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How I got my appointment to West Point
Gary Goes to West Point
My military interest formally began when I joined the Civil Airpatrol in 1945. It was some sort of Junior Wing. I induced my mother Naomi to join with me. My mother and father at the time were employed by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, where they worked since 1942. When I graduated from Junior High School, I moved on to Pasadena Junior College, where the first two years were the 11th and 12th grades. There I was a member of the ROTC Program. My company Commander was Andrew Foster. I was the first sergeant. He later followed me to West Point as a member of the Class of 1957.
Some time during early 1950, a classmate of my mother from her high school years suggested that I might be interested in West Point. This was passed to me and I agreed. Getting my act together, I contacted my Congressman Carl Hinshaw and found out what I had to do to be nominated. I gathered all the data together including letters of recommendation and submitted my application. One day out of the blue, I received a letter notifying me to report to the main Post Office in Pasadena, California to take the Civil Service exam on which the Congressmen would base his nominations.
Arriving at the Post Office and receiving the test, I noted the blocks at the top of the form ... for WEST POINT ... ANNAPOLIS ... or BOTH. Well, my momma didn't raise no fool. I checked BOTH. Subsequently, The President decided that we should go to the assistance of the South Koreans. So my Division, the 40th Infantry Division was activated. I was then a heavy machine gunner in D Company 223d Infantry Regiment. This all occurred in the summer of 1950. On September 1st, we were activated and spent the next several weeks training in my hometown of Pasadena, California before moving off to Camp Cook for our training prior to deployment to Korea. If you don't recognize the name of the camp, it's because it later became Vandenberg AFB. Camp Cook was named in honor of Major General Philip St. George Cooke, a West Point graduate from the class of 1827.
One day while serving as Company Charge of Quarters, I received a letter of notification that I was eligible for a Third Alternate appointment to West Point or a principal appointment to the Naval Academy. There really wasn't much to think about. I showed the letter to my first sergeant and he instructed me to wait and that he would notify battalion. Soon the word came down and I went to talk to the S-1. It didn't take long before orders were cut to send me to the United States Naval Academy Prep School (USNAPS) at Newport, RI. The orders were for me to go by train, but that didn't suit me at all, so I proceeded to go home and spend some time there. My parents graciously sent me East by commercial air.
Arriving at Prep School, I soon entered into the academic program. Also, I enjoyed using those meal tickets that I was given at a local restaurant in Newport. It was there that I had the privilege of introducing the local restaurant on how to make hamburgers California style. Before it was just a slab of hamburger on a bun.
At Christmas time I got myself back to California for the holidays. To save money on my return to duty, I went to Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino to catch a hop. It was there that I met Gil Batchman, who was also trying for a ride. Believe he was headed to Stewart AFB in Newburg, NY for Army Prep. When I mentioned this to Gil at the 40th Reunion, he didn't remember the occasion at all. At Norton, there was nothing moving, so I got myself to a small base in Southern California and was able to catch a hop with some reservists coming back from a convention. Ultimately, I got hung up in Texas and had to call the prep school to tell them why I would be late. I did arrive and without punishment returned to my academic schedule. At some time there, a finance corporal from Okinawa, who was also a student, advised me that I could apply for a West Point appointment thru the Army, so I did.
The day before the exam was to be held, we went to headquarters at noon to see if our orders had come in. They hadn't. About two in the afternoon, we were summoned back to the office and were told that we were immediately to proceed to Fort Devens, Massachusetts for the qualifying exam. We arrived at 2300 hours and didn't get bunked until after one. The test was around eight the next morning, but I was excited and raring to go. Turns out the exam was the same civil service exam that I had taken months earlier in California. On the math portion, I answered all the questions without working them. I then worked the problem to make sure that the answer was right. Turns out I maxed that portion of the exam. Often wondered if that was enough to put me over the hill and into my appointment.
Once I received formal notification of my appointment, I was transferred to Boston Army Base, until time to report to West Point. Then on the second of July 1951, I was discharged from the National Guard at the “Convenience of the Government” and proceeded to West Point. I was a civilian for one whole day.
At the Point, I distinguished myself for being the first member of the Class to leave the Academy for any reason. I was allowed to attend my Grandmother's funeral in California. Then in Yearling year at Camp Buckner, I was the first person to leave Buckner to solicit ads for the Mortar, the summer magazine, for which I wound up as Editor in Chief.
So that's the story. Now, my wife Libby and I are safely ensconced in Southern Arizona where I write a weekly hiking article for the Sierra Vista Herald. Those that are interested in my articles can “Google” me by entering “Gary W. Munroe Sr” in the Advanced Search Area.
2 SEP 2010