held in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, September 7-11, 2008 at The Best Western Gettysburg Hotel located in the center of this historic town. Unfortunately, time and age have taken their toll and the group was forced to disband, cancelling any future plans for reunions. The association's archives and records were delivered to the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in April 2009, where they will be part of the museum's ever growing collection of World War II and veteran related materials for research and study. A financial donation to the museum for perpetual care of the 85th Infantry Division monument was made on behalf of the association in June 2009. Later that summer, the remaining members voted to donate money from the association's final funds for memorial bricks to be placed at the new US Army Heritage Museum, planned for a location in Northern Virginia and to be completed by 2011. The bricks are to honor not only the 339th Infantry and its service in World War II, but also to pay homage to the original "Polar Bears" of the 339th Infantry who served in North Russia from 1918 to 1919.
THE 2006 POLAR BEAR REUNION
The fiftieth anniversary of the Polar Bear Association of World War II was celebrated with a superb reunion at the Lodge of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, September 24 through September 28, 2006. America's "Music Town" played host to approximately 100 veterans and family members for four days of music and gatherings including a river cruise and trips to several of the music shows. There were so many shows in Branson that it was hard to make a selection, but everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. President Walter Jabs (A Co.) chaired the business and general meetings with the assistance of Hoy Shingleton (G Co. and past association president) and after some debate, it was decided to try for one more reunion in 2008. Joe Fromme (F Co.) was elected president of the association for the 2007-2008 term (Joe's second time as association president) and set the wheels in motion for the 2008 reunion.
Chad Daniels, director of the Armed Forces Museum of Mississippi at Camp Shelby, graciously took time away from his demanding schedule to address the veterans and provide information on the status of the museum as well as future plans for expansion of the museum, new holdings and the museum's latest exhibit, "The War on Terrorism".
The hospitality room was the place to gather for old comrades and friends who put in bids on Polar Bear memorabilia for the silent auction, and study a display of unique artifacts, uniforms, photographs of the Italian Campaign, letters, and rare maps exhibited by Steve Cole from his private collection. Steve, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, hosts "Custermen.com" and has done more than most to provide free and interesting information on the 85th Infantry Division courtesy of the world wide web. Sean Hoskins, whose father served with the 910th Field Artillery Battalion, also attended with a notebook full of documents and maps that he has collected from public and private sources. Photo albums of past reunions and books brought by veterans were also of interest and the subject of some interesting discussion and memories.
The closing banquet was held in the hotel ballroom with music and tributes and a splendid dinner, followed by a stirring program from Mike Radford, Army veteran and inspirational speaker who also had a short baseball career with the Kansas City Royals. Mike speaks to veterans and school groups in the Branson area and was instrumental in raising funds in Branson for the World War II Memorial in Washington. He was a perfect speaker for the evening.
A terrific "arrivederci breakfast" was provided to members and guests on the reunion's final day, and soon after everyone departed for home from this special event. The only downside of the reunion was a heart attack suffered by Roland Claar (A Company). But thanks to quick action by his daughter and the special staff at Skaggs Urgent Care and Health Center (and Roland's toughness! -ed.), he has recovered and hopefully will be at the 2008 Reunion.
A HUGE Polar Bear thank you and tip of the hat to the folks at Branson Hospitality and the Lodge of the Ozarks, which really rolled out the red carpet and treated both veterans and guests like kings and were willing to do everything for our comfort. The Branson reunion was a special one, though there were many faces missing from the crowd and our sincere wishes and prayers are with those who could not attend due to health concerns.
TAPS (In Memorium)
Tom Kelly (Associate Member) - February 2007. "Even though Tom had never served with the 85th Division, no one was more proud than he was to say he was associated with the 85th because of his fond memories of his association with a couple of 'great, wonderful sergeants of the 403rd FA Battalion who took him in as a 15-year old teenager.' 'They saved my life,' he said. In 1998, when we decided Camp Shelby would be selected as the repository of our archives, Tom was more than delighted since he had been working diligently with the museum staff to make sure the 85th Division deserved to be kept at the forefront as one of the 'best' outfits that trained there during WWII." - Howard Maki, February 12, 2007
Floyd Minor, U.S.A.-Retired (AT Co. & 3rd BN HQ) - January 29, 2007 after a short illness. Colonel Minor was the last surviving battalion commander of the 339th Infantry, having served in that post from October 1944 through June 1945. Under his leadership, "Task Force Minor" was the motorized unit that uncovered the huge cache of priceless Italian art, hidden in the Italian Alps. Stolen from churches and art museums throughout Italy, the priceless paintings and sculpture were boxed and ready for shipment to Berlin. Prior to serving as battalion CO, Minor had commanded the 339th Infantry Anti-Tank Company and was Executive Officer of the 3rd Battalion under Lt. Colonel Smith. A soldier of confidence and courage, who greatly influenced the Polar Bear Association, Colonel Minor will be greatly missed.Paul Reeder (E Co. & 2d BN HQ) - long time treasurer and friend to many in the Polar Bear Association, passed away February 14, 2006. Paul was 90 years old and passed away with his family by his side. Those who remember Paul can testify to the wonderful job he did as treasurer from 1978 to his resignation this past January due to illness. The association and his family will miss him dearly.
Robert O. Barth (M Co.) - July 2005
Raymond Blackwell (M Co.) - November 2005
Louis Havranek (C Co.)- March 2005
Ernest Jordan (C Co.)- August 2005
Paul E. Macke (A Co.) - January 2005
James F. Moran (K. Co.) - November 2005
Glenn Rhine (B Co.) - November 2005
Joseph Tucker, (H Co.) - January 2005
Donald Yoder (B Co.) - January 2006
Margaret Bailey, wife of Harry Bailey, (D Co.) - November 2005
Helen Kurtz, wife of Richard K. (E Co.)- November 2005
Ethel Quailey, wife of John T. Quailey (AT Co.) - August 2005
The 2004 Reunion: Over fifty veterans with their families attended the 2004 reunion of the Polar Bear Association of World War II from September 23 to 27, 2004, at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. There was excitement galore as the veterans enjoyed a luncheon cruise on the Potomac River on Friday, followed with a Saturday a tour of Washington that included a visit to the Lincoln Memorial and the new World War II Memorial. (How many of you had your photo taken in front of the "Rome" inscription?) The great get together concluded with a banquet that featured a speech from new association president Tom Morgan, a recounting of the Polar Bear's experiences in Italy by John Heiser, and presentation of a special case from Tom Kelly, featuring a U.S. World War One bayonet and the the motto of the regiment- "The Bayonet Decides!"
The 2002 Reunion: The 2002 reunion of the Polar Bear Association of World War II was held at the Oasis Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, October 6-10, 2002. The weather was great and the friendship warm as about 190 members and associates gathered to talk over old times and prepare for the dedication of the 85th Infantry Division Monument at Camp Shelby. The Polar Bear Association of World War II officially dedicated the monument to the 85th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi on October 8, 2002. Over 250 Polar Bears, members of the 338th Infantry Association, wives, children, and onlookers attended the ceremony in front of the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum.
Last Update: 2 May 2009
|The 85th Infantry Division in World War II
The Unofficial Webpages of the Polar Bear Association of World War II:
Veterans of 339th Infantry, 910th FA Bn, 310th Engineer Bn, & 310th Medical Bn
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