Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 21, 2006, pg. 12
We continue with our theme this month of “Remember our Veterans.” How can you designate something, and then several years later “un-designate” it? That’s what happened to the Red Arrow Highway through Albion. Our story begins in 1917 during World War I, when National Guard units from Michigan and Wisconsin were combined to form the 32nd Division. It fought bravely in the battlefields of France on five fronts and in three major offensives during the “War to end all wars.” Their insignia was the Red Arrow which they carried into battle, and its soldiers were honorably nicknamed “Les Terribles” by the French.
Two members of that Division were future Albion High School principal William C. Harton who served in the 119th Field Artillery, and future VFW commander Vernon Van Meter. Other members serving in the 32nd Division included: Harvey Mills, John Sweeney, Carlton West, Ben Hewitt, J. J. Craft, Charles Hughes, and Harley Transue, Sr. The most remembered Albionite serving in the 32nd Division was Corporal Patrick Leo Hanlon (1894-1918), the first Albion soldier killed in World War I. Our local American Legion post was named in his memory when it was organized in 1919.
During World War II, the 32nd Division was the first to go overseas following the attack at Pearl Harbor. It fought in the South Pacific theater of operations and racked up an impressive list of victories and accomplishments which is too long for us to print here. Albion members included: Sam DeMaggio, Max Wilkinson, Bernard Boyd, John Wyre, Fred Gillette, Robert Fischer, Kenneth Ross, Raymond Everett, and Arthur Gospill.
Following World War II, a plan was devised to designate U.S.-12 through southern Michigan, and U.S-32 in Wisconsin the “Red Arrow Highway” in honor and memory of the sacrifices made by “our boys” of the 32nd Division. These were the days before Interstate-94 was built. The route would be connected together via roads in Indiana and Illinois. In March, 1953, Red Arrow Highway dedication ceremonies were held across Michigan in such communities as New Buffalo, St. Joseph, Paw Paw, Kalamazoo, Galesburg, Battle Creek, Albion, and Jackson. Signs were posted, including in Albion, officially marking this route as the Red Arrow Highway.
When Interstate-94 was completed in 1960, the U.S.-12 signs along Michigan Avenue came down, and with them went the Red Arrow signs, too. However, the Red Arrow route along Lake Michigan by New Buffalo, St. Joseph, and east all the way to Paw Paw was allowed to keep the Red Arrow designation, and it remains so today. How did Albion allow the Red Arrow Highway designation to be stolen away from us? Our soldiers served in the 32nd Division, too.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a picture of the Red Arrow Highway dedication ceremony held on Sunday, March 22, 1953 at “Gold Star Park” at Five Points. Left to right, beginning on the left under the lamp post: Hal Fry of Potterville in his WWI uniform; Captain Donald Harris of Charlotte; Lt. James Nichols of Albion; Captain Carl Oberleiter of Battle Creek. In front is speaker William C. Harton of Albion, followed by: Vernon Van Meter of Albion; Albion Mayor Norman H. Wiener in the dark jacket; Ernie Fry of Battle Creek, Nylie Sayers of Marshall, and WWI veteran Floyd Van Sickle.
How many of our readers remember the Red Arrow Highway through Albion? Do you think it should be re-designated here as such again?
Highways around the nation, as well as roadways of all sorts are renamed in honor of various military units, philanthropists, and contributors to the community. The Red Arrow Highway is an example of historically preserving the legacy and history of those who served. The naming of the roadway allowed future generations who may not have know about the brave 32nd and their contribution to the Great War to ask questions and learn of the history. Today many major roadways are sponsored by businesses who help to maintain and keep the roadways clean. Major corporations set aside funds for roadway maintenance, community outreach as well as the standard contributions to 401k business funding and other retirement and investment portfolios. Their contributions and sponsorship of roadways are important, however, so it the historical and educational opportunities in including the designation of these roadways in honor of units such as the 32nd.
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic