July 25, 2009

'Mullins Corner' rededicated on D-Day anniversary

By Sgt. 1st Class Anne B. Burnley
Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The 65th anniversary of the World War ll Allied Forces D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France marked the day Soldiers and civilians gathered at the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center, Fort Pickett site known as “Mullins Corner.”

 

Spc. James P. Burke, of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, plays "Taps"  during the "Mullins Corner" rededication ceremony after the historical marker honoring Lt. Col. Thornton L. Mullins was presented by the members of the official party June 6 at the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne B. Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

A ceremony to re-dedicate the historical marker honoring Lt. Col. Thornton Loquette Mullins, commander of the 111th Field Artillery Battalion, of Richmond, Va., who died leading Soldiers in battle on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944 took place on the western flank of the post.

In his speech honoring the selfless service exhibited by Mullins during battle, Col. Thomas P. Wilkinson, commander of the Maneuver Training Center remarked, “President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it remembers.’ Fort Pickett has a proud and distinguished history. I am pleased that we continue that history today by rededicating this site to the memory of Lt. Col. Thornton L. Mullins.”

Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Huxtable, Assistant Adjutant General, Army, Col. Blake C. Ortner, incoming commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Lt. Col. Todd H. Hubbard, commander of the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, and Wilkinson stood together on June 6, 2009 and unveiled the new historical marker which reads:

 

On June 6, during the "Mullins Corner" rededication ceremony at the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center, Fort Pickett, members of the official party saluted as Soldiers of Battery A, 1st Battallion, 111th Field Artillery, fired a Howitzer to honor the memory of both Lt. Col. Thornton L. Mullins and the Soldiers who fought during the WW ll D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne B. Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

“Mullins Corner,” named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Thornton L. Mullins, Distinguished Service Cross. 111th Field Artillery Battalion, 29th Infantry Division, Killed in action, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.”  

Mullins is the only member of the Virginia Army National Guard to receive the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1952, the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized Mullins’ selfless service with its highest award, the posthumous Virginia National Guard Virginia Distinguished Service Medal.

The 111th Field Artillery dedicated Artillery Firing Point 52 Alpha, at the corner of Camp Pickett’s Range and River Roads to Mullins in the summer of 1953 while conducting annual training.  Over time, the elements took a toll on the original historical marker.     

In the 1944 “Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Virginia,” General Staff Theater Historian Lt. Col. S. L. A. Marshall documented Mullins’ heroic actions as reported by Capt. Richard F. Brush, the battalion S-2.

In opening remarks in 2009, Lt. Col. David B. Weisnicht, MTC’s directorate of operations, recounted the events of the battle which engulfed Mullins and his Soldiers. 

“Mullins pulled himself from the surf on Omaha Beach where total mayhem was occurring,” Weisnicht said. “Mullins witnessed the loss of all 13 2nd Battalion D-U-K-Ws (the two and a half ton trucks surrounded with built-in boat bodies, also known as DUCKs) and the 12 guns assigned to his command. Finding Soldiers of the 111th huddled with infantrymen under whatever cover they could find, Mullins rallied the men on the beach and yelled, “The hell with the artillery mission! We are infantrymen now!’ ”

 

Spc. James P. Burke, of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, from Lynchburg, Va., assumed the exact pose recorded in a 1953 archival photo of a Soldier playing "Taps" during the first "Mullins Corner" Ceremony. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anne B. Burnley, Maneuver Training Center Public Affairs)

The report continued with details of Mullins actions.   Despite enduring wounds, Mullins “turned, and though exposed to enemy fire, walked back to the water line, urging troops to move forward and off the beach. He then took command of two tanks and directed their fire on enemy strong points overlooking the beach.  Observing that the tanks were unable to neutralize all the strong points, he organized a party of infantrymen and led them in the face of intense enemy fire up a hill to assault strong points. Though again wounded and forced to withdraw, Mullins refused to be deterred. Undaunted, he organized another party and, while leading this group in an assault, Lt. Col. Mullins was killed by enemy fire.”

Both ceremony attendees and the official party stood at attention while Soldiers from the 111th Field Artillery fired rounds from a 105 Howitzer in a salute to Mullins, to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, and to honor men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.  Quietly, a lone Soldier raised a shiny brass bugle to his lips and played “Taps.” 

Current events and world history melded in Wilkinson’s concluding remarks.

”It is very fitting that this site was chosen in 1953 and rededicated now,” Wilkinson said. “In 1953, the 111th Field Artillery set up and fired into the impact area from this spot. It is still Firing Point 52 Alpha today. But, in keeping with Lt. Col. Mullins’ declaration, this is also now part of the new Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Operation Lane. In keeping with Mullins’ declaration of accomplishing a dual role as infantrymen, how fitting it is that ‘Mullins Corner’ now takes on a dual role in our training here as well. Let this ceremony and the D-Day anniversary mark a continued legacy to the proud men and women who continue to serve and train for our nation’s wars.”

Click HERE to return to the top of the page ~ Click HERE to return to the news directory