Reunion 2011

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Herminie Cold War memorial honors those who served

By Stacey Federoff, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, September 2, 2011

For 19 years, along Mars Hill Road outside Herminie, missiles stood at the ready under the guidance of more than 1,100 service members stationed at the Battery B, U.S. Air Defense Site PI-37.

Although the missiles never were fired, the dedication of the men serving there should not be forgotten, said Ed Evans, who served at the base as a first sergeant from 1960-62. ”These things were a part of the history of this area, and we all have to remember the past,” he said. “It’s where we came from — for this country to be where it is now — and these were the people that were part of that background.” Evans was one of about 40 people, half of them veterans from the base, who gathered Friday to dedicate a plaque outside Herminie Volunteer Fire Department on Sewickley Avenue.

The plaque was designed by Bob Davis, a fellow Battery B veteran from Lima, Ohio. It is made of bronze to match other plaques lining the wall of the honor roll. Davis said he wanted to include the symbols of the battalion as well as the motto “first among equals” — for the First Artillery Regiment. ”It etches a place in history for us without pointing out any one person,” said Davis, a radar and generator operator at the base from 1962-65.

The gathering was organized by fellow battalion member Don Wellman of Dallas, who also planned a reunion in 2008. The Texas resident, who served as an acquisition radar operator at the base from 1958-61, said this might be the last reunion because the veterans are getting older. ”It brought back a lot of memories for them and made connections between them,” Wellman said.

About 50 to 60 veterans attended a tour last Saturday morning of the former site, near the intersection of Mars Hill and Slaughter Hollow roads. A banquet was held that night at Ferrante’s Lakeview on Route 30 in Hempfield.

Active from 1955-74, the base first housed anti-aircraft missiles before it shifted to anti-ballistic missiles. After the change, the 18 Nike Hercules missiles in Herminie contained more firepower than all the Allied ordnance dropped during World War II. The base was one of 12 Nike sites — named after the Greek goddess of victory — in the Pittsburgh area. It is the second to memorialize veterans’ service.

A granite marker in Irwin Memorial Park recognizes the service of men stationed nearby at Battery C, a similar base. During the ceremony, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance before Evans presented a short speech on the history of the Battery B base.

“It was an exciting, challenging and fun time,” said first sergeant there from 1960-62. “In my 20 years of service, Battery B will be foremost in my mind.” After unveiling the plaque, Evans also closed with a prayer. Evans said later that this was his first visit to the area in five years.”It’s really nice to be able to have the camaraderie with the fellow members of the unit,” he said.

Frank Mellage, of Raleigh, N.C., said the base often was on alert during the volatile period in the late 1960s after the 1968 assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and then-Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.”We kind of thought any one of these sites would be easy pickings for a couple hundred demonstrators,” he said.Mellage, a first lieutenant at the base from 1968-70, said he has fond memories of the area and wanted to revisit the church where his daughter was baptized.”We really enjoyed it,” he said. “My wife and I were newly married at the time.

“Service members were adopted by locals, Davis said and they, in turn, marched in Fourth of July parades and participated in military funerals at the time.”When you come in at 18, three years is a big part of your life, you did a lot of growing up,” Davis said.

Herminie Volunteer Fire Department Trustee John Sockledge said he was glad to recognize the Cold War veterans alongside the others on the honor roll.”We had no problem with it,” he said. “We wanted to honor these people.”


2011 Reunion Group Photo


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“Thanks to Ray Adams for the Reunion Group Photo and Videography. The Photo ($10.00) and DVD ($30.00) may be ordered by calling Ray or by email.
Phone—— 724-863-0312 email—



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  1. Don Wellman #

    Thanks for writing, Bob.
    I’m glad you and Shirley came to the Reunion. It was good meeting you! I’m glad you and Tom Zangla found a connection with your military service.
    I hope you didn’t mind the Cook/donut story at the Reunion!!!!
    Keep in touch.
    Best to you and yours and may God Bless you.

  2. Bob Good #

    Don – Just wanted to let you know that my wife and I really enjoyed the 2011 reunion and greatly appreciated all the work that you, your wife, and all others did to make it a great time for all. The DVD was fantastic – great job! God bless you all!

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