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Jack’s bench 
By Jack Hallowell, Colorado National Guard Veteran   
Jack's bench 
Jack Hallowell on his bench Feb. 18, 2012.

John “Jack” Hallowell, passed away at 1:57 p.m. on March 10, 2012. As a member of the 157th Infantry, he helped liberate Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany, April 29, 1945. The following is a transcription of his hand-written notes regarding the bench he commissioned in memory of the 157th.

The bench will be on display near the flagpoles the Colorado National Guard state headquarters in Centennial, Colo., through the end of October.

Sixty-seven years after the close of World War II, Colorado's highly respected 157th Infantry is displaying an $8,000 memorial bench to celebrate its accomplishments during the war years.

The seat reveals that the 157th liberated Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany, April 29, 1945.

The bench lists the 13 battlegrounds on which the 157th fought in World War II. That includes two "bad news" areas where whole battalions were wiped out. Most prominent was Anzio, a beach in Italy where all of second battalion was destroyed.

Many of the Coloradans were lost and had to be replaced, but the 157th continued to be known as the "Colorado Regiment."

The eventual home of the bench will be the 45th Infantry "Thunderbird" Division Museum in Oklahoma City, but for the moment, it will be on public display at various Colorado sites so Coloradoans can share in the 511 combat days fought by the regiment in World War II.

From the start of World War II (and before), the 157th infantry was known as the Colorado Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. It was filled with Soldiers from Colorado's major cities and most of its small towns. Together with the other two regiments that make up the 45th Division, the 157th made four amphibious landings (Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France). The worst of the four landings was Sicily where troops landed amidst a major storm that resulted in 27 drowning. Had the Germans been defending it, it would have been much worse.

The 157th got its baptism on Bloody Ridge in Sicily where U.S. military leaders also learned a lesson. Sicilian mules weren't strong enough to bring supplies up to the troops fighting in the mountains. The cry soon went out for Missouri mules. From the heavy fighting at Salerno through the rain, mud and misery to reach Monte Cassino, mules were much in evidence and some riflemen became muleskinners.

Disaster struck at Anzio. German Gen. Albert Kesselring had direct orders from Hitler to clear the beachhead. The general attacked from Rome with troops, armor and planes. The second battalion of the 157th took the brunt of what was called the Battle of the Caves. With the exception of one Soldier, the entire 2nd battalion of the 157th was killed, wounded or captured. Their efforts were not in vain as only 1,000 yards of Anzio beachhead was lost to the Germans. This heroism earned the 2nd Battalion a Presidential Citation.

By the way, the only Soldier to return from the battlefield was Company E Capt. Felix Sparks (who later became a general and then a Colorado Supreme Court Justice).

A company of the 3rd Battalion also earned a Presidential Citation in that same action. Later, the regiment lost most of 3rd Battalion at Reipertsweiler in France. As at Anzio, the loss necessitated new troops and battlefield training. Three members of the 157th were awarded Medals of Honor, including  Van T. Barfoot, originally from Carthage, Miss., who passed away March 2.  

All survivors of the 157th are all 80 or 90 years of age.

Gen. Felix Sparks

Only one Soldier from the Anzio battlefield, Capt. Felix Sparks, continued a spectacular career as a combat infantryman through the remainder of the war.

In the field, replacing friends who were killed in ambush, he became a three-battalion commander and leader of the liberation of Dachau.

Sparks went on to attain the rank of brigadier general and commanded the Colorado Army National Guard. He also formed the civilian 157th and served as its full-time secretary.

Sparks’ remains are interred at Olinger Crown Hill. This fall, his gravesite was the site of a memorial service for the handful of men who served in the 157th during World War II.

Note from Jack's family

It was Jack's fervent hope that the bench could be displayed at the Colorado National Guard headquarters to allow members of the new 157th and others to see the bench before it is transported to its permanent home the Thunderbird Museum in Oklahoma City.

The bench was a true labor of love for Jack. True to his inherent nature to get people involved, Jack engaged the help of many to make the bench a reality. Jack's friend, Brad Sharp, submitted an initial design. Son (Mike Hallowell) and daughter in law (Nancy Hallowell) toured several graveyards with Jack to look at benches and headstones to help Jack decide which design and format he liked the best. Daughter-in-law Nancy then took Brad's original design, modified it using PowerPoint on the home computer. College freshman and neighbor Sam Landon took the crude 2-D PowerPoint drawing and polished it into a 3-D drawing – Sam is studying engineering at the University of Colorado - and has great design software! By presenting the drawing in 3-D, Jack could visualize how the actual bench would appear.

It was very important to Jack that the bench incorporate the following elements: the 13 battlefields the 157th fought on in World War II, the insignia for the Thunderbirds, and the 157th and the 158th Field Artillery that supported the 157th. Jack also wanted the bench to have a unique Colorado feel – that’s why he selected the red marble (to look like the red rocks you commonly see in Colorado) and the mountains carved on the right hand side of the bench's back.

9/6/2012