After losing his father, Raymond, in 2007, Linden Alwardt struggled to sleep. Having been close to his father, Alwardt said he remembered hearing tales of Raymond’s military service in World War II. He recalled specifically his father talking about jeeps he drove. And so, the younger Alwardt, decided to put his sleeplessness to work by restoring a WW II-era jeep.
That project has since turned into a passion, with Alwardt now owning at least 12 military vehicles.
Shortly after the first restoration, he met Sigel resident John Blake, who introduced Alwardt to the world of World War II re-enactments. The two became fast friends and work together on the vehicles. While Alwardt doesn’t participate in themock battles, he does don a uniform and showcase his work. Aside from re-enactments, Alwardt also attends conventions, which allow him the opportunity to network, learn from other hobbyists, speak to vendors and parts suppliers, and locate new vehicles. These events are held all over the country and have taken Alwardt around the Midwest.
The venture has been a learning experience, as Alwardt and Blake shared some mistakes with a laugh. Using historically-inaccurate paint colors and incorrect parts were part of the learning curve for Alwardt, but he was determined tolearn. He said he strives to restore his vehicles with as much authenticity as possible.
His projects vary in scope, with some vehicles in great shape, drivable, even full of gas when he buys them. Others, including a 1942 half-track, have taken over a year to get running. His 1941 fire truck came from a base in Kansas, where it was one of the first vehicles on the ammunitions depot, and one of the last to leave. It is similar to the trucks used to respond to the Pearl Harbor bombing.
The vehicles also vary in era, as Alwardt started with World War II, but also has vehicles from the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He said that he can find vehicles at conventions, but most of them find him. People hear that he restores military vehicles and call when they have something he may want.
In addition to the hobbyist gatherings, Alwardt’s military vehicles can frequently be seen at area parades. His cargo trucks and Korean War ambulance are common sights at the local Memorial Day Parade in Altamont.
Alwardt stressed that this hobby is not about himself. In fact, he was reluctant to cooperate with this story. He said that his goal is to educate people on the types of technology our veterans had at their disposal, make people happy, and show respect to those who served. Blake mentioned the tragedy of World War II and how so many young men had their youth stolen by foreign dictators set on world domination.
Alwardt said he likes to bring veterans and/or children on board for parades, as they seem to enjoy it. He hears that kids race to tell all their friends about the experience. Blake mentioned that when the Honor Flight was run out of Effingham, they were asked to set up vehicles as part of the experience.
As part of his collection, Alwardt has a 1941 Ford fire truck, 1942 half-track, 1951 Studebaker cargo truck, 1953 Korean War ambulance, 1956 deuce and a half, a scout car, M29 weasel, and a 6×6 pick-up.
But it all started with a son honoring his father’s service to his country.