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How I got my appointment to West Point
My only connection to military service was my father's four years in the Army in WWII, so the academies never entered my head. My mother did the accounting for a local radio station, and one day in 1949 she had an appointment with her auditor. In the elevator going up to his office, a young lady who was a high school classmate of mine congratulated her on my appointment to West Point. When she mentioned the obvious case of mistaken identity to the auditor, he asked if she thought I'd be interested, and that started it.
After the usual hassle I got a first alternate appointment to the class of '54 from Senator Mundt (see Fleeger's account). Passed the entrance exams at Ft. Leavenworth and waited hopefully. The principal passed too, so no go with '54. But, in the usual order of things, having already qualified, I would be automatic for Sen Mundt's principal the next year. As Fleeger relates, the Senator got ambushed in the 1950 election, and I was out in the cold. I started from scratch, my only edge being that I had already passed the entrance exam, and I finally got a second alternate from Representative Lovre.
A couple of dragons were breathing on me. First off, I was over age; the class of '55 was the last shot for me, having done a year and a half at a local college, working part time at night. Then I worked another year full time to earn enough to do courses without the night work. My other concern was North Korea's invasion of the South in the summer of '50. The draft board was sure to scoop me up soon, but I had flying on the mind. If I got drafted, there was no way to get to aviation cadets, so I joined the Air Force in January 1951.
After basic training at Lackland, I found myself at the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Albuquerque's Sandia Base where I spent the next 2-1/2 months cooling my heels. My new classmates and I were waiting for a Q clearance to start courses at we knew not what. There weren't enough chores to keep us busy, so my duty for that whole time was to show up every third day for a stint on the reception desk at the BOQ.
Considering my second alternate slot, I had long since given up any delusions about getting to West Point On 1 July, I was lying on my bunk, fantasizing about the super secret stuff at Sandia and pilot training when I heard M/Sgt Rehak, the first sergeant, bellow my name from two floors down. I was to return a call from a U. S. Congressman, Rep. Lovre, of course, and the message was that the principal and first alternate had both failed. My first concern was whether I'd lose the slot if I didn't make the 3 July reporting date, and I surely wouldn't because clearing Sandia with all the security was a two day job, minimum, and probably more for a one-striper on foot.
Sgt Rehak was way ahead of me. He handed me the out-processing forms and tossed his car keys to my roommate with the guidance that he was to take me to each office and wait for me. His guidance for me was that if anyone delayed me or gave me any lip, I was to call him immediately. It was just after 11 AM and by 4 that afternoon I was cleared off. Rehak rammed through travel orders and had me on the way to the airport early next morning. So I made it on time, but I didn't march into West Point; I slid in, and I almost missed the bag.
The principal appointee who got the '54 slot was found in English plebe year.
Years later, I learned that the training at Sandia would have made me an atom bomb mechanic.
I never learned the name of the girl who started all this, but I said silent thanks when Ike shook my hand and handed me the diploma. She unknowingly set an aimless kid on a course for which he is abundantly grateful to this day.
29 July 2010