* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
How I got my appointment to West Point
I have read and enjoyed every story, and although my own is not as interesting as most I feel obliged to offer it. There was one moment of drama.
I attended high school in Hinesville, Ga. In those days half the city streets were unpaved, and Camp Stewart was a virtually abandoned anti-aircraft artillery base looked after by 10 enlisted and a few civilians. Our high school basketball team had no gym, and we played in the unused sports arena on post. We were not big enough to have a football team, but I followed college football in the old fashioned media, and I knew all about and highly admired Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis and Arnold Tucker. They were all Tacs when I arrived. Later I defended many a candidate against the oft quoted argument at the Academic Board that football had nothing to do with admissions.
One day my father came home from work at the local lumber/saw milling company to say that his employer, MG (Ret) Joseph B. Fraser, who had commanded the Georgia National Guard division in the Pacific in WWII, had asked him if I would like to attend West Point. Without thought or hesitation, I said "yes" -- and that's all there was to it, almost. Our Congressman, Prince Preston, was a great admirer of MG Fraser and was prepared on his recommendation to give me the appointment. There was no interview , letter, exam, nothing. I only met him 5 years later, a few days after graduation. Gen Fraser was an admirer of my father -- I never met him either. The patronage system of appointment has long since expired in favor of competitive exams and virtually all congressmen turn the choice over to West Point; but I always defended it, while it lasted.
After high school, in an 11-year system, I was not old enough for direct admission so I attended Georgia Military Academy in College Park for a year. GMA was a respected military prep school, with many West Pointers on the faculty, and it was a year well spent. I got an NROTC scholarship for Cornell, about which I knew even less than West Point, but it seemed like a good backup, just in case. Doc Dorough, Bill Bottoms and Al Coleman were also there.
It was all smooth sailing until the day of the physical aptitude and medical exams conducted at Ft McPherson. I did fine on the PT test, but on the medical I was told my blood pressure was too high. I think it was somewhere north of 140 which was the standard at the time. I was told to come back at 4:00 pm (5 hours later) and they would recheck it. I prowled the streets of College Park until I found a doctor who would see me and listen to my problem. The doctor listened sympathetically, gave me a pill (no idea what it was) and told me to walk a lot. I walked without stopping for four hours and reported back just before 4:00. The guy who had given the instruction was coming out of the gate, obviously heading home, and my heart sank. "It's ok," he said; " We decided to pass you." To this day I still have trouble taking blood pressure exams.
18 AUG 2010