Bangor Chosen for Final Reunion of WWII 5th Armored Division
BANGOR -- World War II’s 5th Armored Division Association will honor Bangor by holding its 66th and final reunion here this summer. World War II veterans and family members from Auburn to Ellsworth and South Dakota to Luxembourg will take part in activities including a free event on June 16 welcoming the public to view the military collection at Cole Land Transportation Museum on Perry Road.
More than 400 WWII souvenirs and military contraband items have been donated in recent years, most of them by the 700 veterans and family members who attended the 1995 reunion of the 5th Armored Division group in Bangor.
“The Cole Museum has committed to retain forever its 5th Armored Room and collection of that division and Luxembourg history,” said Galen Cole, WWII veteran of the 5th Armored and founder of the museum. The 5th Armored liberated Luxembourg during WWII.
Veterans of the 5th Armored and family members coming to the final reunion are asked to bring more such items to show to the public, young and old, when Cole Museum is open free of charge 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 16.
Everyone is welcome to meet and greet 5th Armored veterans and museum volunteers and ask questions about items in the museum’s military collection.
Several WWII vehicles are on display, and early drivers will help visitors understand their operation. Rides will be offered in the museum’s WWII Jeeps, which were made by Willys and Ford. Museum guides, led by volunteer Bob O’Leary, will be inside and on the grounds to assist and give tours.
With the rapid demise of WWII veterans, who are in their 80s and older, June 16 will be a significant day, and so recorded at the museum. Those attending will learn firsthand from survivors of the largest war in world history.
Another highlight of the weekend will be the final drawdown and banquet during which the 5th Armored Division members close down their association with a candlelight ceremony remembering the nearly 1,000 servicemen from the 5th who were killed during World War II, as well as 5th Armored Division veterans who have died since.
The 5th Armored Division also held reunions in Bangor in 1984 and as part of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995. Some 30,000 people turned out for Bangor’s parade during the 1995 event.
“The success of the previous two reunions plus the state’s only World War II and Purple Heart monuments on the lawn affords a major opportunity to expand lasting public knowledge of World War II and interest in our Maine museum,” Cole said.
Don Colson, retired TV news anchor, will emcee the Saturday evening banquet. He also will sign and give a copy of “Quiet Courage” to each person who attends. The book published by the Cole Museum tells the story of 79 primarily Maine veterans, including five members of the 5th Armored.
Participants in the banquet will include the Bangor Area Children’s Chorus, initially organized for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995. Members and guests of the 5th Armored will be joined by Cole Museum WWII volunteers.
A non-denominational church service will be held Sunday, June 17, at the museum, and a visit to Bangor by several World War II planes is planned for that day.