A Wisconsin park received a breath of fresh air, reviving its meaning for future generations, when Red Arrow Park in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was rededicated during a July 15 ceremony.
“It is great to dedicate a park like this to remember the Red Arrow’s first hundred years, and while we won’t be here, I hope future generations are here in another hundred years rededicating or reimagining this great formation,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general. “It’s a tribute to the Soldiers. It’s a tribute to the National Guards of Wisconsin and Michigan, and it’s a tribute to our great United States Army.”
The park rededication ceremony took place just a few days before the July 18 centennial of the birth of the 32nd Division, comprised of Wisconsin and Michigan National Guardsmen in its dawn. Manitowoc originally renamed and dedicated the park on May 23, 1956 — Memorial Day — in honor of the Soldiers of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division.
“Two cannons were placed in the park, and for many baby boomers like myself, we created the stories untold by our fathers and grandfathers,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Hansen, former command sergeant major of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and a chairman of the Friends of Red Arrow Park group organizing the fundraising initiative. “Each year those unsung heroes passed on, and with them faded the memory of their deeds seldom spoken, but embodied in a park named Red Arrow. But time marches on, and that, too, was forgotten.”
Hansen served 21 years in the 32nd, taking pride in the Red Arrow patch on his shoulder. He said he could not turn his back on what the park had become over time. Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels agreed that the park had gotten lost in the shuffle, the cannons getting rusty. He was quickly on board with restoring the park.
“We redid the parking lot,” Nickels said. “We groomed the beach. We cleaned up some of the equipment. We took down the old bathrooms, but the park wasn’t complete. The park still didn’t have anything that showed what the meaning was, what Red Arrow is.”
In summer of 2016, a mural at least 30 feet tall and wide, depicting a red arrow next to a Soldier’s image, was painted on a wall bordering the park to the north, providing a reminder of the park’s true meaning to all who visit the park. Friends of Red Arrow Park is still working on raising money to bring more amenities to the park honoring the 32nd Division.
Soldiers of the 32nd distinguished themselves during World War I, fighting under Maj. Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing as part of the American Expeditionary Force.
“They went overseas and earned their nom de guerre, ‘Les Terribles,’ and that elegant patch that you see on so many of the men and women who are veterans of this organization,” Dunbar said. “They earned that simple patch, a red arrow piercing a line. They pierced every one they came in contact with. They would’ve pierced more, but they ran out of lines. That was the quality of this Division.”
The 32nd Division continued their legacy during World War II, serving for 654 days in combat, more than any U.S. Division in any war. In 1961 the division, now entirely composed of Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers, mobilized for the Berlin Crisis.
In 1967, the division reorganized as an infantry brigade. Elements of the brigade deployed throughout the War on Terror, with the whole brigade deploying in 2009 and 2010, distinguishing itself yet again. Earlier this year, the Michigan National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment rejoined the Red Arrow, bringing Badgers and Wolverines back together in the 32nd Brigade.
Red Arrow Park honors the Soldiers of the 32nd, but also serves as a reminder of all who have served the United States of America.
“It’s Red Arrow Park, but this is about all veterans, all services,” Hansen said. “We want them all represented here, and if you have an opportunity to look at the bricks, we’ve done that. We’ve got Marines. We’ve got Vietnam veterans and veterans from all wars in all services.”
“The 32nd is a National Guard story, a U.S. Army story and it’s an American story,” Dunbar said. “Through the efforts of this community, the committed veterans like Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Hansen, the VFW Post 659 and the Friends of Red Arrow Park, this park will stand in silent tribute to the 32nd and veterans from our armed forces. This park stands for things that endure — our families, employers, communities and the Citizen-Soldiers who remain always ready and always there.”
The Wisconsin National Guard is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 32nd Division and its participation in World War I with “Dawn of the Red Arrow,” a collection of print and video stories, photos and social media posts marking key moments in the history of the famed 32nd Division.