|T H E P O I N T E R
M A G A Z I N E
October 25, 1957
A NEW KIND OF SPIRIT
By Captain David R. Hughes, '50
Editor's Note: The following message to
the Corps is the stirring and profound speech given two weeks ago at the
Notre Dame Rally in the Dining Hall by Captain David R. Hughes, class of
1950. We of the First Class would like to add our humble bit of praise
to the chorus of the entire Corps by stating that this speech is undoubtedly
the most impressive we have heard during our three and a quarter years
at the Academy. At the request of numerous Cadets, and in the hope that
we may capture and perpetuate the purer, stronger spirit described so well
by Capt. Hughes, we offer the following message:
(When Capt. Hughes appeared on the speakers'
platform the greeting cheer by the Corps was followed by the traditional
roaring cry "Take it off," referring to his, the speaker's coat. He was
wielding a medieval Mace)
I will not take it off because I remember.
I remember sitting here as a cadet for four years not so very long ago,
and I remember these past two years. I have seen the direction spirit and
tradition have taken. I am afraid I know that whatever I might wear or
fail to wear beneath this coat would only get one of two reactions. A groan
if I did not have some gimmick, some witty device on my shirt; a laugh
if I did. But laughter is not spirit. A groan is
not an expression of the will.
(Mace smashes down on the PT stand)
And neither a laugh nor a groan goes back
to one of the original, traditional, reasons that a speaker removes his
coat. They are not meaningful. No gentlemen, I ask that nothing you or
I do here tonight will be words without belief or gestures without meaning.
I ask only that no man raise his voice a single time unless he feels in
the bottom of his heart a burning determination to shake the very rock
on which this building rests with the shudder of his desire to take the
sweet fruit of victory from Notre Dame.
Perhaps now we have an understanding. But
because no speaker, whatever his rank, formally invited by the Corps to
speak in this place should appear as other than your equal in the unity
of our comnion goal, and only because of this lost meaning of the traditional
speaker's gesture, I will gladly shed my coat to help beat Notre Dame!
(Mace smashes down)
It is for this loss of meaning of some
of our most potent traditions that I, from my academic room, cast down
a cold eye on the gadgetry that can here go by the name of spirit; the
shouting that sometimes forgets the face of its own purpose; and upon men
who seem too removed, too aloof to humbly contribute their spirit to either
the whole or a single representative part. But I would not
stand here before you tonight if I did not feel that powerful determination
to win lies latent in your hearts. Yet knowing that the West Point 2500
Mule Team leads not follows the wagon, I ask, why is this spirit, this
determination, not expressed? Perhaps I can tell you.
I remember a company commander in Korea
who stood one day on his observation post and watched his company claw
to a stop just a hundred yards short of his last objective. He had led
the members of his company forcefully and successfully in the battle over
the hills in seven days and seven nights. He had managed their weapons,
their tactics, their units, their leaders and they had won. But now, just
a hundred yards short of final victory they had stopped. To the men who
were fighting there was reason enough why they had stopped. In the savage
fighting up to this point, the company commander, out of seven officers
and one hundred ninety-four enlisted men, had lost six of his officers
and one hundred sixty-five enlisted men. Only twenty-nine men remained
on that hill. Yet from his tactical knowledge, from his experience,
from the knowledge of the terrific beating the enemy had taken on that
hill, even while his own company had been absorbing terrible punishment
- from all the evidence, he knew that all that lay between his twenty-nine
men and victory was one last hard grenade-ignoring assault. But they would
He searched his mind for a reason. Suddenly
the answer stabbed into his brain, an answer that stunned him with its
simplicity and force. He realized where he had failed. In all his leading
of the company over the past seven days he had managed and led every quality
his troops had shown BUT HE HAD NOT BEEN A LEADER OF THE SPIRIT, OF
THE WILL TO WIN. He had simply not imparted his own intense conviction,
his faith in their capability, his spirit, to them. He had forgotten to
use the very quality that had gotten him success as a platoon leader among
his first days. But now it was almost too late, it was the last hundred
yards, time was running out. Grenades and mortars and artillery were raining
down. The game was almost over. Men were dying. In desperation he put down
his company commander's devices like toys, the things which helped him
reinforce a thousand fold the rifle strength of his company; his own mortars,
heavy machine guns, his ability to get tanks, artillery, planes, other
units. But all these had depended on the movement, and the will to move,
in the hearts of the riflemen.
He put down his devices and went forward
to do what he should not have had to do - personally lead the rifle men
over the enemy defenses. He crossed the little ravine separating him from
his twenty-nine men and soon arrived there. Under the rain of steel he
moved back and forth pleading, cajoling, exhorting, proving, until the
line began to move again. It steadily moved up the hill until, from one
huge bunker in the center of the great and decisive trench line, came rolling
down a giant anti-tank grenade. It burst between two men and killed them.
The line saw, and faltered. The crisis was at hand. In a last desperate
attempt to show the riflemen that all they had to do, all they had to see,
all they had to muster was the will to cross the trench and get on top,
in the last possible way he could influence the outcome, the company commander
put his fear down like a toy and went on alone, up to the bunker, silencing
it with a grenade. In his heart he knew that if he fell, all direction,
all will, would evaporate from those men and they would be defeated where
they stood. But luck (or was it spirit?) intervened and the men saw, and
they moved again, and they raised a cry and they swirled over the trench
and carried the hill.
But the last bit of wisdom had not been
given to him yet. For when his small band, joined now by the fragments
of the rest of his battalion, saw what it had defeated, he was amazed.
He had thought there was an enemy company there. It had been a battalion.
In a few hours he had one hundred ninety-two prisoners. The dead were uncounted.
The two lessons of that hill burned into
his mind; the power of determined men, and the need for man's spirit to
be led before the battle is joined, not just after. Leadership.
Perhaps that is the word. The problem and the answer. YET EVERY MAN
IN THIS HALL IS A LEADER. Reflect upon yourselves. If you cannot draw
out of yourselves or out of The Corps, the powerful desire and determination
to win, how will you be able to lead a possibly dispirited nation in a
war in which we may never again enjoy a superiority of means? But I know
you can do both. It can be done if the leaders of the Corps, especially
the designated leaders, cadets of the First Class, take as their challenge
developing, fostering, leading the Spirit of the Corps as it backs every
segment of itself, the football team, the chess team, the debating team,
the basketball team, as well as enforcing orders and regulations. Do not
mistake the purpose of regulations and order and law. All of these things,
and the organization you have, are for the purpose of channeling energy,
not frustrating it. If a platoon leader of the First Class quells the noisy
overflow of spirit during call to quarters, but ignores it at other times,
I think that the company commander I referred to would say that this man
is but half a leader. And of course if the cadet does not quell the noise,
he is not a leader at all.
But the need is clear. These gadgets, these
painted sheets, these displays, show a need for a more vital spirit. Someone
must draw out of the Corps the latent power of its real spirit. I say that
that someone is first, each cadet himself, and then each man as a leader.
We do not seek twenty-five hundred sprited horses, we want, on this Saturday,
a Notre Dame-crushing, 2500 Mule Team!
(Mace smashes down)
Yes, I hear your roar. I hear the noise
at this rally tonight but I wonder. HOW MANY RALLIES DO YOU SUPPOSE
WERE HELD IN KOREA TO INSPIRE IN AMERICANS THE WILL TO WIN? I hope
you see that spirit is not laughter, spirit is not a groan, perhaps spirit
is not even a roar.
But I did not come here under false flag,
to chide or criticize. I came here to draw out of you the utmost of your
effort to put down Notre Dame Saturday. Listen now as you have never listened
before. Listen now to a Ghost Story that ought to make you shudder, in
order to steel your hearts.
It has been ten years since Notre Dame
last played Army. Few of you realize what a rude beast you have awakened
in South Bend. Few of yourealize the rude beast that is even now slouching
toward Philadelphia to be born. Few of you realize that in the darkness
I see outside this hall, a great and shadowy Goliath is pacing up and down
the black turf waiting for you to venture into the arena.
You have read the newspapers. You have
seen the scores of Notre Dame in these past two games, and you see the
chances we are accorded, that we are favored. Gentlemen, beware! The writers
are remembering, too, and when they favor us over Notre Dame I know they
are assuming in us the gigantic show of spirit we have mustered in the
past. And I warn you. Only a mighty surge of spirit will beat Notre Dame!
I hear remarks about their having the flu. Let me read the headlines in
the New York Times from this morning's paper. "Notre Dame Eleven 'Hurt
Badly' by Outbreak of Flu, Coach Says." And "Illness Confines 8 Players
to Bed." "Brennan Says Notre Dame Won't Be in Top Shape for Army Saturday."
Gentlemen now let me read from a volume
entitled The Big Game which concerns itself only with the Notre Dame-Army
series. Let me read to you from the report of the 1932 game. "Director
of Athletics Jesse Harper of Notre Dame told reporters that he was skeptical
of the staying powers of the Irish. A mild epidemic of influenza had hit
the South Bend campus in the early part of the week and when the team left
Thanksgiving morning Bill Milokovich went from the infirmary to the train
wrapped in blankets. Stumpy Jim Harris was another invalid." Now let me
turn over two pages and read to you that they WHIPPED US 21-0 and
that Army took such a physical beating that there were rumors that the
series might be terminated! Influenza. One of the worst things that could
have happened to Army is the Irish team getting the flu. That campus out
there fields such an emotional team that by tomorrow morning the millions
of Notre Dame backers, Irish, and all those who wish they were Irish, will
have deluged the team with such over-wrought expressions of fear that they
will have made the perfect basis for a sentimental victory.
Never underestimate Notre Dame. The team
that takes the field Saturday will not be the same team that has played
these past two games. They will be the descendents of gladiators the likes
of which football has never seen before. This is the thing that you cadets
seated here are too young to know, this is the thing that has made this
series over the years more than a football game to Notre Dame. To them
it is a crusade. It all starte long ago not two hundred yards from where
you sit, 25 years before you were born, out on Cullum Field, when a limping
Knute Rockne, in a fierce burst of determination shed his limp, and without
breaking stride pulled in a forward pass, crossed the goal line and they
beat us 35-13. And it came down through the mighty and mysterious George
Gipp who, as left halfback in 1920, in one afternoon against Army, ran
and passed 332 yards. They won. And in the warmup of that game he and our
own Colonel Red Reeder had a little drop kicking duel again on Cullum Field.
They moved back further and further from the goal until finally George
Gipp asked for four footballs, and he drop kicked two perfect goals over
the north goal and then two over the south goal. He was standing on the
50 yard line!
And six weeks later, at 25, he was dead.
I know his ghost hovers over Municipal Stadium tonight. In 1924, opposite
our own All-American center Ed Garbisch a man named Adam Walsh played.
Although he was knocked unconscious four times in the game he played every
minute and in the last quarter raised up to pull down, out of the sky,
an Army pass, stalling us forever. After the game the doctors looked at
Adam Walsh and saw that both of his hands had been broken since the first
of the game!
They won, 13-7. Behind that line were a
thundering backfield called the Four Horsemen, who were not ever called
that until after the Army game of their senior year. Then there was James
Chevigney who once said "I don't care if they carry me off cold, as long
as I can just tell my dad I was in the Army game." And tears rolled down
his face when he scored. They won. And in 1934 when 300 Notre Dame students
turned out for spring practice and they all were given suits and they kept
them. And the Titantic Battle in 1946, which I saw, as a plebe. When Johnny
Lujack, Emil Sitko, and Terry Brennan fought against our superb ends Barney
Poole and Hank Foldberg, and we had in our backfield three names you might
recognize, Tucker, Blanchard and Davis. Yet, with all that power and talent
and determination no one crossed a goal line. And I can remember, for it
is burned into my eyes, that moment in the game when mighty Blanchard broke
into the clear and there was only one man between him and the goal line,
in on open field. Yet that man, Lujack, brought him down. It ended 0-0.
This was not a game of men, it was the clash of warriors and giants.
(Mace smashes down)
Then in 1947 Brennan took the kick-off
and ran 97 yards through us to a touchdown. They won that last game of
the series 27-7. What an ironic score that is. I know in my bones that
it was Knute Rockne riding down the Four Horsemen who put the shadow of
George Gipp into Brennan that day to make that score. For swallow this
bitter pill, though the average difference of score over the long 34 game
series has been less than two points we have won only SEVEN times and have
failed to win TWENTY-SEVEN times. The last twist of the knife. HAVEN'T
WE GOT TWO MORE POINTS OF SPIRIT?
(Mace smashes down)
Gentlemen, I urge you. That game Saturday
will not be fought on the ground; it will be fought in the clouds over
Municipal Stadium. It will be fought out by Knute Rockne and George Gipp
against our own immortals Elmer Oliphant and Chris Cagle.
BUT YOU CAN'T STOP SPIRIT WITH BEDSHEETS!
THE ONLY THING THAT WILL GIVE US THE STRENGTH T0 FIGHT AGAINST THE FOUR
HORSEMEN OF THE FIGHTING IRISH, WILL BE THE STUBBORN SPIRIT OF A 2500 MULE
TEAM. IT WILL BE A BATTLE OF SPIRIT. WE MUST FIND THAT SPIRIT!
Yes, I hear your roar. I hear. But noise
is not enough. I ask for a new kind of spirit, a deep and powerful spirit.
A spirit that can be expressed in a firm handshake, in a cadet who will
go well out of his way to express his desire and encouragement to a team
member he has never met, in a look of the eye, in the firmness of a jaw,
in the purposful way of performing ordinary things.
I am calling for a refreshment of the kind
of spirit at West Point that expresses our unity, our solidarity, our fierce
loyalty, a kind of lasting spirit that can be expressed a thousand ways,
even by silence. EVEN BY SILENCE!
Let us prove that gentlemen, let us for
the first time try to communicate our intense desire and deep will to this
team about to represent us all by STANDING and WATCHING them come forward
from their Corps Squad Tables in a fierce ovation of SILENCE. A power and
compelling unity of SILENCE!
Let that team come forward NOW. To be seen
by all so that they may know our will and feel our support, that we may
communicate these things to them.
(Note - the entire Corps of Cadets Stood,
faced the center aisle, silently, as the Army Football Team walked soberly
from the back of the center wing of Washington Hall, under the golden glow
of the lamps near the ceiling, while everyone could hear every footfall
as they came)
And now as your team comes forward through
this hallowed hall let me make you finally see that what you are going
out of here to do Saturday is not just to play a football game but to justify
the West Point way. The way of unity, of determination, of solidarity,
against a team which has traditionally shown great imagination, strength,
talent, and the overwhelming affection of the people. Notre Dame's way
to victory has been the noisy way of the ordinary American people. West
Point's way has been the lonely, stoic, way of America's military.
Our strength is our spirit. Gentlemen,
no matter what the score at the last gun let us not fail in our spirit.
Now they stand before you. Here are the men of your team. They are but
men. You have only until tomorrow morning when they depart to express to
them your determination, your desire, your loyalty - your Spirit - to make
them more than men.
Now - break your Silence! And let us all
(Mace smashes down for the last time,
the band struck up, and the Corps exits, singing)
(Note: The score in 1957 was Army
21, Notre Dame 23)