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How I got my appointment to West Point
I thought the political intrigue of Henry Clay in a recent book of that name by David and Jeanne Heidler would be hard to beat, but the challenge of responding to "How I Got There" has convinced me I have to give it a try. So let's get started.
Al Edwards and I were in Gove Jr. High School together, best buddies who used to chase Jackie Ungemach (UGH-a-mock) during tag on the playground because she had the biggest----well, you know. (I wouldn't use Jackie's real name, but she is surely deceased by now, exhausted by a lifetime of hauling those things around!) But I digress.
Al and I wanted to become doctors (and, in a sense, he would achieve it). Toward that end, we visited Colorado General Hospital at the invitation of his uncle to see the morque. We not only saw it. His uncle tricked us and we ended up locked in the cooler with hanging bodies for what seemed a lifetime. When we came out, we no longer wanted to be doctors. We had to find something else.
A year later found me in Kokura, Japan, where my stepfather was G-3 of the 24th Infantry Division commanded by MG William Dean. I got to know his son, Bill who suggested we go up to Tokyo and take the West Point exams. We did, he got into the Class of 54 (and eventually turned back to our class), while I passed, but under the Son's of Deceased Veterans quota was not high enough to get an appointment. Politics was needed!
Back in South Dakota, my grandfather spent 50 years on the bench as a county judge. Now deceased, he had known everybody and so did my GRANDMOTHER. I soon had an appointment from the judge's old district and was primed to breeze on in. None other than Senator Mundt, well known at the time, agreed to appoint me.
Then the fly in the ointment. An upstart congressman from the west side of the state beat Mundt in the primaries and I was left stranded. The congressman said that was no problem. He would appoint me as a congressman.
Great, but I wasn't from his district. Again, the congressman said that was no problem. I could just stay at his place a few days doing chores to establish residency. So I went. The congressman had a daughter and she was PLAIN. I was 16 and she was 14 so nothing happened there, and I did get the appointment. Now you know the story as far as how I got appointed by Senator Francis Case (14th street bridge now named after him?) from the small town of CUSTER, South Dakota (really, look me up in the our Howitzer year book).
And I must again digress. When the Senator's limousine came to our train and picked me up for Eisenhower's inaugural ball, two things happened. One, the "C-1" crowd gave me hoots that still ring in my ear. And, two, the Senator's daughter had blossomed considerably in two years.
And what about Alan? He took the exam the next year while I spent time at North Dakota State College taking anticipated courses. Alan passed, of course. We met in Chicago and took the train into New York on an early June day in 1951. Everyone said stay at the Astor Hotel, so we did, meeting the old duffer (a sad story, I am told. Anyone remember his name?) who had a colorful room there. Two cadets visited while we were there, and they seemed eight feet tall! We thought two kids from the country didn't have a chance. "And that's the way it was...." some fifty-nine years ago last month.
28 July 2010
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An Army Wife
Louise Fleeger Snee died on 21 October at the age of 103, arguably the oldest living parent in the class. Here is the story of a truly devoted Army wife.
Louise married her lifelong South Dakota high school sweetheart, Harry James Fleeger , upon his graduation from West Point in 1931. This produced two sons, me, in 1933 at Fort Des Moines , Iowa, and a brother, born at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The military pay was $110 per month and the annual 30 days vacation was obligatory without pay.
She departed from the Philippine Islands in June of 1941, Lt. Fleeger was with the 26th Cavalry Squadron, all on horses. While there, she taught Montessori classes, and lived the life of an army officer's wife whose husband, eiight yeara after graduation, had now attained the rank of first lieutenant.
She learned of the fall of Corregidor , the infamous Bataan Death March, only to learn Harry was lost at sea when our own Navy mistakenly torpedoed his ship as he was being transported back to Japan. The war years came and were a trial that few of us have ever had to live.
After World War II, Louise eventually remarried James W. Snee , USMA Class of 1934, and the family moved to Kokura , Japan, where Snee was the G-3 of the 24th Infantry Division, a constabulatory unit as part of Japan's capulation . But June of 1950 saw the outbreak of the Korean War and Louise was again involved. The division departed and eventually held at the Pusan Perimeter. Louise rallied the wives, now alone in Japan, as best she could to weather this event.
Jim Snee rose in the military to become the commander of the prized 11th Cavalry Regiment at Straubing on the crucial Berlin Corridor, where the Soviets were quick to create a crisis. Louise was the first lady. She had to demonstrate calm and help those overly concerned. This she did as, again, a good Army Wife.
Your can see why I am proud of my mother. She will be buried at West Point next to her husband, James W. Snee on Monday, November 14th, at 10AM.
4 NOV 2011