News: WWII Vet Returns to Tank on Armed Forces Day Courtesy of Fort Hunter Liggett Soldier
KING CITY, Calif. — He hadn't been in a tank in more than 50 years, but on May 16, Armed Forces Day, Earl Cauley climbed back into the turret.
Cauley, 81, is one of the last remaining World War II veterans in the King City, Calif., area. He served as a tanker with the 2nd Armor Division in World War II. At this year's Salinas Valley Fair in King City, a Soldier from nearby Fort Hunter Liggett fulfilled a promise to his older brother in arms and arranged one more ride in a tank for Cauley.
"A lot of deja vu," said Cauley. "It was great. I enjoyed it. I didn't remember it being as rough as it is now, but that could just be age!"
Sgt. 1st Class Lee Carranza, the operations sergeant with the Fort Hunter Liggett Garrison Headquarters Company, was the man responsible for getting Cauley back in a tank. Carranza knew this year's Armed Forces Day would fall during the Salinas Valley Fair, as organizers from the fair had approached Soldiers at Fort Hunter Liggett about contributing a static display to the event. Carranza had met Cauley three years ago when he came to Hunter Liggett as a drill instructor and became involved with the Veteran's of Foreign Wars Lodge, of which Cauley was the president.
"I said we can go one better than a static display," Carranza said. "I promised Earl, if I can get a working, operational World War II tank down here, we're gonna put you in it and you're going to take a little ride."
And, so, just before 8 a.m., Earl got his ride. One of the fair workers transported Cauley over to a large parking lot in the rear of the fairgrounds. There he saw his friend Carranza, and a 1942 M5A1 Stewart tank sitting on a large green flatbed.
"I thought he was lying to me," Cauley said with a laugh.
Carranza, and some Soldiers from the 854th Engineering Battalion, gently helped Cauley, wearing a red, white and blue jumpsuit, up the front of the tank and into the hatch. The old man was shaky, but his smile never faded as he handed off his cane and climbed into the tank with Carranza.
The tank came from Santa Barbara and was picked up the day before Cauley's big ride by Soldiers from the 854th. The California Historical Group, a group which restores and preserves military artifacts, donated the vehicles for the day. Many of which have been used in the movies.
After Cauley's ride, the tank was staged in a display area with an up-armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle, and a 1945 Ford jeep. The theme of Fort Hunter Liggett's display at the fair was "The Army Then, and The Army Now", and it featured the relics from Santa Barbara, as well as the HMMWV and modern equipment Soldiers wear today. The drill team also performed for the crowd, and children explored the vehicles and talked with Soldiers.
But the day was not over for Cauley. The man, who is known as the "honorary mayor of King City" by the locals, had one more surprise in store for him. Not only had Carranza come through with his promise to get Cauley the ride, he even had managed to get him a jacket. Just like the one he had worn as a tanker back in the war, complete with a 2nd Armored Division patch.
Cauley hugged his friend as Carranza gave him the jacket.
"This is our showing of appreciation for Earl," Carranza said. "All I can say is it was awesome, I had a great time."
Date Posted:06.02.2009 13:43
Location:KING CITY, US
- Rolling through adversity
- Visit from the senior non-commissioned officer of the US Armed Forces
- Peaceful protest
- Operations of the OpFor