One of the most recently famous, and easily recognized by the present Generation, is a twin bridge located at mile post 45, passing the highway over Mingo Creek, and route 88, named after Joe Montana. AS you may remember, Joe played his high school football in the Mon Valley and went on to Notre Dame, and then the NFL, where he quarterbacked a team that won four Super Bowls. On one of his infrequent visits back to the Mon Valley, where he was participating in a fund raiser for the local YMCA, he went to see the bridge named after him, and was heard to say, “it’s an honor to be remembered this way.”
The bridge is a 2400 Ft long, dual curved, 260 feet in height, the second tallest in Pennsylvania, and the largest in the Pennsylvania turnpike system. It also passes over an active, 200 foot high, P&LE railroad bridge that is listed on the National Register of Historic places. It was also used as a model for all the other bridges in the part of the highway that has been completed so far. Although a portion of this Mon-Fayette highway has another name, most of it has been called :”The Medal of Honor” highway. Each of the remaining interchanges have been named after Medal of Honor winner
The first bridge you encounter, when accessing the highway southbound at the Large/rte 51 entrance, Is the entrance ramp that crosses route 51, and leads to a another bridge that runs behind and above the remains of the old whiskey distillery, and re crosses route 51. As you travel over this bridge, you feel like you can almost reach out and touch the old smokestack that reaches skyward, even taller than the bridge itself.
This interchange was named in memory of Captain Reginald B. Desiderio, a Company Commander in the 25th Infantry Division, during the Korean War. In an action that took place near Ipsok, Korea, july 27th, 1950, Captain Desiderio won his medal for conspicuous leadership and gallantry, but lost his life doing so. Although twice wounded, he continued to lead his Company, by personally using carbine, rifle and grenades,to repel the enemy, until mortally wounded. By his courageous actions and leadership, his Company beat back the enemy and held their positions. Captain Desiderio was born locally, in Clairton, Pa., but was living in California when he enlisted in the Army.
The interchange at exit 48, was named after Archibald Mathies a Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps in the 8th Air Force. He was an Engineer and Ball Turret Gunner on a B-17. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on February 20, 1944 over enemy occupied Europe. He was killed in action. His citation in part reads "After observing the distressed aircraft from another plane, Sgt. Mathies' commanding officer decided the damaged plane could not be landed by the inexperienced crew and ordered them to abandon it and parachute to safety. Demonstrating unsurpassed courage and heroism, Sgt. Mathies and the navigator replied that the pilot was still alive but could not be moved and they would not desert him. They were then told to attempt a landing. After two unsuccessful efforts, the plane crashed into an open field in a third attempt to land. Sgt. Mathies, the navigator, and the wounded pilot were killed."
A third interchange at exit 44 was named after Karl Gorman Taylor, Sr., who was born in Laurel, Maryland, July 14,1939. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps along with his brother Walter, on January 15 1959, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in December 1968. His citation partly reads as follows:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Company Gunnery Sergeant during Operation MEADE RIVER in the Republic of Viet Nam on the night of December 8, 1968. When his group was halted by devastating fire, he directed his companion return to the company command post; where-upon he took his Grenade Launcher, and, in full view of the enemy, charged across the open rice paddy toward the machine gun position, firing his weapon as he ran. Although wounded several times, he succeeded in reaching the machine gun bunker and silencing the fire from that sector, moments before he was mortally wounded. He was directly instrumental in saving the lives of several of his fellow Marines.
Another person who had the fourth interchange, at exit 39, named after him, was Mitchell Paige, originally from Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Platoon sergeant Paige won his medal against Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on 26 October, 1942.
When the enemy broke through the line directly in front of his position, P/Sgt. Paige, commanding a machine-gun section with fearless determination, continued to direct the fire of his gunners until all his men were either killed or wounded. Alone, against the deadly hail of Japanese shells, he fought with his gun and when it was destroyed, took over another, moving from gun to gun, never ceasing his withering fire against the advancing hordes until reinforcements finally arrived. Then, forming a new line, he dauntlessly and aggressively led a bayonet charge, driving the enemy back and preventing a breakthrough in our lines. P/ Sgt. Paige, later given a commission as a lieutenant, remained in the Marine Corps after World War II, retiring as a Colonel in 1964.
The last interchange that I am familiar with, is the one that connects to I 70, East or West. This is the one we use the most because of our travels West on I 70 to Wheeling Downs Casino and Dog Track. Although I have been all the way to the end of turnpike 43 where it now ends at California and route 40, it will eventually be continued to link up with the southern section already built from Uniontown all the way (almost) to I 68 in Morgantown, West Virginia. There are still a couple of miles on the West Virginia end before the link up with I 68 that are not finished.
This interchange is named after Army Colonel Walter J. Marm, Jr. of Fremont, NC, a Washington, PA native who will be recognized with signage at Exit 36 at the junction of the Mon/Fayette Expressway and Interstate 70. A platoon leader, he was wounded when storming a concealed machine gun near Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam on Nov. 14, 1965, after deliberately drawing fire to expose an enemy machine gun. When enemy fire continued, he charged 30 meters across open ground and hurled grenades into the enemy position. Then, armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault and killed the remainder of the enemy.
Although I am not really familiar with the other interchange between here and the California end of the turnpike, the remaining interchange is named as follows:
This interchange is named after Army Corporal Alfred L. Wilson, a native of Fairchance, Fayette County, who will be recognized with signage at Exit 8 at the Northern terminus of the expressway’s Mason Dixon Link (rte 40) South of Uniontown. Cpl. Wilson, an Army medic during World War II, was mortally wounded in battle near Bezange la Petite, France but refused evacuation and helped save the lives of at least 10 wounded comrades..
Citation: He volunteered to assist as an aid man a company other than his own, which was suffering casualties from constant artillery fire. He administered to the wounded and returned to his own company when a shellburst injured a number of its men. While treating his comrades he was seriously wounded, but refused to be evacuated by litter bearers sent to relieve him. In spite of great pain and loss of blood, he continued to administer first aid until he was too weak to stand. Crawling from 1 patient to another, he continued his work until excessive loss of blood prevented him from moving. He then verbally directed unskilled enlisted men in continuing the first aid for the wounded. Still refusing assistance himself, he remained to instruct others in dressing the wounds of his comrades until he was unable to speak above a whisper and finally lapsed into unconsciousness. The effects of his injury later caused his death. By steadfastly remaining at the scene without regard for his own safety, Cpl. Wilson through
distinguished devotion to duty and personal sacrifice helped to save the lives of at least 10 wounded men.