(History Page is a Work in Progress)

(Additions/Corrections Appreciated)

West Point Class of 1955

'55 History

Chronological Listing of Significant Events

(Click on Blue Links for supplemental information)

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The mission of the United States Military Academy (1951-1955) is to instruct and train the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate would have the qualities and attributes essential to his progressive and continued development throughout a lifetime career as an officer of the Regular Army or Air Force.

The West Point Class of 1955 was the smallest entering class since 1947. The entrance exam was taken by 1977 candidates and 649 new cadets were admitted on R Day, 3 JUL 1951. We spent our first two months in New Cadet Barracks, better known as "Beast Barracks". There were six new cadet companies in Beast Barracks and we were assigned by height, 1st company (flankers) being the tallest and 6th company (runts) the shortest.

During Beast Barracks we received instruction, administered by the Firsties of the Class of 1952, in the basics of being a Soldier and we were indoctrinated into the military life and the duties and responsibilities of the Plebe system.

Ted Gay, Jerry Lewis, Dave Wheeler
[R Day: Daily News - 3 JUL 1951]

Michalove, ?, McWilliams, Roberts, Wildermuth,
Heye, Minich, Coyle [R Day - 3 JUL 1951]

[Plebe Hike - 1951]

Beast Barracks ended on a high note with the Plebe Hike and we formally took our place in the Corps of Cadets. Twenty members of our class resigned during the summer and we added eighteen turnbacks from the Class of 1954, resulting in a strength of 647 to begin the academic year in September.

The Corps of Cadets consisted of one brigade with two regiments, six battalions and 24 companies. Authorized strength for the Corps was 2496 and we had about 100 cadets in each company. All company assignments were by height and all four years were spent in the same company. The companies were A-1 through M-1 (in descending size) and A-2 through M-2 (in ascending size). There wasn't a J company. A-1 and M-2 were the "Flanker" (tall) companies and M-1 and A-2 were the "Runt" (short) companies. Cadet density per room was 3.14, with some Firsties living in two-man rooms.

We soon became familiar with our upper and lower Cadet accounts which received all of our monthly pay of $78, and showed a large debit for all of our uniforms, books etc.. We could access $5 a month for boodle (a candy bar cost 5c and a pint of ice cream was 25c at the Boodlers), or whatever, and everything else was used for debt amortization and mandatory expenditures. It all worked out that our pay enabled most of us to retire our debts and have enough left over to buy a new car Firstie year.

We were charged a weekly flat rate of $7.40 for laundry and $1.60 for dry cleaning and were restricted on the number of pieces that could be sent per week, per cadet, to the USMA laundry. The number of sheets in the hands of cadets was reduced from six to four with no appreciable depreciation in standards of cleanliness.

[Gloom - c1950's]

"Bugle Notes" was our challenge and our bible as we double-timed, marched to classes, braced, performed our mess hall duties, called the minutes, went on "calls" and tried to maintain a low profile. Prune qualification or a Company Intermurder victory by your team could earn a very welcome "at ease" meal (a privilege that corps squad classmates routinely enjoyed).

Our Plebe year Military Training consisted of Dismounted Drill, Map Reading and Terrain Appreciation; Military Courtesy; Basic Weapons; Armor; Artillery; Physical Education and Intramural Athletics.

1951 was the year of a large cheating scandal (mostly involving the football team) which is documented in Bill McWilliams' excellent book "A Return to Glory". Army went from a team with national championship expectations to a season with only 2 wins and a lop-sided loss to Navy. Didn't help our Plebe year.

We endured 11 months of sub-human treatment during our plebe year which finally ended with recognition after the Graduation parade in June 1952. We didn't leave West Point during Plebe year except for day trips to the Southern Cal game at Yankee Stadium and the Navy game in Philadelphia. The only real breaks we had were Plebe Christmas and Spring Leave when the upper classes went on leave and we were in charge.

[JUN 1952]

Immediately upon completing Plebe year we went on summer leave from 4 June until 3 July 1952. Upon returning from leave, we moved to Camp Buckner for individual and squad field training. While at Camp Buckner, we received instruction in Armor; Artillery; Engineering; Field Sanitation; Squad Field Exercises; Platoon in Attack Demonstration; Military Information and Security; Practical Map Reading; Quartermaster, Signal, and Transportation Operations; Military Courtesy; Interior Guard and Weapons, to include qualification firing of M-1 rifle and familiarization firing of Machine Gun, Pistol, Grenades, Mortars, Recoilless Rifle, and Rocket Launcher.

[Camp Buckner - 1952]

[Camp Buckner - 1952]

At Buckner we also found time for rest and relaxation, including picnics, swimming, canoeing, sports and encounters with the opposite sex. A highlight of our summer on Lake Popolopen was the "Dischord in a Downpour" show, which spotlighted the talents of Roy Thorsen and boded well for future 100th Night shows.

On 28 July 1952 fifty selected cadets of the Class of 1955 were flown to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to join the midshipmen on their annual training cruise. The cadets returned to Camp Buckner on 5 August after indoctrination in naval matters aboard the USS Missouri, USS Wisconsin, USS Macon, and the USS Des Moines.

1955 in NYC
[25 AUG 1952]

During our Yearling academic year, September 1952 through May 1953, we received training in: Dismounted Drill, Basic Psychology, Basic Tactics and Techniques of the Infantry Platoon, Air Force, Physical Educationl and Intramural Athletics.

Ike's Inaugural Parade
[Battalion Mass - 21 JAN 1953]

Delafield Pond

Ann Fritz Quinn and Hugh Quinn
[Flirtation Walk - APR 1953]

In JUN 1953, we embarked on CAMID with the Navy and then received Air Force training at Eglin AFB, Florida from 25 June to 10 July 1953. Half of the class was scheduled to go to Maxwell Field, Alabama for one phase of their training, but because of the high incidence of polio in this area all cadets were trained at Eglin AFB.

Leaving West Point
[CAMID - JUN 1953]

Other cadet training during Cow summer consisted of:

(a) Airborne training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina from 13-17 JUL 1953.
(b) Engineer training at Fort Belvoir from 20-21 JUL 1953.
(c) Chemical training at the Army Chemical Center, Maryland from 23-24 JUL 1953.
(d) Signal training at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey from 27-28 JUL 1953.

Summer - 1953

During our Cow academic year, September 1953 through May 1954, we received instruction in Dismounted Drill, Armor, Tactics and Techniques of the Infantry Company, Artillery, Military Instructor Training, Physical Education and Intramural Athletics.

The Cadet-Midshipman Exchange Program, between JAN-APR 1954 sent every '55er to Annapolis for three days to experience the daily routine of a 3rd year Middie, and they in turn did the same at West Point.

Goats 13 - Engineers 7
[NOV 1953]

Al Rupp, Billy XII, Ben Schemmer '54,
Helper [Navy's Goat - NOV 1953]

Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara
[The Long Gray Line - APR 1954]

We marched in Battalion mass formation at parades until 1954, when we learned and often used Squad drill formation from earlier days. Squad drill was introduced to facilitate the filming of "The Long Gray Line" at West Point in the spring of 1954. Several '55ers had small roles in the movie.

From 9-26 JUN 1954 we took the Combined Arms Trip and received training at Wright-Patterson AFB, Fort Knox, Fort Sill, Fort Bliss and Fort Benning. Movement was by C-124 aircraft.

[Fort Knox - JUN 1954]

Twenty-four '55ers accompanied by two officers, visited the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England during the period 11-20 JUN 1954. The group then visited SHAPE and NATO: forces in Europe during the period 20 JUN-8 JUL 1954.

About two-thirds of our class was assigned command and instructor duties with the Class of 1958 (Beast Barracks) at West Point. About one-fourth was assigned command and instructor duties with the Class of 1957 at Camp Buckner. About one-tenth was assigned as junior officers to the 69th Replacement Training Division, Fort Dix, New Jersey.

USMA Special Order Number 154, Dated 26 AUG 1954 announced the permanent First Class Year Chain of Command for the Class of 1955.

Andrews, Jacobs, Olvey, Gilpatrick,
Karam, Hardy [Brigade Staff]

During our Firstie academic year, September 1954 through May 1955, our military training covered courses in Armor, Techniques and Procedures in Troop Leading, Dismounted Drill, Physical. Education, Leadership in the Service, Intramural Athletics, Artillery, Organization of the Armed Forces, Combat Intelligence, Air Force, General Administration and Map Reading.

In 1954, the entire Corps attended the Columbia game in New York and the Navy game in Philadelphia. One regiment attended the Yale game in New Haven, and the other regiment attended the Penn game in Philadelphia. The entire class of 1955 attended the Michigan game in Ann Arbor.

Passafiume, Mason, Maurer
[Rally - c1954]

In addition to a 30 day leave each summer, and a 10-12 day Christmas leave and 3 day spring leave as upper classmen, each '55er was authorized twelve weekend leaves during Firstie year (with the restriction that at least one-third of the First Classmen in each company be present for duty on each weekend) and two weekend leaves during Cow year. We were allowed to take delivery of our automobiles in APR 1955.

During Firstie year, the Corps participated in parades in New York for the premiere of the movie "The Long Gray Line" and for Armed Forces Day on 23 MAY 1955.

[1955 Bandbox Review]

Roy Thorsen and Dick Prater
[100th Night Show - MAR 1955]

Through 2010, West Point has produced 90 Rhodes Scholars since entering the competition in 1923, ranking 4th nationally. Four of the Rhodes Scholars came from the Class of 1955: Mike Garn, John Hamilton, Marty McGuire and Donne Olvey.

Class of 1955 Basic courses:

Plebe year - Foreign Language, Math, English, Graphics, PE, Tactics

Yearling year - Foreign Language, Math, Topography, Chemistry, Physics, PE

Cow year - Mechanics of Solids, Electricity, Mechanics of Fluids, Mil. Instructor Training, Tactics, PE

First Class year - Engineering, Social Sciences, Law, Military Art, Military Psychology, Ordnance, Tactics, PE

In addition, higher ranking cadets were exempted from term end exams in some subjects and took advanced courses.

The class of 1955 graduated 470 on 7 Jun 1955 (still had June Week in our days) with Bachelor of Science degrees. Commissioning took place on 3 June, the same DOR as the USNA grads and one day ahead of ROTC grads. Of the 470 graduates, 464 were commissioned as 2d Lieutenants in the Regular Army or Air Force, 4 were honorably discharged on account of physical disability and 2 were foreign cadets (one Filipino and one Mexican). Of those who were commissioned as 2d Lieuxtenants, 140 were commissioned in the Air Force. Branch assignments to the Regular Army were as follows: Infantry 143; Artillery 85; Corps of Engineers 41; Armor 33; Signal Corps 22.

Underclasses in Squad Drill Formation
[Graduation Parade - JUN 1955]

Kathy and Bill Graham Wedding
[7 JUN 1955]

Long planned weddings for '55ers were listed in "The Pointer's" Schedule of '55 Weddings article and started happening immediately after graduation.

Video: The Making Of A West Pointer (1951 - 1955).

After graduation the Class of 1955 untertook flight, ranger and airborne training, branch schools, advanced schools, pursuit of master's degrees etc., while living the life of a junior officer.

Here's some of the first assignments: 23 May 1955 Malden AB Extract.

Robert Forrest Stanley, Jr. was born 9 JAN 1956 and is the Class of '55 Godson.

Promotion to 1st Lieutenant was automatic after 18 months and many '55ers were a little jealous of Air Force files who went SAC and were getting earlier spot promotions.

1955 in Perspective, a detailed 10 year statistical study of the Class of 1955 in conjunction with our 10th reunion revealed, among many other things, that '55ers had accumulated 1165 kids. This study was conducted by Irv Katenbrink and was based on input from from 336 of our 470 graduates.

[10th Reunion - 1965]

Larger Size

Starting in the 60's and continuing for several years, many '55ers were assigned to West Point as Tacs and P's, and our largest concentration of classmates was once again at our rock bound Highlands Home on the Hudson. Later, Pentagon assignments and retirements drew '55ers to the Washington DC area, which now domiciles more classmates than any other locale. Other popular retirement spots for '55ers are Colorado, Florida, Texas and Alabama.

The Vietnam war was our war. Larry Stockett was our first classmate in Vietnam, serving with a Military Assistance Group in 1958-1959, and a total of 271 '55ers served one or more tours in the Vietnam war. Four classmates were killed and one was a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam war. In 1974, Hi Stevens, serving as Defense Attache, was the last remaining '55 file in the country and brought the Class Flag home that year - 17 years after Larry Stockett brought it to Nam. We served the nation with pride and professionalism under difficult conditions.

Bill McWilliams (red cap) and his F-4C
[Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam - NOV 1965]

Chuck Roades, George Kennebeck, Carl Cathey
[Ubon AB - 1969]

Bill Haas
[Bn Cmdr: Vietnam - OCT 1969]

'55's participation in the Vietnam war is covered in Dick Fontaine's book "Vietnam & the West Point Class of 1955" .

Al Worden

Don Peterson

Classmates Al Worden and Don Peterson logged a combined 415 hours in space as NASA Astronauts. Al was the command module pilot for the 26 JUL-7 AUG 1971 mission of Apollo 15 and Don was a mission specialist on the 4-9 APR 1983 maiden voyage of Challenger.

Michael John Guthrie '78 is the first Class of '55 son to graduate from USMA.

[25th Reunion - 1980]

Larger Size

The Pre-2000 Class of 1955 Constitution was amended at the 25th reunion in 1980 and provided for election of new class officers every five years at the five-year class reunion meetings.

Michele Therese Jackson Caron '83 is the first Class of '55 daughter to graduate from USMA.

Fred Woerner ****

Tom Wilkinson, who finished his career as Director of Admissions at the Air Force Academy, was the last '55er standing on active duty, retiring on 1 AUG 1990. During more than 35 years of active duty service, the Class of 1955 provided key leadership to the Armed Forces and the country. Stars fell on twenty-five 55'ers, topped by Fred Woerner who earned four of them.

In DEC 1995, under the leadership of Bill Welter, the class acquired instant, electronic communication capability by inaugurating a class internet forum under the auspices of West-Point.org.

Class Gatherings over the years have included class-wide reunions every 5 years, class-wide major Minis in between reunions, Distinguished Graduate Minis, Regional Get-togethers, Travel Club trips, Ski Club trips, Golf Trips, a Fishing Mini, Tail Gating at West Point football games, Company Minis, regularly scheduled luncheons, classmate visits, and attendance at West Point related functions.

In MAR 1999 the class learned that Oscar (Father "O") Raynal, our Mexican Jesuit priest classmate, was limping badly and needed a replacement for his deteriorated hip. The class got involved and Father "O" got a new hip . In JUN 2007, Father "O" needed a left knee replacement, and '55 made it happen.

At our 45th reunion in MAY 2000, the Class of 1955, along with classmate Kelly Lichtenberg dedicated the new Tennis Center , which was our 50 year class gift to West Point and memorialized five of our class heroes on the Memorial Terrace at the Tennis Center. 55's Giving Program made grants to West Point totaling $1,475,127 between 1980 and 2000.

The Pre-2000 Constitution was replaced by the 2000 Class of 1955 Constitution at the 45th reunion in SEP 2000.

A survey completed by 145 classmate or class widows in 2000, in conjunction with our 45th reunion, provides some statistics on the Class of 1955 and some unique facts about several classmates.

[50th Reunion - MAY 2005]

Larger Size

Jerry Denman 50th Poem

Ed Trobaugh and Kelly Lichtenberg present $2
million Class Gift [50th Reunion - MAY 2005]

The Tennis center, our $2 million 50 year class gift, was formally presented to West Point at the 50th reunion. The 50th Reunion book included a statistical study of Our Composite Classmate, a summary of 55's Class Gifts to West Point between 1985 and 2004, Recognitions for Service to the Class, and an update on the Class E-mail nets.

John Feagin

Kelly Lichtenberg

Joe Franklin

Carl McNair

Rod Vitty

Five of our '55 classmates, John Feagin in 2004, Kelly Lichtenberg in 2006, Joe Franklin in 2007, Carl McNair in 2011 and Rod Vitty in 2015 have been honored as West Point Distinguished Graduates, for exemplifying outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy: Duty, Honor, Country.

Oscar Raynal

Father "O"

Oscar (Father "O") Raynal was honored at our 55th reunion as a Class of 1955 Distinguished Classmate for a lifetime of devotion and unselfish, loving service to the needy.

Twenty-five '55ers have written books which are listed on our West Point 1955 Authors page, Betsy Anderson, Pres Mayson and Linda McKinney are/were talented painters, and Joe Dado, Jerry Denman, Jim Devereaux, Dick Fontaine, John Lovell, Dick Regnier and Al Worden have written poems.

We've been guided over the years by many dedicated, hard working classmates who have served as Class Officers and EXCOM members.

A survey as of 31 December 2012 received responses from 132 of the 237 living, online '55 graduates.

The Birmingham AL Mini was held in APR 2013.

The 60th Class Reunion was held at West Point in MAY 2015. The class historian presented Musing about '55 At The 60th that described '55 in 2015 and highlited recent happenings.

The West Point 1955 Class Strength compilation details the compostition of the class from JUL 1951 through MAR 2014.

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Cadet Library Archives

Archives include

Official Register of the Officers and Cadets (1818 - 1966)

Annual Report of the Association of Graduates (1818 - 1941)

Assembly (1942 - 1993)

Annual Report of the Superintendent (1890 - 1989)

Annual Report of the Board of Visitors (1819 - 2002)

USMA Catalogs (1946 - 1979)

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West Point 1955 Home Page

1955 Personal Web Pages

Recent Pictures