The last soldiers stationed at Albany’s Maj. James J. O’Donovan Center were given a farewell Saturday, as they prepare to transfer to the new U.S. Army Reserve Center in Niskayuna in September.
Named after O'Donovan in 1955, the center at 90 N. Main Ave. once served as a primary training site for the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps. In 2007, the Navy and Marines transferred from the center to an Armed Forces Reserve Center in Glenville, leaving only the U.S. Army Reserve units that will leave in the fall. The center will then close.
The ceremony was for soldiers in the Army Reserve’s 7th Legal Operations Detachment and 865th Combat Support Hospital, but also for the family of O'Donovan, who died in military service during World War II on Oct. 18, 1942, as a prisoner of war in the Philippine Islands at the age of 31.
Born in 1911 in Cohoes, O’Donovan entered the New York Army National Guard in 1927 and served until 1933, when he became a second lieutenant in the Officers’ Reserve Corps. He entered active duty in January 1941 as an infantryman.
O’Donovan survived the Bataan Death March and received the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in combat while serving in the Philippines. O’Donovan also received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
Saturday’s ceremony featured remarks from U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam; Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan; Cohoes Mayor George Primeau Sr.; retired Col. John Kennedy, a former student of O’Donovan; James Unwin, O’Donovan’s grandson; and Erwin Johnson, who survived the Bataan Death March.
The La Salle Institute Honor Color Guard and Drill Team also performed; O’Donovan taught at La Salle before World War II.