Friday, August 13, 2010

Cannon Will Not Leave Socorro

By John Severance

SOCORRO – The cannon at Isidro Baca Memorial Park will not leave Socorro County.
That was the resolution passed by the Socorro County Commission Tuesday night after a number of veterans showed up to make their feelings known about the cannon.
There was talk the cannon might be given to a museum in California.
But the cannon has special significance for veterans and others who are passionate about those who served our country.
“I have had more calls about this than anything,” said commissioner R.J. Griego, whose father-in-law survived the Bataan Death March. “People are as passionate about this cannon as am I.
“My father spent three years in a prison camp and I don’t think we should dispose of it. It belongs to the City and County of Socorro.”
Twelve cannons were given out to commemorate those who served in World War II and Socorro received one of the cannons back in the late 1940s.County manager Delilah Walsh asked the commission for guidance regarding the cannon because the city and county are about to renovate Isidro Baca Memorial Park.
Walsh and others were to meet with the architect to talk about final plans for the park on Wednesday.
”Now is the time to modify plans if we want to keep the cannon in the park,” Walsh said. “A decision has to be made tonight.”
And the veterans were there to make sure the cannon would stay put.
“I’ve had three offers from different people who are willing to store the cannon,” Griego said. “They said they will tie themselves to the cannon if it is decided that we move the cannon out of state.”
Veteran Bob Hughes said, “I’m all for keeping the utility piece. It can be refurbished at little or not cost.”
The committee decided on Wednesday that the cannon would be moved to Sonny Baca’s business for safekeeping while work is done to renovate the park. Baca said at the meeting Tuesday night that he would transport and house the cannon free of charge. In addition, work will be done to restore the cannon as well.
Baca said, “That gun is a memorial to those who served and you can’t move it. We lost 15 percent of our people. The cannon is there to honor them.”
Carlos Lopopolo said, “The list of veterans who lost their lives in New Mexico is 59 pages long and I am guessing everybody knows or is related to someone who died in the Bataan Death March.”
Charles Mandeville said, “We need to make an effort to let people in Socorro know who these people are. If you do move it, I think Clark Field would be a good place.”
Resident Donna Harris then got up and said, “I heard a rumor that someone on the Socorro County Commission called it an eyesore.”
Commission chair Rosie Tripp quickly responded, “I don’t think anybody on the commission said that.”
Tripp then urged the veterans in attendance to be a part of the committee that will determine the cannon’s status.
“As passionate as all of you are, I hope you all do get involved,” she said.

Picture: The World War II era anti-aircraft gun used by the 200th/515th Coast Artillery Regiment in the Philippines is set to be cleaned up and relocated to another area of the park as part of the overall park renovation. The cannon has been mounted in its familiar location near the plaza for over 50 years. Pictured (from left): cannon committee member Sonny Baca and County Commissioner R.J. Griego.

Photo by John Larson

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