Highlights of the 2006 Reunion in Austin, TX


u_2006-1The 49th annual Reunion (2 August-5 August, 2006) of the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Austin, Texas is history. By all accounts it was a great success. We hope to see everyone again next summer (2007) in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A total of 81 persons attended all or parts of the activities. Eleven of these were the men we gather to honor, the Veterans of the 818th. We were also pleased to have four 818th wives, three 818th widows, and 25 818th sons and daughters.

Eleven states were represented, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Iowa, Mississippi, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, and California.




Some of the folks who were there this year


  • Robert and Sharon Bowles and Shayla Barber. Robert is the son of Wayne Bowles (deceased).
  • Raymond Schildt and wife Lola and daughters Delta Korvar, Margaret Krieser, and Joan Pearson (our 2007 hosts).


  • Oscar Gingrich and daughter Theresa Mahoney and her husband Jim and their daughters Sydnie Mahoney and Ashley Essmann. Also, Oscar's son Allen Benson.
  • Larry Kindred and wife Donna. Larry is the son of John W. Kindred (deceased).


  • Sam Arbutina and son Phil.
  • Dan Checchia and wife Carolyn.
  • James V. Mars and son James H. Mars.
  • Irene Ritter and her friend Bob Shrader and her daughter Lynette Langland and husband Dennis and their daughter Amie and son Brad. Irene is the widow of Harold Ritter.
  • James and Deborah Southard. James is the son of Lester Southard (deceased).
  • Wally Wilken and wife Beverly. Also, their daughter Wendy Vandruff and husband Mark and their grandchildren Emily and A. J. Tague. Also, Wally and Beverly's daughter Eileen Egloff and husband Steve and family Wilma Egloff, Phyllis Burcaw, Theresa Uhlman, and Susan Montgomery.
  • James Wilson Miller and son Gary.
  • John Micik and son Dave.


  • Arry Lee Graves and daughters Judy Graves and Linda Bailey.
  • James Brannon and daughters Becky Strother and Rhonda Adams and daughter in law Linda Brannon and granddaughter Angela Martinez and her husband Carlos.
  • Larry Pittman and wife Joy and daughter Lacey. Larry is the son of Harvey Shelby Pittman (deceased).


  • Chuck Alexander and wife Donna. Their son Cliff and daughter Robin Sisko and her daughter Madeleine. Also, Donna's sister Karen. Jan Bentley and husband Phil and their sons Brandon and Alex. And, Cleo Sage and
  • Shirley Norwood (cousin) and her husband Andrew Algava. Cleo, Chuck, and Jan are the widow, son, and daughter of Richard Gail Alexander (deceased). This group was also our hosts for the Reunion.
  • Laverne Henry. Also, Gay and Ralph Ervin and their daughters Kristen and Megan. And. Joy and Ron Hounsel and their daughter Melissa. Laverne and Gay and Joy are the widow and daughters of Jack Henry.
  • Babe Stel and wife Pat and son Bill.


Wednesday 2 August

We started arriving and checking at the very nice Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Austin. We all got reacquainted with old friends and met a whole bunch of new ones. Our hosts had done an excellent job of setting up the Hospitality Room. There was lots of WWII and 818th memorabilia on display. Everyone quickly learned that there was a complimentary cooked to order breakfast available every morning and a complimentary happy hour(s) bar every evening. Both were much used.


Thursday 3 August

Today was probably the high point of the Reunion. After a hearty breakfast we boarded the bus for a short road trip to Kileen, Texas and Fort Hood. When the 818th trained there prior to shipping out for Europe it was Camp Hood. Our first stop at Fort Hood was the Chapel where a very moving Memorial Service remembered those men of the 818th who did not come home from the war and those members of the 818th Family we have lost this past year.

Across the street from the Chapel we visited the Tank Destroyer Monument where a great many photos were taken. It was very moving to see the Veterans of our group gathered around "their" monument.

We next visited the 4th Infantry Divison Museum. Of particular interest there was the section devoted to the Tank Destroyer Forces. A new addition there was a plaque commemorating the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion. I believe we may owe the placement of this plaque to the efforts of our Hosts.

Outside the museum building was an impressive array of tanks and military equipment. Again, it was moving to see our Veterans gathered around the M10 and M36 Tank Destroyers. You could feel an emotional bridge crossing sixty plus years as the men explored these relics from their past.

Prior to leaving Fort Hood we were treated to a scrumptious lunch in the mess hall. Army food has certainly changed! It was much like entering the food court at any large shopping mall. There was no shortage of any type food one might desire and it was all well prepared.

This evening we went to Posados Restaurant for an authentic and excellent Tex-Mex dinner. The restaurant was loaded with atmosphere and once again enjoyed by all. (the margaritas were pretty good too)

Prior to boarding the bus for dinner, several of us had taken advantage of the complimentary happy hour at Embassy Suites. Upon returning to the hotel we spent some really quality time socializing in the Hospitality Room, visiting the pool, frequenting the hotel bar, and in my case-all of the above.


Friday 4 August

Again we boarded the bus after an excellent complimentary breakfast. We spent most of the day in beautiful downtown Austin. Our first stop was the very impressive Texas State History Museum. We had some time to self-tour the many exhibits therein. We were also able to visit the IMAX Theater to view Texas: the Big Picture and later we visited the Spirit Theater to see the multi-media presentation, The Star of Destiny. Lunch was on our own at the Story of Texas Cafe, also located within the Hugh Museum building.

Our next stop was the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library. Here we took in as much of the library as we could in our self-tours. Needless to say there is so much to see that you could only see the high points in one visit.

We left the Museum and Library thoroughly immersed in the colorful history of the great state of Texas. This is one of the really great aspects of the Reunions. We get to see so many places and things. Some of us are becoming quite cosmopolitan!

This evening we indulged in another fine meal. This time we went to the famous County Line Restaurant for a Bar-B-Que dinner. It was GREAT.

Our day was by no means over. Our next stop was Town Lake where we boarded pontoon boats for the bat viewing cruise. This does not, on the surface, sound all that exciting but believe me, it is. It was almost surreal to sit and watch millions of tiny bats drop from beneath the bridge, form up into lines, merge together, and fly off down the river bank on their nightly foray. Their method of doing so is so choreographed that you keep wondering where the head bat that is directing the entire show is hiding. In addition to everything else, cruising along the lake in the quite (electric motors) boats and seeing the Austin night lights is impressive and relaxing.

After the cruise we returned to the hotel for socializing-pool time-hotel bar. Again I partook in all three.


Saturday 5 August

Today was a little more low key as we started closing in on the end of another FANTASTIC Reunion. We were greeted at breakfast with copies of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper which cover featured a very nice article on our 818th Reunion in Austin. After breakfast we gathered in the Hospitality Room for the Ladies Gift Exchange, the annual Business Meeting, and a great photo session.

We the had a few hours of free time for lunch, rest, play, shopping, and visiting in the Hospitality Room. Those few hours went quickly and it was soon time for the complimentary Hotel Happy Hour.

Next was the Banquet. We were treated to a very moving talk by Thom Ray. Thom is a member of the Austin Fire Department and served with the Army in Vietnam and the Texas National Guard in Iraq.

The food was great and there was much singing and dancing (by the 818th group) inspired by Jim Stringer and the AM Band (Texas swing).


Sunday 6 Augus

Once again it was time to say goodbye to all our buddies, their families, and our friends for another year. The well planned and immensely enjoyable Austin Reunion was over. Once again our five days together had gone by all too quickly. Everyone take care and we look forward to seeing all of you next summer.




We have many more photos of the 2006 Reunion.
(Click here to view the photos)

Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2006 Reunion in Austin a great success!!