When Glenn C. Amon arrived at Camp Wolters, it was as if he came straight from central casting. So cast him is just what they did - in cast iron.
Story by Jerry Ambrose - Mineral Wells Index, October 31, 2004
In the summer of 1941, five months before the Pearl harbor attack that officially brought the U.S. into World War II, a lanky farm-boy draftee, the first selected by his Holton, Kansas draft board, found himself at Camp Wolters in Mineral Wells.
In a blizzard of construction, the 7,500 acre camp had been expanded in the past year from a sleepy National Guard base to one of the largest infantry training bases in the U.S. A civilian workforce of 18,000 had built over 100 buildings. When Glenn C. Amon arrived by train, they were just finishing the last of them.
In recognition of the selfless devotion of American Youth to the Spirit of democracy.
And in appreciation of their valiant strife toward victory by their preparation for service
through War-Time training. The statue "Salute" is presented to the Infantry
Replacement Training Center, Camp Wolters, Texas Major General Bruce
Magruder Commanding by Tech Sgt. Simon G. Michael February 1943
During the ensuing four years, 30,000 infantrymen were in training in the camp at any one time. On completion of a 13-week training cycle, they were filtered into combat units overseas replacing casualties.
Tall and athletic with an above proficiency in the use of infantry weapons. Amon's command presence was noted by his superiors. He was quickly promoted to First Sergeant of the 60th Training Battalion, and remained stationed at the camp for the duration, until 1946.
By a chance of fate, during his stay at Wolters, Amon became immortalized in a statue that still has a significant presence in the city.
Amon, 86, retired president of a plastics molding company and now a Dallas resident, visited Mineral Wells earlier this month, looking over his old haunts around the city and out at the camp, with a former co-worker Brian Bagnall, also of Dallas. Bagnall was stationed at Wolters during the Vietnam War era as a helicopter pilot, and at his urging finally convinced Amon to take a brief motor trip into his past.
Two of their early early stops were at the VFW Post No. 2399 and American Legion Post No. 75, both in Mineral Wells, to look over a statue that Amon and another Wolters sergeant took turns posing for in 1943.
The "Salute" is a life-size cast iron statue of a uniformed soldier, sculpted from the waist up, offering a formalized hand salute. It rests outside the VFW, unfortunately now missing one hand. A plaster copy is at the American Legion.
"Sgt Eugene Fruhwirth and I took turns sitting for hours and hours in the rec building holding that pose," said Amon with a chuckle, remembering the unheated building and the cramps in his rigidly cocked saluting arm.
Fruhwirth, of Fort Worth, passed away a few years ago. Amon thought it was sad the old statue was missing a hand but was glad to see it was still around.
Inspiration for the statue may have come from the post commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Bruce Magruder. He learned that Tech Sgt. Simon G. Michael, of Cleveland and New York, a nationally famous sculptor in civilian life, was attached to Amon's battalion. As a morale booster, Magruder ordered the sculptor to make a statue of a soldier to be dedicated to the sacrifices being made by American youth in the war effort. In spare time from training duties, Amon and Fruhwirth were ordered to pose as the model for the renowned sculptor.
"I didn't know much about his background, but Sgt. Michael was older than most other sergeants at the time and well-educated," Amon said. "He was handsome and dressed well."
Though Michaels had quarters at the camp, Magruder allowed him to live off base at the luxurious Baker Hotel. Amon said with a laugh, "We all knew he had some pull from somewhere higher up. he was attached to our training battalion, but he never did any field work with us."
Two or three plaster molds of the finished clay sculptor were made before it was cast in iron in 1943 at the Bateman Foundry and Machine Company, 113 S.W. 7th St., owned by W.W. Bateman.
It was placed at the main gates to the camp, according to Amon. Retired Col. Willie Casper said it was moved to the front of the new post headquarters in 1958 and rededicated in a ceremony presided over by post commander Col. John L. Inskeep. After the base closed permanently, the cast iron original was donated to the VFW, and the American Legion got a plaster copy.
Another copy reportedly went to Galveston with Col. Chester H. Meek, deputy post commander, on his retirement from the service. Casper said the last he heard, it was in a warehouse there and Meek did not want to give it up.
Amon met and married a camp dental hygienist from Breckenridge, Nelle Downing, in 1943. They had one daughter and a grandchild. Nelle past away in 1990.