Our view: Raise glass to Duluth's USS Paducah veterans
There are only about six of them left -- of the 161 who marched in straight lines through downtown from their armory on London Road to the old Union Depot more than seven decades ago. They were the first group of civilians from Duluth called to s...
There are only about six of them left -- of the 161 who marched in straight lines through downtown from their armory on London Road to the old Union Depot more than seven decades ago. They were the first group of civilians from Duluth called to serve in World War II.
And tomorrow they'll hold their 67th annual reunion -- or the seventh anniversary of what they once said would be their final get-together.
We're talking about the 10th Battalion of the Naval Reserves, who bonded for life after training together aboard the Duluth-based gunboat USS Paducah. In the autumn of 1940 they rode the rails from Duluth's Union Depot to Brooklyn, N.Y., where they were split up and assigned to various ships. By the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Paducah reservists from Duluth were spread across the globe.
Back home after the war, they purchased a bottle of Kentucky whiskey and made a pact. They vowed that when only a handful of them remained, they'd open the bottle and raise their glasses in salute. They did just that in August of 2005, raising their glasses three times. Once for their brothers already deceased: "May they rest in peace. God bless them all," one of them announced. A second time "for those of us who are still here," said another. And a third time for chuckles: "Here's to our wives and girlfriends. May they never meet."
They've continued meeting at least annually since then to recall, among other things, the Paducah. The Navy training ship was docked off Park Point where the Coast Guard station is now. It was sold to Israel after World War II and used to carry passengers from Europe and Russia to Israel. It was scrapped in 1949.
A reservist who trained aboard the Paducah was the first military member from Duluth killed in World War II, surviving members claimed. Others survived torpedo attacks, rough seas and worse.
Wednesday's reunion will be at noon at Mr. D's in West Duluth. The six surviving Paducah vets won't be the only ones there, of course. Widows and other family and friends are expected to join them for lunch. And the Duluth Honor Guard is scheduled to fire off a salute outside.
And you're invited -- you the public. The 60-year-old bottle of sour mash is long gone, but that doesn't mean Duluthians and Northlanders can't raise a glass of something else in honor of our heroes. They're forever entrenched in Duluth history. And we won't be getting many more opportunities to salute them.