This year marks the 50th anniversary of the call-up of Viroqua's 32nd Infantry Division during the Berlin Crisis.
Lives, jobs, farms and local families were put on hold for a year when 85 men were called to SEA-TAC, the Fort Lewis Air Force Base in Seattle, Wash.
Some wives accompanied their mates. Others' wives stayed home to run businesses and farms. Some of the men were able to buy cars and drive back for Christmas. Not only was this a huge sacrifice for the men, but also the worry and stress of those at home was great.
Organization of the 32nd Infantry Division during the Berlin Crisis
The 32nd Infantry Division of the Wisconsin National Guard was alerted to an impending call-up on Sept. 6, 1961. A few days later, the commander, Maj. Herbert A. Smith, was notified that the division was to report to Fort Lewis, Wash., on Oct. 15, 1961, for a one-year's active duty. This was 21 years to the day that the 32nd Infantry Division was activated for World War II. During World War II, then Lt. Col. Herbert A. Smith was the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry.
In August of 1961, construction of the Berlin Wall began. The Soviet Union decided to halt the flow of East Germans escaping to the free West. The Berlin Wall completely surrounded and sealed off West Berlin from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany. Tensions between NATO and the Warsaw PACT dramatically increased, and for a while it seemed like the Cold War in Europe would turn hot. In the United States, it was deemed necessary for an overnight strengthening of the conventional forces for the possibility of a less-than-nuclear war. This meant the activation of Army and Air National Guard units and individual Army Reservists for about one year, depending on what the Soviets did. By Oct. 1, 1961, around 171,000 citizen soldiers had been activated into federal service. The 21,000 officers and men of 11 Air National Guard fighter squadrons, and about 260 high performance jets, were immediately flown to Europe to reinforce the Seventeenth Air Force.
The 32nd Infantry Division (Wisconsin), 49th Armored Division our of the Texas and the 150th Armored Calvary Regiment out of West Virginia, plus other smaller non-divisional units, were activated and commenced training to be ready to replace the 4th Infantry and the 2nd Armored divisions in their home posts at Fort Lewis., Wash., and Fort Hood, Texas, if it became necessary for a similar overnight reinforcement of the Seventh Army in Germany. (Army heavy equipment for the two Regular Army divisions was pre-positioned in Europe, so the personnel could be quickly flown to German if they were needed.) Two other National Guard Divisions were alerted to the possibility of being called to active duty.
At that time, the 32nd Division (and all U.S. infantry divisions) was organized as a "Pentomic" Division. In 1959, all infantry divisions had been reorganized around five battle groups, as opposed to the three regiments found in infantry division from 1940 until 1959.
The men of the 32nd Division returned to Wisconsin, and Viroqua, in August of 1962.
Local soldiers who served
The local soldiers called up were Stan Arnetveit, Jim Bernard, Norman Bousman, Gaylen Brudos, Gerald Brueggen, John Burckhardt, Wyman Cade, Alan Campbell, Roger Carlson Richard Christianson, Pat Connelly, R.S. Dawson, Jerry DeWitt, Tom Dolan, Marlin Eitland, Harvey Ernst, Harold Fanta, Lowell Fetty, Dale Fish, Kendal Fortney, Eddie Fredrick, Gerald Gabrielson, Gene Gabrielson, Cliff Gald, Roger Hage, Gene Halverson, Arden Halverson, Dewain Hansen, David Hanson, John W. Hanson, Henry Haugrud, Darrel Hoff, Wayne Jasperson, Lavern Kilmer, Melvin "Jack" Kingslien, Jim Larson, Ron Larson, Chet Lee, Dave Lewison, Bob Lothen, E. Donald Matson, Beauford "Jack" Mills, David Mills, Wayne Mindham, Bruce Moore, Roger Mueller, Paul Nundahl, Norman "Nub" Oftedahl, Dave Ostrem, Rod Ostrem, Duane Owen, Kermit Parker, Arnold Pedretti, Dave Peterson, Blaine Phillips, David Ramsett, Jerry Roberg, Jack Roou, Tom Rossi, Marvin Sagler, Ken Schultz, Howard Sheldon, Rozel Skaaland, James Soltau, Noel Soltau, Vernon Soltau, Al Solverson, Cy Stafslien, Larry Stephen, Frances Thayer, Morris Thompson, Philip Wistenberg, Chuck Young, Frederick Zitzner, Howard Zitzner, Merlin Zitzner and Roger Zogg.
The unit also included 42 members from elsewhere, whose units made up the number needed to make the Viroqua unit. These men were referred to as "fills."