A Reflection at Camp Atterbury

A Reflection at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Frank W. Milburn Gets 2nd Star.

This was a big moment in the life of the Milburns – Camp Atterbury’s Number 1 Family. Mrs. Frank W. Milburn pins an extra star on the shoulders of her husband, now Major General Frank Milburn as their two children, Frank and Betty Jane, admire their father’s new rank. the Franklin Evening Star – 09/25/1942 General Milburn Gets Second Star Two Down, Two To Go For Goal In the presence of both general and special staff, Mrs. Milburn pinned another star on the broad shoulders of her husband in a brief but impressive ceremony Thursday afternoon and and the commanding general of the 83rd Infantry Division became a Major General.

Just as proud of the General’s promotion, were his daughter, Betty Jane and his son Frank, who also attended the ceremony held in their father’s modest office room in the division headquarters building.

The oath was administered by the adjutant general of the 83rd division, Col. E. G. Isaacs. Only other woman present was Mrs. Rinaldo Van Brunt, whose husband, Col. Van Brunt is chief of staff.

The promotion followed confirmation by the United States Senate. The general had been recommended for the higher rank by President Roosevelt.

Gen. Milburn, a native of Jasper, assumed command of the 83rd Division in August following the transfer of Maj. Gen. John J. Millikan, first head of the 83rd to Camp Forrest, Tennessee.

Camp’s first troops come marching back By Jennifer Del Vechio Franklin Daily Journal The Thunderbolt – Fall, 1997

These veterans traveled hundreds of miles to share smiles, old war stories and pats on the back at the place that molded them into soldiers to fight a world war.

Members of the 83rd Infantry returned to Camp Atterbury Thursday to tour the grounds and see old friends. The unit was the first stationed at Camp Atterbury for World War II, when it was a new training ground for soldiers in the 1940s. But times have changed since these veterans slept in the barracks more than 50 years ago. “I don’t even know where I am,” said John Hudnall, 75, of Shelby County, Ky. “All the buildings are gone.” The camp is also missing a lot of mud. Nick Francullo of Lynn, Mass., said the camp used to be known as Camp Mudbury because when he was there it was just being sodded. There’s also no more potbellied stoves sitting in the hallways. “Everything is more up to date,” Francullo said. “We used to have to start a fire outside, and detail was the coal bin.”

While the camp might look different, the veterans were still able to keep their comradeship and tell stories about one another. R.T. Brooks of Frankfort, Ky., came to the reunion to meet up with Hudnall and Bernard Riddle of Saluda, S.C. His favorite story is one about after he and Hudnall finished their training and went to Europe. Hudnall loaded a piano in an Army truck and asked two girls from a nearby church in Wales to sing to the troops. “He almost got court-martialed,” Brooks said with a grin. “But when the commander asked him what he was doing he said, ‘I was just providing entertainment to the troops.”‘ The commander didn’t issue the court-martial but sternly warned them to make sure it didn’t happen again.

While most of the time was spent reminiscing about happy times, the veterans also came to share their feelings about a war that left its scars. Each veteran nodded his head when Lester Pittman of Spokane, Wash., said he can’t watch a war movie. After fighting battles in Normandy, Ardennes, Brittany, the Rhineland and Central Europe, these men have their own movie in their minds. “These are some of my best buddies,” Pittman said. “”We get together, and we know each other and can sit down and visit. When I watch a war movie and go to bed I wake up in a sweat, and they understand.” Herbert Gibson of Pittsburgh said the men created a special bond that they try to keep alive by meeting for reunions each year. This is their 51st time together.

“We can tease each other and tell the same stories over and over,” Gibson said. With 240 veterans there were plenty of stories about how they marched across northern Germany in 10 days to how they kept warm during the Battle of the Bulge by heating up their cognac or whiskey for warmth. The veterans said attendance at the reunions has grown, since most of the vets are retired. “I’m having a ball,” Francullo said. “I always look forward to this.”

Atterbury Seeks to Recapture It’s Past

It’s been 51 years since men of the 83rd Division last gathered as a group at Camp Atterbury in 1946…55 years since they first gathered in August 1942. Many of them will be returning Thursday for a short visit. They, and the former military installation which straddles Bartholomew and Johnson counties have changed in the past 50 something years.

The men of the 83rd who will be meeting in their 51st reunion this week at the Adams Mark Hotel in Indianapolis are older. Some were old when the group held its first reunion in 1946 in Indianapolis, aged not by the passage of time but by the war in which they fought and lost so many friends. And the base where so many of them were introduced to the military has changed. There is still a military presence, but the wooden barracks in which they slept or stood fire watch were torn down — the wood sold for scrap. Much of the base which once bustled with tens of thousands of men in olive drab uniforms has been given over to other uses — a horse park, a correctional facility, a Job Corps training center and a county park, just to mention a few — but there are still things in place to keep alive the past.

Two of them will be on the five buses that will bring the veterans to Camp Atterbury for a daylong visit beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday morning — Ames and Helen Miller of Columbus. Ames is very much a part of the history of the 83rd Division and Camp Atterbury. He was among the first to come to the newly opened base in 1942 Its newness contributed to the first nickname given the installation which only months before had been farmland. “We called it ‘Mudbury’ for obvious reasons,” the Columbus retiree likes to tell listeners. When the 83rd arrived, roads were just being installed -and barracks were still being erected. Ames and Helen are not only part of the 83rd alumni, they are a welcoming committee for the present-day camp and Columbus. Helen will be along to help point out the changes at the camp — the memorial park near the military entrance on which are inscribed the insignias of the units which trained here, the restored chapel on the main grounds and the small. Chapel in the Meadows originally built by Italian prisoners of war.

And while she’s making her spiel about the camp and its changes, she also will be tapping them to leave something behind, artifacts that were a part of their stay here. The artifacts are being sought for the museum which is now under construction, a facility which will trace the multifaceted history of the complex. Betty Randall of Hope also is helping on that search for Atterbury related artifacts. “We’re asking anyone who might have Atterbury-related pieces set aside in storage to consider giving them to the museum,” Betty said. .We’ve already collected quite a bit of material, but we’re especially interested in things like original copies of The Crier (the base newspaper) and everyday items like ID badges. There should be a wealth of material from the men of the 83rd.

It was while the 83rd was in training at the camp that the War Department created one of the more unusual training battalions and put it in the middle of Indiana. It was carried on the public rosters as the 101 infantry battalion, but it was more accurately referred to as the “Austrian Battalion.” That name was derived from the fact that it initially consisted of Austrians who had escaped the European country after the war had been launched, ironically by a fellow Austrian, Adolph Hitler. Some members literally had escaped from concentration camps while others were part of the country’s nobility. Three brothers were actually archdukes, but at Camp Atterbury they were buck privates.

Atterbury Tribute Cites the 83rd

A small white chapel nestled m the confines of Camp Atterbury was the setting Saturday for a homecoming of World War II infantrymen who met to honor the heroes of their division. Members of the Kentucky Chapter of the 83rd Infantry Division Association paid a proud tribute to the 4,000 fellow fighters who lost their lives fighting for freedom. The division was the first trained at Atterbury, making the chapel a fitting place for a memorial ceremony.

A plaque headed by the word Thunderbolt – a second name adopted by the division for its characteristic swiftness in battle – and inscribed with a message saluting the “real heroes” of the war was hung at the chapel’s entrance. Over a balcony, members hung a black and gold banner hand quilted by Mary Belle Wright in memory of her husband John, a member of the 83rd Division, who died several years ago. The banner displays five gold stars, one for each of the five battles fought by the 83rd, and an inverted triangle enclosing interior circles and lines forming the word Ohio.

About 80 percent of the division’s first members originated from that state Columbus resident Ames Miller, chairman of the division association, said the gathering carried special meaning for the group, which meets annually in different U.S. cities. “We’re honoring the people who didn’t come home – the real heroes,” he said.

Association President Charles Schmidt traced the history of the 83rd Division’s wartime maneuvers, mentioning each of battles at Normandy, Brittany, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. The division was the first to join the Russians and finish the war.

“All in all, it’s one of the finest divisions that ever fought on the continent of the United States. It is one of the most famous divisions ever put in the United States Army,” he said.


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