WALLA WALLA, Wash. – As Ice Harbor Lock and Dam celebrates 50 years of successful service to the region and nation with a Corps of Engineers celebration on June 16, a Walla Walla resident has special memories of the dam’s dedication events on May 9, 1962. And he has an autographed photo signed by the Vice President of the United States to show for it.
Mike Dunham remembers meeting then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1962 and escorting him down 2nd Avenue in Walla Walla as Johnson was greeted by the Honor Guard of the Walla Walla High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Brigade. Dunham was a young Cadet Colonel in command of the brigade at the time.
Dunham later received four copies of a photograph of himself escorting the Vice President, autographed by Lyndon B. Johnson and Lt. Col. Clark E. Johnson, an Army ROTC representative who headed the Walla Walla High School Junior ROTC program (no relation to the Vice President). Vice President Johnson kept a fifth autographed copy of the photo for his personal photo library.
The Vice President’s May 29, 1962, letter to Dunham accompanying the autographed photos said “It was a privilege and pleasure to be in Walla Walla, to meet new friends and see old ones. My best regards to you and the members of your fine brigade.”
“Being given the chance to greet and escort Vice President Johnson was a very special honor,” Dunham said.
U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson and Washington Governor Albert D. Rosellini also accompanied the Vice President in Walla Walla.
Dunham was the top-ranked officer of the high school’s ROTC Brigade that year. He previously received the Army's highest ROTC award, the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement. The Honor Guard he commanded that day was a small group of selected cadets from the entire ROTC program.
Army Lt. Col. Clark E. Johnson, who also autographed Dunham’s photograph, was a decorated war veteran before he became the head of the Wa-Hi Junior ROTC program, though his ROTC students weren’t aware of his World War II heroism. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for “extraordinary heroism” and leadership in the battle at Hindenberg Bridge at Remagen, Germany, in March 1945. The DSC is America’s second highest award for heroism, ranking just below the Medal of Honor. He also earned a Silver Star on D-Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy; a second Silver Star in France; and a Bronze Star in Sicily.
“This was a pretty impressive guy that we knew very little about,” said Dunham. “He left an unforgettable memory with me.”
Prior to Vice President Johnson’s visit, Dunham also recalls when President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed through Walla Walla in a motorcade during his Sept. 23, 1954, visit to dedicate McNary Lock and Dam.
The Ice Harbor 50th anniversary celebration is scheduled to begin Saturday, June 16, at 10 a.m. at Ice Harbor Lock and Dam. An open house begins at 11:30 a.m. Ice Harbor is located just 15 minutes from Pasco, Wash., off of State Highway 124. The street address is 2339 Monument Drive, Burbank, Wash. 99353. For more information about the 50th anniversary celebration, visit www.facebook.com/IceHarborDam or call 509-543-6060.