CMP’s First Shot Ceremony Observes WWII Battles, Triumphs of Decorated Olympian
July 22, 2014Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸CMP’s First Shot Ceremony Observes WWII Battles, Triumphs of Decorated Olympian
By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
CAMP PERRY, OH
The Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) ceremonial First Shot Ceremony on July 7, 2014 at Rodriguez Range in Camp Perry, OH, celebrated more than the beginnings of the National Matches – it also commemorated the sacrifices of America’s Greatest Generation. The date of the ceremony coincidentally fell on the day two significant World War II battles transpired, sparking the need to honor the overlapping historical moments through words, sights and reenactments. Exactly 70 years ago, on July 7, 1944, American military personnel were active in both the European and Pacific theatres during World War II. That day in Normandy, France, U.S. forces were advancing upon the town of Saint Lo in an attempt to liberate it from the Germans. In another part of the world, that same day, U.S. forces resisted the largest banzai charge of the Pacific War on the island of Saipan.
With Sherman tanks battling for more than three weeks to free Saint Lo, the U.S. 29th Infantry, with the help of the 30th and 35th Divisions, infiltrated and ran off the German troops. On Saipan, the Japanese engaged the U.S. Army and Marine Units, wounding and killing some 650 soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment. However, with fierce resistance, Saipan was officially under U.S. control two days later.
Equipment similar to that used in each battle were on static display during the First Shot Ceremony, including a World War II AMTRAC – an amphibious beach landing craft, on loan from Tom Price of Bowling Green, OH. The vehicle was used in the Clint Eastwood film, “Flags of Our Fathers”, and was the same type used during the Battle of Saipan.
Other vintage vehicles used during the battles, such as an M4 Sherman Tank, were mobilized as the crowd watched in awe. The tank, known as “Thunderbolt,” proudly and confidently rolled down the gravel road between Rodriguez and Petrarca ranges, followed by the Toledo-made Willy’s Jeeps to complete the ground parade.
Thunderbolt was present at the ceremony courtesy of the Allen County Museum and Historical Society in Lima, OH, while the Jeeps were on loan from the Firelands Military Vehicle Group.
As the vehicles patrolled the grounds towards the stands, the crowd looked to the skies as the aerial show began. A Navy TBM Avenger torpedo bomber gracefully buzzed through the cloudy skies, trailed by a B-25 medium-range bomber, “Yankee Warrior.” Both planes made a booming entrance as they cascaded through the air above.
A pair of World War II German Flak Guns, from the Liberty Aviation Museum and private owner Chris Weiss, rat-ta-tat-tatted as the planes jetted through the clouds, simulating an anti-aircraft resistance to the bombers.
Once the planes made their passes and the ground troop applied its resistance, the crowd roared and once again drew their attention to the center of the ceremony field as the presentation of the colors began. The CMP was honored and privileged to have the American flag that flies over Camp Perry for the duration of the 2014 National Matches hand-carried by two lives that were personally touched by the happenings of World War II.
Mr. Jack Price, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who served both at the Normandy Invasion and later in the South Pacific confidently walked across the ceremony field as the audience respectfully praised him with applause. Mr. Price handed off the folded colors to Mrs. Susie Charlton – the daughter of the late U.S. Marine Raider PFC Robert Lano, of Port Clinton. Mr. Lano fought in the Battle of Saipan. Mrs. Charlton marched the flag to the pole for the color guards to slowly hoist into the air.
As the flag flapped in the breeze, the 122nd Army Band played the National Anthem. After distinguished guests were acknowledged, the First Shot Speaker, Gary Anderson, was introduced to the crowd. Anderson is known as one of the best shooters in American history, making his presence at the First Shot Ceremony something truly memorable for all in attendance.
Anderson began his marksmanship career in the fields of Nebraska as a boy, eventually moving on to become a member of the elite U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA, in 1959. As his skills flourished and improved, he went on to produce two Olympic gold medals, seven World Championships, six World Records and 16 National Championships. No American has ever won more three-position rifle titles than Gary Anderson.
As Director of Civilian Marksmanship Emeritus, Anderson continues to influence juniors in shooting sports in the United States and around the world. Under his direction, the CMP installed eleven new events to the National Matches, helping to increase the participation from 2,250 to 5,000, as well as expanding the opportunities for eager competitors.
In 2012, he was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympic Order. The Order is the highest award given by the IOC and is awarded to individuals for distinguished contributions to the Olympic Movement.
On July 7, 2014, the new Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center was dedicated in Anderson’s honor. The center, located at Camp Perry, houses classrooms and a world-class air rifle range for the future development of junior marksmen everywhere.
For the ceremony, Anderson dusted off a rifle from his personal collection that was used to win two NRA National Highpower Rifle Championships, one NRA National Long Range Rifle Championship, three President’s Rifle matches and many National match trophies. It was also used to shoot the national record target (1971, 200 yards standing, 200-15x).
As Anderson stood behind the bench that held the ceremonial First Shot rifle, he slowly buttoned and latched his shooting jacket and placed his ear muffs on his head. Photographers gathered to his left and right, anticipating the incredible photo opportunity of the honored guest firing his celebrated rifle. He lifted the sights to his eye, aligned the shot with the ceremonial target downrange and pulled the trigger. A pyrotechnical explosion burst the target into pieces as the crowd cheered.
Though the CMP traditionally offers the ceremonial First Shot rifle to the First Shot Speaker, this year, it was the Speaker who offered the rifle to the CMP. The donated rifle will be on permanent display within the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center.
The CMP presented Anderson a granite paver with his name and the First Shot date engraved upon it. The paver will be placed in his honor at the new CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park in Alabama – currently under construction.
After Anderson returned to his seat, the 122nd Army Band raised their instruments and began to play the Armed Forces Salute. One by one, veterans and current military service men and women stood as their branch’s salute was played. Once the final note played, a resounding boom echoed throughout the ranges as the Sherman tank fired two volleys towards Lake Erie.
And so, with pomp, circumstance, honorable guests and many pyrotechnical explosions, the 2014 National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches officially opened. Good luck to all participants, and enjoy the communal and competitive excitement the season brings!