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Gen. Bundy's family offers free monument to park

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

On a hill in the middle of Memorial Park, pointing east over Shively Lake, there sits a captured German cannon from World War I.

This Krupp cannon is a spoil of war brought home to Raintree County by New Castle native Major General Omar Bundy after the Great War.

A team of volunteers spent four years restoring the cannon and it was rededicated on the hill July 4, 2018. 

Gen. Bundy’s great-great-niece, Virginia Chambers Reeves, was at the park to see the cannon’s arrival this summer.

Bundy’s sister was mother to Reeves’ grandfather, Walter S. Chambers. Until 1985, the Chambers family owned The Courier-Times.

In November, Reeves offered to provide Memorial Park a new monument that would tell people the story behind the cannon itself and the role it played in turning the tides in Europe.

“I realized there was no explanation as to the relevance of the cannon at the park,” Reeves said in an email to the park board. “As a matter of history, this cannon was used by Major General Omar Bundy’s forces to drive the Germans back and save Paris – to ultimately end World War I.”

Reeves has been working with Mike Modjeski of Miller-Wearly Monuments to create a new monument which will give visitors to the park some background on the cannon and Gen. Bundy, while also showing a map of the battle areas from which the cannon was retrieved.

The story of how the cannon arrived in New Castle and the refurbishing story would also be included on the stones.

In her email, Reeves describes three stones of jet black granite. Pictures of Gen. Omar Bundy and the USS General Bundy ship would be etched in the stones, along with copies of the medals he was awarded.

A drawing of the proposed monument shows the three large stones.

The left-most one tells how the Krupp cannon was captured in 1918 at the Battle of Chateau Thierry, France, by Gen. Bundy’s forces.

American Legion Post 137 began making arrangements to bring the cannon to Memorial Park soon after its capture. The 20,000-pound cannon traveled from France to New Castle by ocean and by rail.

“The monstrous gun,” as it’s referred to on the monument, was originally mounted in Memorial Park in 1926.

The center stone tells how Gen. Bundy defied orders in Belleau Wood to retreat.

His reply to the French commander, which became a well-publicized document of WWI, is to be inscribed on that center stone and reads:

“We regret being unable on this occasion to follow the counsels of our master, the French. The American Flag has been forced to retire. This is unendurable and none of our soldiers would understand their not being able to do whatever is necessary to reestablish a situation which is humiliating to us and unacceptable to our country’s honor. We are going to counterattack.”

The stone on the right side shows the USS General Omar Bundy. The transport ship was launched Aug. 5, 1944 and served for the U.S. Navy in World War II.

Reeves said the new monument will further help enhance Memorial Park, along with the park’s other expansion projects.

“There would be no cost to Memorial Park (for the stones),” Reeves said. “It is my honor to do this.”

Reeves said the stones could be placed in spring 2019.

Memorial Park Superintendent Laurie Davis told the park board the new monument could be installed on the bottom of the east side of the hill where the cannon sits. The road there curves around Shively Lake and there are already parking spaces available.

The Memorial Park Board members noted that any new memorial would need to be accessible to all members of the public. That means they would need to make sure any concrete pad or display area was wheelchair-accessible.

The park board voted 5-0 to approve the project, as long as it meets all accessibility guidelines.

As of the November park board meeting, there was no cost estimate for the concrete pad under the monument or the approach from the parking area.

The Memorial Park Board meets again at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at the W.G. Smith Building, 2221 N. Memorial Drive, New Castle.