Neton’s Then and Now: Company A

James Neton
James Neton

In 1921, Craig’s very own Company A of the Colorado National Guard was mustered into service. Before World War II the National Guard was organized along the lines of local communities. As Craig developed, it enthusiastically provided men to the National Guard.

In the 1939 Pictorial Review of the Colorado National Guard, there is a photo of Company A training as a riot squad. In August 1939, Company A was called into its first-ever action by Colorado Governor Carr to put down the “Kremmling Insurrection.”

Really? An insurrection in Kremmling? Anyone from Craig who has driven through Kremmling would find the possibility of an insurrection highly improbable, almost laughable.

In 1939, though, the Green Mountain dam diversion project was the scene of rioting and bloodshed as striking workers of the American Federation of Labor came into conflict with locals and non-union workers. Members of the AFL went on strike and demanded the dam project be run as a “closed” shop for union men only. As non-union workers tried to cross the lines, violence escalated. Shots were fired and men were wounded. The governor declared martial law, and our very own Company A was the first to respond.

Capt. Chester James received orders in the early hours of the third of August, according to the Craig Empire-Courier. By 4 a.m. the company moved out and arrived in Kremmling by 8 a.m., taking over the school yard and setting up camp.

They set up roadblocks at the bridge two miles south of town and immediately started to disarm anyone heading toward the dam project. Two hundred weapons and large quantities of ammunition were collected. To note, the Craig Empire-Courier reported that all guns confiscated, “will be returned when the trouble has finally been settled.”

The strike was soon settled, and Company A returned to Craig by Aug. 30. After 27 days away from family and jobs, many probably considered it a good bit of exciting duty. Very few of them could imagine what lay on the horizon.

Just two days later, Sept. 1, Nazi Germany unleashed the blitzkrieg on Poland, kicking off World War II in Europe. The creeping threat of world war meant mobilization and Company A of the 1st Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment was now property of the U.S. Army. Only a year later, Sept. 25, 1940, 14 months before Pearl Harbor, 109 men from Company A, the first of hundreds more to serve from Craig, were shipped out by rail and into an intense year of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

The Craig Empire Courier of Sept. 25th, 1940 reported a sendoff for the men. The high school band under the direction of Barton Pavey along with a large group of family and friends gathered at the train depot to bid them farewell. Suddenly, our town of 3,000 was missing 109 of its husbands, sons, brothers and boyfriends to prepare for a war the USA had not yet joined. It is difficult to imagine the feeling of uneasiness and fear that became part of daily life in Craig as the rising storm clouds loomed ever nearer.

Unlike the shakedown Company A put on strikers and scabs on the other side of Rabbit Ears Pass, the boys of Craig were heading toward something far larger, far nastier and far more consuming than the Kremmling Insurrection. North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, France, Dachau and Munich were calling the men of our Company A.

These names ring down from American history, and the small town of Craig was there.

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