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July 6, 1942 Southeast Missourian
U.S. Army Engineers from Fort Leonard Wood constructed a pontoon bridge across the lagoon at Fairground Park during the annual Legion Fourth of July picnic. It took 15 minutes for the men to complete the bridge, and five minutes for waves of infantrymen to cross on the double to positions on the opposite side. (Photo by G.D. Fronabarger)
How They Did It
First across was a pontoon load of soldiers, ordered to establish and hold a beachhead on the opposite shore so the footbridge would have a terminal point. As soon as the empty boat had returned, members of the Engineer platoon started work. Four men would carry out two pontoons and lay them parallel to each other. Two other men quickly snapped a section of the foot bridge into place and the whole thing was hauled into the water. This was done, section by section, and the bridge began to lengthen. Guide ropes were quickly strung along the catwalk.
While this was going on waves of infantry troops, prone on the ground, put up a covering fire with blank cartridges, shooting at the "enemy," who was stationed far across the lake. A machine gun aided, while on a nearby Army truck was an anti-aircraft machine gun, which was continually sighted on two Cub planes which circled the park. When the foot bridge was completed the order was given for the infantrymen to make the crossing. At regular intervals, they rose in waves, ran across on the double and established a firing line on the opposite side of the lake.
Once the soldiers had completed their task, it was a signal for hundreds of persons, children and grownups alike, to make a rush for the bridge and go across. This continued until the Engineers called a halt to take down their handiwork.