BANGOR, Maine — Though the commander of the 5th Armored Division during World War II never made it to one of the reunions in Bangor, nine of his family members will attend the group’s 66th and final gathering, which will be hosted June 14-17 by Cole Land Transportation Museum on Perry Road.
Four generations of the family of Maj. Gen. Lunsford E. Oliver, who died in 1978, are among those who have registered for the reunion of the 5th Armored Division Association, of which Oliver was the first president in 1946.
They include Oliver’s son, Dr. Thomas K. Oliver of Rapid City, S.D., two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.
The 5th Armored, known as the Victory Division, liberated Luxembourg in 1944 and captured five German generals during one four-day period of the war in Europe.
As he has previously, Thomas K. Oliver will attend the Bangor reunion to honor the memory of his father and the service of the 5th Armored Division. He will give a talk at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 16, by the Maine World War II Memorial during a day of free activities at the Cole Museum, 405 Perry Road.
Although Thomas Oliver attends reunions as a family member of a 5th Armored officer, he is a decorated World War II hero in his own right. A pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force, 1st Lt. Oliver was flying a B-24 bomber out of southern Italy when it was shot down over Yugoslavia on May 6, 1944. He and the crew parachuted out of the plane.
Oliver landed among pro-Ally Chetniks and was missing in action for three months while his father led the 5th Armored Division in several campaigns. The growing group of more than 150 downed airmen couldn’t agree on whether it was safe to get a message to the 15th Air Force until Oliver came up with a message combining words and letters from phrases whose meaning would be known only to those in his unit.
The men were rescued by C-47s in August, and Oliver ended up getting the Legion of Merit for his ingenious efforts in getting the airmen rescued.
The public is invited to meet Oliver, members of the 5th Armored Division, and Constant Goergen, co-founder with Galen Cole of the U.S. Veterans Friends Luxembourg, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the museum. Admission to the Cole Museum will be free that day.
Cole, the museum founder and a 5th Armored member who invited the division to hold its final reunion in Bangor, emphasized that the Saturday evening banquet also is open to the public.
A special invitation to the banquet has been issued to veterans who have one of the nearly 8,000 Maine-made maple walking sticks the museum has given out to Mainers who served in one of the war eras. Those who bring their walking stick to the event will be eligible for prizes drawn that evening, including a 55-inch TV. Stands will be available at each table for the veterans to store their walking sticks in during the event.
But all veterans are welcome, Cole said, and he hopes family members, friends and anyone interested will purchase a banquet ticket for what likely will be the last major World War II activity in the area.
The evening will include a candlelight ceremony honoring those from the 5th Armored who have died, and music by the Bangor Area Children’s Chorus, which was organized to participate in activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995.
Those attending the banquet may choose chicken breast, grilled haddock or vegetarian entree. Tickets are $15 when bought in person 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays at the Bangor Auditorium. Including a handling charge, tickets also are available for $19 each by phone at 990-4444, 800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
The reunion will conclude on Sunday, June 17, with a nondenominational service at 9 a.m. at the museum, then a free air show of World War II airplanes by the Texas Flying Legends at Bangor International Airport.
Walking sticks are available to Maine veterans and military members who bring ID and proof of military service to the Cole Museum 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
For information on the Cole Land Transportation Museum, call 990-3600 or visit www.colemuseum.org. To read Thomas Oliver’s story, visit www.battlestory.org/index.php?p=1_86_THOMAS-K-OLIVER-USAAF-