Chapter 22

Honor Guard to President Kennedy


      The year 1962 was highlighted by a very unusual event which brought another "first" to its long and varied history. The Command was honored by its choice as Honor Guard to President Kennedy. The President had been invited to the Commencement Exercises of Yale University on June 11, to receive an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws. Mayor Richard C. Lee requested Major Fleming to provide the Second Company and Band as Guard of Honor for the occasion.

      The Presidential Aircraft arrived at the Tweed-New Haven Airport at 9:51 a.m. The Command was brought smartly to "Present," the band rendered four "Flourishes and Ruffles" followed by "Hail to the Chief" as the President stepped briskly from the plane to be greeted by Mayor Lee and Yale officials.

      Upon being greeted by the Commandant, the President expressed a desire to inspect the Guard of Honor, and strode through the ranks, smiling and chatting with various members. He evinced a keen interest concerning the colonial red uniforms and the origin of the Command. At the completion of the inspection the President spoke briefly to the Troops, thanking Major Fleming and complimenting the membership on their smart and soldierly appearance. He especially thanked the Band for the fine musical renditions. In the late afternoon President Kennedy again passed through the ranks of his Honor Guard before boarding the plane. At this time he spoke informally to men recalling their appearance at his inaugural in 1961. Just before his departure he turned and waved saying "I hope to see you fellows again in 1965."

      At many times during its long history the Command had participated with other units in honoring a President. Records indicate this was the first time the Company had, as a single organization, acted as Guard of Honor to a President of the United States.

      Other interesting events in the life of the Guard during 1962 included the Yankee Division Veterans Parade in Stamford, where the Command escorted Governor Dempsey. A new highway connecting the Merritt Parkway was designated "Yankee Division Highway." Also, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Annual "Loyalty Day" Parade, held in Governor Dempsey's home town, Putnam, on May 6, 1962 proved to be the largest in the history of that City.

      It was on July 4, 1962 that the Second Company joined with the Sons, Daughters, and Children of the American Revolution in honoring the Signers of the Declaration of Indenpendence at the grave of Roger Sherman, one of the signers, in Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven. This has become an annual event and in recent years the Field Music Unit of the Second Company has also played a prominent role.

      On December 15, 1962 a retirement review was held in the Goffe Street Armory for Brigadier General James M. Quinn, Assistant Adjutant General, and for many years an Honorary Member of the Second Company. On this date General Quinn had reached the statutory separation age and was retired with rank of Major General, following 44 years of service. The 102nd Infantry Regiment, his former Command during World War II, and the Second Company took part in the review.

      Also, in 1962, the rifle team again brought outstanding credit to the Company by placing first in the State Organized Militia Match and again in the State Armed Forces Match, winning both the Governor's Trophy and the Adjutant General's Trophy.

      Governor Dempsey was inaugurated to his first full term on January 9, 1963. He had become popular with the members of the Command seldom missing a Foot Guard function. This popularity was demonstrated on the occasion of his inauguration when the Company had a full strength unit in line.

      At a Patriotic Service in Center Church held on February 10, 1963 a large detail of Foot Guards with Colors turned out to be greeted by the new Chaplin, Rev. Walter F. Smith, S.T.M., PhD., successor to Dr. David Beach. This affair was jointly sponsored by the Mary Clap Wooster and Eve Lear Chapters, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Amos Morris Chapter, Children of the American Revolution.

      And in 1963 the Annual Ceremonial Ball honoring Governor Dempsey was held on Washington's Birthday. Other activities included participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, a combined drill with the First Company, Powder House Day, Old Colony Sunday, Memorial Day, Anniversary Service for General David Wooster at Danbury, Ancient and Honorable Artillery Day at Boston, the Clinton Tercentenary and Columbus Day Parade. In all it made a busy schedule for part-time soldiers all of whom were engaged in business or professional life.

      Meanwhile the activities of the Rifle Team brought good news. In the Armed Forces Match a tie score forced a shoot-off with the 103rd Fighter Group, Air National Guard, in which the Foot Guarders were victorious.

      In June, 1963, word was received from Hartford of the retirement of Major Warren S. Whitney, Commandant of the First Company. A fine officer and a favorite of the Second Company, Major Whitney had devoted 39 years of service to his Command. Major Robbins W. Allen, a Retired Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, was elected to succeed Major Whitney.

      On July 21, 1963 Colonel Joseph A. Weibel died at the age of 86. Commandant of the Second Company from 1938 to 1947 he was respected and admired by the membership. Only a few months previous to his death he had been awarded a 50-Year Company Service Medal by Governor Dempsey.

      Major General Frederick G. Reincke, Adjutant General of Connecticut since May 1, 1948 retired after 45 years of service to the State and Nation. On October 27, 1963, the Second Company proceeded to the State Military Reservation at Niantic in full strength and participated with all Connecticut Units of the National Guard and Organized Militia in review held in honor of this distinguished soldier. And on October 30th, a gathering of over 800 people honored General Reincke at a testimonial dinner held in the Hotel Statler-Hilton in Hartford. Colonel E. Donald Walsh, United States Property and Procurement Officer for Connecticut was appointed by Governor Dempsey as the new Adjutant General. Named to the post of Assistant Adjutant General, with the rank of Brigadier General was Colonel Albert E. Cotter of Hartford.

On October 28, 1964 a special election to fill Line Officer vacancies was held resulting in the following promotions:

      First Lieutenant Roy E. Eck to Captain
      Second Lieutenant Edward Schoeck to First Lieutenant
      Ensign Charles R. Gara to Second Lieutenant
      Sergeant Salvatore J. Esposito to Ensign

      During the fulfillment of the 1964 schedule, the Rifle Team again took first place in the Organized Militia Matches. The Company was awarded an "Excellent" rating by Brigadier General Albert E. Cotter as a result of the Annual Command Inspection. Major General E. Donald Walsh, The Adjutant General was made an Honorary Member at the Powder House Day Ceremonies on the Green.

      An unforeseen event, not included in the schedule, arose to test the versatility of the plans. On January 1, 1964 Mayor Richard C. Lee was inaugurated for the 6th term as Chief Executive of the City of New Haven. Friends of the Mayor decided that a gala reception and ball would be held at the Goffe Street Armory on January 4. The Committee planning the affair requested the Commandant to provide an escort for Governor Dempsey and personnel to assist in the reception of official dignitaries at the affair. A call for volunteers resulted in a turn-out of better than 90% of the membership. The Command formed an Honor Guard for the Governor and, in turn, escorted Mayor Lee, U.S. Senator Thomas J. Dodd, Congressman Robert Giaimo and other State and City officials to the rostrum.

      Not totally unexpected but by far the most interesting of unscheduled activities of the Command took place in April, 1964. For some time the members of the First and Second Companies at the combined drills, had been discussing the possibility of another European trip such as their predecessor's had made in 1926. In furtherance of the idea, Major Fleming instructed Chief of Staff, Captain Floyd D. Hitt to conduct a staff study and if found feasible, to produce a plan.

      On April 3, 1964 members of the combined First and Second Companies accompanied by their Ladies and under the leadership of Major Fleming, embarked via KLM Airlines at Bradley Field for what was described as a "Grand European Tour." Unlike the trip of 1926, which took 11 days by ocean liner to reach Europe, the modern pilgrimage arrived on the Continent in a matter of 11 hours.

      In addition to enjoying 15 exciting days of sightseeing and leisure in Switzerland, Italy, France and England, the Guard and their Ladies were permitted the honor of an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. While in France and England, visits were made to many of the ancient Military Commands of those Nations. As a token of appreciation to both Commands for his efforts in planning the pilgrimage, an elaborate reception and dinner ws tendered Captain Hitt during the stay in Rome. As a final note of success the Band of the Second Company was on hand to greet the wayfarers on their arrival at Bradley Field on April 19th.

Chapter 23