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This month in Fort McCoy history: June 2019

This month in Fort McCoy history: June 2019

Story by Theresa R Fitzgerald on 06/12/2019

Fort McCoy, Wis., was established in 1909. Here is a look back at some installation history from June 2019 and back.

75 years ago June 6, 1944
More than 250 Spanish-American War veterans saw how 1940s Soldiers trained for combat when they visited Camp McCoy at the invitation of Col. George M. MacMullin, post commander.

The men who fought in Cuba with then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” and the Philippines swapped stories with young Soldiers and rode in new combat vehicles jeeps, weapons carriers, tank busters, and armored cars. The average age of the visiting ex-soldiers was 69.

The visitors were taken on a tour of camp installation; witnessed troops in training, including units of the 76th Infantry Division; and presented a flag honoring Capt. Arthur O. Johnson, former Camp McCoy officer now on the faculty of the artillery school at Fort Sill, Okla., to Camp McCoy officers.

60 Years Ago June 13, 1959
A young Chicago couple were united in matrimony June 13 in the first nuptials of the 1959 summer encampment.

Patricia Joyce Demming became the bride of Pvt. Anthony Tokich of Company B, 82nd Combat Engineer Battalion, in a double ring ceremony conducted by the Rev. Father Francis Siemanowrki, chaplain of the nearby Tomah Veterans Hospital.

The bridegroom’s platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Howard D. Stephens, gave the bride away.

40 Years Ago June 1979
During the duty day and sometimes well into the night, the sound of artillery, machine guns, and armored vehicles surround people on post, but in mid-June 1979, different sounds were heard at Fort McCoy. The sounds were that of the 457th Engineer Sawmill Forestry unit.

The 457th, a reserve unit from Hurley, Wis., was one of only two sawmill units in the Army; the other was located in Montana. Most of the men in the unit were professional loggers or worked in sawmills in the northern Wisconsin area in civilian life.

Their mission was to harvest timber and mill the logs into rough cut lumber made to specific dimensions. First, the logging section cuts down trees and further cut them into specific lengths to be taken to the mill. Next, the cut-up trees were taken to the sawmill, where they were milled into the required dimensions.

The Army requires units to be able to set up or break down camp in eight hours, but this unit did it in less than four hours. The sawmill can handle logs up to 25 inches in diameter and 30 feet in length. They can produce 15,000 board feet of rough cut lumber per day.

30 Years Ago June 1989
Fort McCoy was the site of a two-week study that began the first week of June 1989. Members of the 323rd Medical Laboratory Company from Hanscom Air Force Base near Boston, converted old barracks and a Korean War-era trailer into a state-of-the-art laboratory full of military and civilian donated equipment. There, the unit conducted detailed Lyme disease studies. The complicated studies conducted used prototype
equipment donated by the medical and electronic industries.

They entered as much information into their data banks as possible, while working very carefully to get exact results in the two weeks they were here.

During their annual training, the medical personnel collected animals white-footed field mice, chipmunks, birds, raccoons, road-killed deer and went through a series of laboratory studies. Using oats, peanut butter, and apples, the soldiers set 120 traps every evening and collected them the next morning.

With maps that showed the tick density across the entire fort, the 323rd established an attack plan to find where the tick-carrying rodents were most prevalent. They mapped out the post to make sure they got an accurate representation of the tick population on Fort McCoy.

Each day, the unit caught 10 to 25 rodents. After taking blood samples and removing the ticks from the animals that weren’t mice, the medical personnel released the animals. The mice, however, were used for further research.

After the mice were “put to sleep,” they were placed under a special microscope to count the number of ticks both larvae and nymphs on them. The ticks were completely removed, identified, and some were sent to the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Colorado to be studied further.

10 Years Ago June 13, 2009
Service to the nation, the theme of the Fort McCoy Centennial Commemoration on June 13, 2009, was the motivation when the installation was established 100 years ago, said the grandson of the installation’s founder.

Douglas D. McCoy Jr., a retired Air Force colonel and a speaker at the event, said the same spirit was evident in the personnel training and working at the installation.

The McCoy family was well represented at the event and included Douglas D. McCoy Jr.’s 90-plus-year-old mother, the daughter-in-law of the installation’s founder, Maj. Gen. Robert Bruce McCoy.

Douglas D. McCoy Jr., who was born after his grandfather died, shared the history of his grandfather and also reminisced about his own experiences at Camp McCoy and Fort McCoy, which included one of his first jobs of setting up pins at a bowling alley at Camp McCoy.

“(Gen. McCoy) would be proud of the military training dedicated to ensure troop readiness. He would be proud of those who served, (those in) public service, and those of you serving now. He would really celebrate the way you have taken his dream and made it bigger and better.”

Robert Bruce McCoy served in the military during the Spanish-American War, police action in Mexico, and World War I. Douglas D. McCoy Jr. said one of the forces behind his grandfather’s drive to support military training was that he saw young men die needlessly because of poor training and a lack of medical treatment during his service.

“(He) never wanted that to happen again,” Douglas D. McCoy Jr. said. “(With his service, my grandfather) saw war as a constant inevitability and the need to better prepare men for it.”

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