Off Beat: Pollard's motivational music silenced by Barracks neighbors

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 
photoFormer Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard

The Army's transfer of Vancouver Barracks to the National Park Service a week ago was a chance to recall the city's military links.

But one aspect of the 162-year relationship has faded away: the soundtrack.

When Col. Royce Pollard was assigned to Vancouver Barracks in 1985, another officer wanted to see more military spirit around here.

"A general said that this used to be a military community, and told me, 'I want you to energize them!'"

So, Pollard had a sound system set up, with speakers mounted on the outside of his office building.

"We played 'Reveille' at 6 a.m. or so, and 'Retreat' at 5 p.m. We also played music at noon," including Sousa classics to inspire people taking lunch-hour walks on the barracks grounds.

"I'd see them marching," said Pollard, who spoke at Wednesday's dedication of a Merchant Marine memorial on the VA campus.

The music lasted for about two years, the former Vancouver mayor said.

"People started complaining about 'Reveille.' Who were we going to wake up downtown at 6 a.m.?"

U-boater left high, dry

Former merchant seaman Tauno Alanko had an interesting "rest of the story" at Wednesday's memorial dedication.

The German skipper who sank Alanko's ship led a prisoner of war escape in Arizona, the Vancouver veteran said.

Four days after torpedoing the Star of Oregon, the U-162 was captured; commander Jürgen Wattenberg eventually wound up in a POW camp near Phoenix.

In 1944, 25 Germans escaped through a 175-foot tunnel. They'd built a collapsible boat and a few of them planned to float down a series of rivers to Mexico.

Nobody told them that "rivers" on Arizona maps don't always have water. They all wound up back at the camp, although Wattenberg was free for 36 days before he was recaptured.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.