Kenneth “Rock” Merritt’s Favorite 508 Reunion
My favorite and most memorable 508th Association reunion has to be my first one in Chicago in 1976. Although there was some sadness in this reunion, I was meeting men that I had served and fought with during the war whom I had not seen in over twenty-nine years. This was the second reunion for the Association and we had over 175 registered. I was still on active duty, and I had agreed to be the guest speaker at our Saturday night banquet.
As Sally and I arrived at the hotel, we had to pull over and let an ambulance by; the ambulance was carrying one of the 508th members who had just had a heart attack. That person was our founder and chairman of our Association, Mr. O.B. Hill. O.B. was hospitalized in Chicago for over a week.
A few hours later a well-decorated officer from A Company, Rex Combs, had a massive fatal heart attack in the lobby of the hotel.
This being the only the second reunion, companies did not have company hospitality rooms, so individuals set up bars in front of their rooms and invited anyone to stop by have a drink and talk about what they have been doing for the past twenty-nine year and swapping war stories. Unlike today, when we close our hospitality’ at 10 p.m., back then the hotel management closed us around 3 a.m.
I was impressed with a young man by the name of Joe Hill, son of O.B. and Margaret Hill. Joe came to me and said he had just come from the hospital, and his dad asked him to fill in for him and he had no idea what to do. I told young Joe, “Get with the Vice-President and just follow the program,” and that is what he did. He did an outstanding job. I belong to many Associations, and I can say, without reservation, none of them comes close to the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Association. I for one will hate to see the day that we retire our beloved Association.
Lt. Col. Louis Toth, Company Commander, H Company, Third Battalion (1919-2003)
Red Blackmon, H Company, passes on the news of the death of Lt. Col. Louis Toth, H Company Commanding Officer. Lt Col. Toth was acting Commanding Officer of H Company during its early days at Fort Benning. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the 508, was wounded; returned to command H Company during the jump into Holland during Operation Market-Garden, was again wounded; and once again returned to H Company to lead them during the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded a third time. Lt. Col. Toth also served in the Korean War, and he retired from the U.S. Army in 1962.
Seeking Information About Charles Ray Swan, E Company.
Fred Downs, cousin of Charles Ray Swan, E Co., seeks information about his cousin, Charles Swan: “I would like to find someone who knew Charles, who might possibly tell me where he was killed and the circumstances surrounding his death in Normandy.” Contact Fred Downs via email at: email@example.com or contact the editor, via the address and contact information below.
HQ1 “Mini” Reunion in San Antonio, Texas, March 12th-16th
There’s still time to make plans to attend HQ1’s reunion in San Antonio. Registration is $65, and checks should be mailed to Van Walker, 8800 Starcrest Drive #5, San Antonio, TX 78217.
508 PIR Association 30th Annual Reunion
It is time to register for the 508 PIR Association’s 30th and Final Reunion, which is to be held Sunday, October 17th through Thursday, October 21st, 2004 in Gainesville, Florida. The reunion will be held at the Paramount Hotel, 2900 SW 13th St., Gainesville, Florida 32608. Registration for this reunion will be $70, which is an increase of $5 from the previous reunion. This will help to defray costs associated with rental of busses at a cost of $600 each for the 50-mile trip from Gainesville to Camp Blanding. The retirement ceremony will be held on Tuesday, October 19th at Camp Blanding, and it will be hosted by the staff of Camp Blanding. For more information about the 30th Annual Reunion and Retirement Ceremony, Contact Ernie Lamson, 508 PIR Association Treasurer, at (651) 699-7366.
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