Union City, Tenn. – A very special guest visited on Thurs., Nov. 7, to see an artifact he donated installed in the World War II section of The Military Gallery at Discovery Park of America. T. Joe Walker of Martin, Tenn., donated a model of a WWII-era fixed timber trestle bridge to Discovery Park, and it represents just one of many bridges that he helped build when he served in the 163rd Engineer Combat Battalion in the U.S. Army during WWII.
Walker was a heavy-duty supervisor on building bridges. “A lieutenant told me in Van Dorn, Miss., that he was going to make a bridge builder out of me if it killed us both,” Walker said. “So that was my duty, to take care of supplies and men and whatever it took to get the bridge done.”
Walker landed on Utah Beach just days after the initial invasion on D-Day. The 163rd Engineer Combat Battalion, also known as the “Striped-Ass Apes,” was responsible for clearing the roads for troops, building bridges, trucking supplies and occasionally acting as infantry. He served until 1946.
The model of the fixed timber trestle bridge represents one of the many types of bridges that were constructed by members of that battalion during WWII. This particular model was built by Herman P. Shutt, a fellow member of the battalion during the war. Shutt built the model and presented it at one of their reunions. It was displayed at the Barnett Museum in Martin, Tenn., and returned to Walker some years later, who then donated it to Discovery Park.
Walker was accompanied by his daughter, Shelia Thompson, to get a sneak peek of the exhibits team putting it up in the gallery. “We are thrilled to see this special artifact on display. It gives honor to not only my dad, but to all the members of the 163rd Engineer Combat Battalion,” said Thompson.
The artifact will be in place and ready for viewing by Sun., Nov. 10, which is when Discovery Park is observing Veterans Day because the park is closed on Mondays. All veterans and their dependents will receive free admission. Guests can explore the park and be among the first to see the new artifact on display.