Irwin C Vander Heide
CPT in Signal Co, Special : Officer
Military occupational specialty: 210
Born 1906 in MI, Died 1996
Other residence(s): Zeeland, MI; Santa Monica, CA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: Chief switchman, phone company
Irwin Vander Heide was born on January 12, 1906 in Zeeland, MI, the middle of three children. His father, a mail carrier, had been born in the Netherlands. When Irwin was eight years old, his mother died. His father eventually remarried; two children born of that marriage did not survive.
At some point Irwin moved to Santa Monica, CA and married a woman named Annabelle (Ann). He was living there and working for the phone company when he registered for the draft, on October 16, 1940. Two years later he was still with the phone company, as chief switchman, when the Army came looking for communications specialists. Irwin and 22 other Associated Telephone employees signed up. Irwin spent time in New Jersey, Missouri, Louisiana, and California before being sent to Tennessee in 1944 where the Signal Company Special was being formed as part of the Ghost Army. Captain Vander Heide took over command of the 300 men in the unit, and accompanied them to Europe.
After the war he returned to Ann, Santa Monica, and the phone company. He also joined the Reserves; a 1946 newspaper article identifies him as committee chairman for military affairs of the Santa Monica Bay Chapter of the Reserve Officers Association.
In 1950, near the beginning of the Korean War, he was recalled to active duty and served as executive officer of the 314th Signal Heavy Construction Battalion. Organized in 1948, the Battalion was one of the first two Signal Corps-affiliated units to be formed by phone companies in the West.
Irwin's older brother, Herbert, also had a significant military career. He had graduated from West Point in 1929, and in 1955, with the rank of Major General, was serving as assistant chief of staff of US Army forces in the Far East and the 8th Army.
Irwin retired from the Reserves in 1966 with the rank of LTC.
In a 1986 interview with the LA Times, he recalled his experience with the Ghost Army. "'If this hasn’t been declassified,' he warns with gallant earnestness, 'I’ll be up for court-martial.'"
Irwin died on September 21, 1996, and is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, CA.
1940 draft card
1946 article in the Evening Vanguard (Venice CA); he is a CPT in the Reserves
1950 article in the Evening Vanguard (Venice CA); he is called to active duty
1972 US Select Military Registers
1986 article in the Napa Valley Register (CA) about his experience in the Ghost Army
1986 article in the LA Times (CA) about his experience in the Ghost Army
1996 California Death Index
1996 Find a Grave record