RUMFORD – A World War II tank rumbled over Memorial Bridge on Monday, leading a Memorial Day parade that included veterans, Cub Scouts, Snowshoe Club members, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, gymnasts and fire department officials.
The parade paused for a service at the rotary then reformed and marched through Mexico where a second service was held.
Former state Sen. Norman Ferguson told of the first Memorial Day, which took place on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers. He reminded people that “a grateful nation will always remember the honor and courage” of those who served their country in times of conflict.
The best way to keep memories alive, Ferguson told the crowd, is through stories.
After the service, Bob Dupe told of his tour during World War II. A member of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars since 1949 and a life-long resident of Rumford, he served as a company clerk with the 752nd Tank Battalion, “the most decorated tank unit in WWII bar none,” according to Dupe.
The battalion moved from Africa to Italy and finally to Germany in the latter part of the war. Dube was the official interpreter. French was his native language and he learned Italian and German in Army language school. The unit captured many German POWs and his job was to listen and figure out who knew what and who were officers, concealing the fact that he knew German. Gen. George S. Patton adopted the battalion, calling it “unique,” and fought to keep it intact throughout the war.
Another veteran, Fred Drapeau, served with the 45th Infantry during WWII. He was the company commander’s runner. When the unit was going to pull out he’d relay the message from the commander to the squads. He served on the European front for two and a half years before being hit in the chest by a sniper. He lost a lung, and spent a better part of a year in Walter Reed Hospital recovering. Drapeau has lived in Rumford all his life.
After the parade and the services, the public was invited to the American Legion on Waldo Street in Rumford, where lunch was served.