DENNIS R. COLL
213 Dunham Place Commons
St. Charles, IL 60174-5738
As we prepare to enjoy our 35th Reunion, I was thinking of how important memories and good friends can be. So strap it on, for a soaring trip down memory lane!
'65-STRENGTH and DRIVE was a motto that was to serve well this 168th graduating class. Starting with 847 young men who stood tall on The Plain on that memorable first Wednesday in July 1961, later to be joined by 21 cadets from previous classes, '65 was to distinguish itself during its four- year tenure and afterward, in uniform and in civilian life. This brief history summarizes some of the more poignant moments during these last 35 and a butt years. "Those were the days, my friend, those were the days ..."
During those first weeks, we reported to and were instructed by the "man in the red sash'' in a process that was to change most of us for the rest of our lives. ("King of Beast") Ellis, Blumhardt, Grebe, and many others were the leaders of '62 Can Do! "Beast Barracks" that summer was held in the old North Area with many plebes learning their required "poop" in the Lost 50s, echoing the common refrain, "Sir, all I am and all I ever hope to be, I owe to my first detail squad leader!" Shower formations, cherry picking exercises in the hallway, bracing, finger-sized food bites, dress offs, loving terms of affection like smackhead, dufus, doolie, etc., and don't forget to square off those toe nails!
Camp Frederick with the Plebe Skit, tent halves, short arms inspections, "rout step, march'' commands, boot blousing, etc. We thought we had it made when we marched back to Woo Poo, spiffing up on the road next to the silver bullion depository, enjoying the tumultuous welcome on post as we passed Westy in front of Quarters 100, only to discover that the upperclass to plebe ratio had changed from 1 to 1 to 10 to 1! Reorgy Week led into academic classes, Attention to Orders, class lights, slugs, demerits, quill, the Hell Cats, outdoor/year-round "Reveille" formations, Central Area, Gloom Period, parades preceded by prayerful mantras to the ancient god Odin, BPs, etc. We were one of the last classes to "enjoy" Christmas at WP in brown boys and sleeping bags at Ft. Putt; trying to make small talk with our parents, family members, and girlfriends under the photos of all the five-star generals in Grant Hall; saddened that year by our loss to Navy; The Navy pep rally with the guy who smoked White Owls (Mel Allen!); and daily grades via the Thayer system (a grade in every class, on every day, for every cadet).
When freshmen football teams still played against other freshmen teams, who could ever forget the "Orangemen" playing our plebe team on the field down by the Hudson River with a future All Pro (Jim Nance). And, the beginnings of a swim team that was to establish and retain national prominence for years to come. Our plebe track team competing against a New York State All-Star team that included a gangly kid named Bob Beamon. The famous "Duty, Honor, Country" speech by GEN MacArthur in the Mess Hall. Recognition, that most sacred of all plebe yearnings, came at the end of Graduation Parade, that bright day in June just before the CinC, JFK, was to land on The Plain. Our Supe & his beloved Kitty watched over us with the Com, Dick Stillwell, and the Dean (remember GEN Bessell?). Buckosky mooned The Plain, Band Box reviews, Plebe PE, with Mr. Sorge in that booming voice of his, exhorting us not to drown, while his buddy, Joe Palone, seemed to enjoy the sight of blood, especially OUR blood, in plebe boxing! Jack Cooley, our future distinguished author) learned that starched white "trou," although translucent when dry and starched, become transparent when wet, a fact not missed by the Supe as we "passed in review!"
Then, 30 days of well-deserved leave. Back to our homes to find out that all of our high school friends had changed. (Later, we realized that we were the ones who had changed). Camp Buckner, Lake Popolopen, dances in Barth Hall, parades in those "ice cream vendor" uniforms, the Slide for Life, Recondo, Ranger Major Parmely, the Pit and hand-to-hand combat, walking across a wet log with wet boots (without a flat board on top as they do now), 17 feet above the water, and air raid drills at the rifle range. We had amongst us comrades who were to depart before the end of the four years: Colmar, Dorsey, Dye, Epperson (a future president of the Houston WP society), Gardner (who would later receive the MOH posthumously in RVN), Gnecco, Hoffman, Mathews, Ringl, Shutters, Tice, and Tully.
Buckner was followed by yearling academics, the right hand rule, slide rules, GEN Sedgwick's spurs, a few weekends off, and a football team that went 6-4, with a disappointing fourth straight loss to Navy--Chinese Bandits and Pepsodent Paul notwithstanding. We first met Midshipman Staubauch at this game. Corps leadership came from Eckert, Cook, and our new Supe, Jim Lampert. Our first real Christmas leave, followed by our second Gloom Period, Spizzerinctum, Dale Hall, assistant basket-ball coach CPL Bobby Knight, and assistant tennis coach PFC Arthur Ash.
Following our Yearling year, we were off to many different locations. Some went overseas on AOT while others stayed as cadre at West Point. We grew up that summer because we knew that the next year as Cows, there would be a change, a positioning year for us to take charge of the Corps. This also was the time that we learned of the "back door strategy" and international diplomacy over Cuban missiles while we watched JFK maneuver a Soviet leader into a corner with military might and then provide him a face-saving exit out the "back door." Who amongst us didn't think that we were going to war that night after watching JFK on TV! This also was the year when in November, our CinC was slain in Dallas. Many of us can remember the exact location when the word spread through the Corps on that crisp November day. The Army-Navy game was a sad event, delayed by a week but resulting in another loss to Navy (ranked #2), as our team stood poised on the two-yard-line with 16 seconds remaining with Stich trying to call timeout. Mike Davison was to replace Stilwell as the Com and was to neatly infiltrate our ranks with the help of his daughter, the lovely and young Mary (who ended up marrying a Navy-type). We also heard from "Hot Body" Fraser and his famous speech in thermodynamics the Friday before Navy.
In 1964, GEN MacArthur died with a final salute from his beloved Corps. "Stars in Store for 64" led by Chilcoat, Grunstad, and Kindleberger led the Corps. One of our ranks (who?) decided that waiting for 100th Nite was simply too long a wait, so why not have a 500th Nite celebration--starting a new tradition in the Corps. At the end of our Cow year, we again scattered to different parts of the world, although this time, we also had the responsibility for training the younger classes. Mark Walsh and Bob Arvin were in charge of the plebes while Dave Kuhn and Buddy Bucha trained the yearlings. We were now firsties, with rings in hand and cars on order, said wheels not to be available until the spring-ugh! We rotated command positions, necessitating roommate changes and learned the difficult lessons of leading your peers. We were led by Arvin, Walsh and Bucha, supervised by the new Com, BG Scott, and his deputies Tarbox, Hamblen, and Super TAC! The "King" (Guy Riley) became a double centurion on Central Area. Our football team would cap the season off at 4-6 with a spectacular victory over All American, Heisman winner, and soon to be All-World, Roger the Dodger. Stichweh was not going to let this one slip out of our hands. His TD pass that day was the first use of instant replay on TV. Christmas came and went followed by our last Gloom Period, punctuated at the end by our own 100th Nite. BG John Jannarone, the father of our Jack Jannarone, would become the sixth dean and signed our diplomas (and later collected a tithe for the West Point Fund from all of us after he retired). Few knew that his lovely Anna Mae (a.k.a. Audrey) already had swum across the Hudson River and back again when she was a teen, in addition to not missing a home Army football game in 42 seasons. These also were the days of mandatory chapel, a key part of our moral/ethical development. We discovered Mrs. Holland and her "girls" who required dance cards, even though we had all learned how to dance--with boys. Cadetiquette, PDA, what side of the side-walk to walk on with a date, typewriter cases without typewriters, and Chaplain Ford, a great friend of many of us, who was always there for us from Beast thru VietNam.
Overall, our teams had a .758 winning percentage and bested the Swabbies 12, 4, and 1. The 150-lb. team went undefeated, soccer was third in the NCAA, basketball was third in the NIT! As June Week approached, our excitement heightened. Wedding plans for some, cars for all. GEN Wheeler, the CJCS, was to tell us about our role in the Army. At one end of the line was Dan Christman and at the other, Phil Harper, our own beloved "goat" who would unfortunately not live to see his buddy take a cadet parade. Of the starting class members, only 70% made it to 9 Jun 65. Of those, 87% were to go into the Army, a few to the Marines (Zadel, Butterfield, etc.), 59 Air Force, and two went into the Navy (Vogel and Brush). Our last hoorah occurred at 1100 hours at Michie. What had been four years of unbelievable camaraderie, growth, and learning was now to set the base for a life of achievement, friendship, sacrifices, and more great memories. Those were the days, those WERE the days!
We went to Airborne, Ranger, and OBC. Some of us saw Gary Kadetz execute a perfect PLF from 1,250 feet after his main chute "cigarette rolled" and his back-up also failed to open. ("Keep your feet and knees together" all of the jump sergeants yelled as he hit terminal velocity and lived to tell about it!) Sixty days of graduation leave-was it really a blessing in disguise? Ask those poor souls, who by the luck of the draw on Day 61 started Ranger School with its opening day, 04Dark five-mile forced run. Off we went to the four corners of the world, to serve in Europe and CONUS. Then, there arose that faroff place called "Nam'' with the bad guys, the VC, who would forever change our lives. We soon learned that death often was the calling of "Men of Arms," when Gary Kadetz (of Airborne "fame") was our first of many to fall in the line of duty, all causing painful reminiscences of roommates, Ranger buddies, teammates, etc. Gary was followed by: First Captain Bob Arvin, Mike Berdy, Tony Borrego, Charlie Brown, Jim Bryan, Jerry Clark, Richard Collins, Leonard Davis, Spotty DeWitt (about whom our first class memorial article was written and whose class ring was presented to the Cadet Library where it resides with the other class rings), Charlie Dickey, Dick Endicott, Bob Gagne, Mike Glynne, John Hays, Chuck Hemmingway, John Hutton, Bob Keats, Bernie Kistler, Bob Lee, George Menninger, Mike Momcilovich, Chester Myers, George Patrick O'Toole, Chuck Wuertenberger, and Bob Zonne--26 in all. We still aren't sure how Ladd Metzner died.
We had numerous incidents of unusual valor, including two Medals of Honor (Buddy Bucha and Gardner) and one POW (Bob Jones). After fighting the war that had little support back home, many of our number returned to less than a hero's reception, to violence and hippies and drugs, to families split apart by the war, and a country that was trying desperately to find and heal its own soul. French TV tried to make sense of it all with "The Anderson Platoon'' that soon became a big hit in the States. Our first four star (Ric Shinseki) and future CSA, was seriously wounded in RVN during that time. We began to publish our class articles in ASSEMBLY, with our first article appearing in Winter 1966 written by our acting scribe Jim Hennessee, who was followed over the years by Grant Fredericks (1967-69), Mert Munson (1969), Bob Frank (1969-74), John Swensson (1975), Bud Fish (1975-78), John Lyons (1978-80), John Higley (1980-81) and finally Denny Coil (1981-present). Fittingly enough, our first published photo was of Tammy Wuertenberger accepting Chuck's medals.
As the anniversary of our four-year military commitment came and passed, many were extended for an additional year. By the end of that fifth year, 37% had resigned their commissions. Some went to companies with a long history of hiring grads (e.g. Quaker Oats-Bill Zadel and George Seaworth) while others sought MBAs (Ron Floto was #l in his Harvard class). Some even went to other service schools (Walt Oehrlein became a tennis coach at USAFA while Joe Koz was a TAC there). One enterprising soul (Chuck Shaw) went to the Napa Valley and became our first vintner. Class officers were elected to run the affairs of the class, most of them stationed at WP. In 1972, Christman, assisted by Gill, Swensson, and Golden were elected and started our Class Fund. In 1973, our only POW, Bob Jones, returned from a brutal five years in the "Hanoi Hilton" and was greeted by a big Welcome Home bash organized by Denny Lewis and others. Many went to Leavenworth in 1974-75 and other advanced military schools. Most remaining green-suiters were promoted to their majority in fall 1974. We held our 10th Reunion at WP, with sign-in on DeFrancisco's porch overlooking the Hudson River. 1976 saw our own Ed Armstrong nominated as one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Men in America." In 1977, Bud Fish was elected the president of the U.S. Orienteering Committee while Joe Anderson became a White House Fellow and was assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Battalion commands came to Benton, L. Brown, Dave Brown, Christman, Genega, Gill, Gilchrist, Kelley, Kulbachi, Ono, Pickler, Roebuck, Scholl, and Tragemann. Cooley became a U.S Magistrate in Chicago. Planning also began during this period for the Southeast Asia Memorial at West Point, with our rep Wes Taylor playing a key role.
As the next decade was ushered in, nine made the lieutenant colonel list in the secondary zone. Barry Zais ran our 15th Reunion, that was held at the USMA Golf Club (ugh!) on a very low budget, because things were tight for many of us. At that Reunion, we also published the first version of this class history tome. Don Philpotts became the first to retire from active duty. Jim Golden became #2 in the USMA Social Science Department. In 1984, Dave Kuhn led the charge to have an annual award given in the name of his roommate and our First Captain. Bob Doughty became #2 in the History Department. Our first "mini" class reunion was held in DC because so many were at the Pentagon. The years passed rapidly. By the end of 20 years, 62% had resigned or retired. Planning for our 20th began under Don Rowe and then John Knowles. We all returned and partied all night at Bear Mountain. The skit-that memorable skit-orchestrated by Golden and Christman, brought the house down. Other reunion events included Swensson showing us how to hold a low-budget wedding reception (combine it with the Reunion), Rocco leading the entire Michie Stadium crowd in a reprise of his infamous Idaho State cheer, Shaw providing 20 cases of his great Merlot and our class friends Bob & Sue McComsey hosting us all for brunch on Sunday at their estate in Scarborough overlooking the Hudson. Also in 1985, 20 went off to the War College, Marv Jeffcoat led his troops down LaSalle Steet in Chicago for the Armed Forces Parade, and the new O-6 list came out, with Taylor, Chase, Christman, Clark, Harrington, Mullins, and Shinseki making the cut.
Shortly thereafter, we heard about Grenada and learned that Wes Taylor led the Airborne assault, jumping in broad day-light at 500 feet, while the "non-existent" (according to the CIA) Russian-made anti-aircraft guns located at the top of the 600-foot hills, fired overhead. Our first stars were awarded in August 1989 to Christman to be followed in the next two years by 14 more (Benton, Bliss, DeFrancisco, Genega, Gill, Locurcio, Longhouser, Mullen, Pickler, Shinseki, Taylor, John Thompson, and Tragemann), with Dan being frocked to two-stars in late 1991. We even had a one-star in the USAR (who?). The quick and successful war in Iraq came and went, only to be followed by a massive reconstruction effort supervised by Ralph Locurcio. Of the remaining "green-suiters" going into the 1990s, we had three USMA department heads (Golden, Doughty, Wattendorf) and one Registrar (McEliece). John Pickler headed up the DoD Task Force against drugs before getting his third star as deputy CG at Forces Command. As of December 1991, 78 remained, a number to be reduced to only 17 by December 1997. Of these, Ric Shinseki was to be our first to wear four stars as the CG, U.S. Army, Europe, where he spent most of his time in Sarejevo. Joe DeFrancisco (Deputy CinC-Pacific), Dan Benton (Chief of Staff-European Command), our Supe, Dan Christman, and Pickler received their third stars, while two were worn by Clair Gill, Stan Genega, John Longhouser, John Thompson, and Dick Tragemann. Brigadiers include Steve Bliss, Jim Hennessee, Ralph Locurcio, Orlin Mullen, and Wes Taylor. The summary stats show that of the 520 originally commissioned in the Army, 256 resigned, 3 died on active duty, 171 retired, while 73 were separated for medical, promotability, or other reasons. Forty-six offspring enrolled at USMA, and one even went to USNA.
We lost more classmates in the intervening years, to include: Bob Berdan, AI Clarke, our "goat" Phil Harper, Tom Johnson, Ken McArthur, Jerry McMillan, Joe O'Connor, and Guy Riley. Marv Jeffcoat was to go down with his troops in a terrible air accident in Newfoundland. And more recently, Kala Kukea died on the waters of his beloved Oahu. Billy Mitchell, Rusty Pullen, and Jim Woodard also passed on. Manny Maimone missed taking the parade as Class Rep at the beginning of the Bicentennial Celebration due to Lou Gehrig's disease. A class constitution was approved under our president, Dave Kuhn, who was followed by Joe Anderson. Our first official roster (1992) was published by Schultz, Green, and Coll. Get-togethers at the Navy game became an annual event, co-ordinated by our own gang of four-Sanchez, Tomaswick, Kurtz, and Boohar. Eight served on the AOG Board of Trustees (Hester, McEliece, Barron, Stichweh, and Kuhn) with Anderson, Conley, and Coll achieving "emeritus" status. We started to look ahead to our Class Gift. It was set at $1,000,000 by the Executive Board and the Old Man, or at least one of the two men we called by that name, Harry Dermody, took charge. Regions were organized and participants were sought. One half signed up quickly, with major (greater than $50,000) gifts by Barron, Floto, Knauf, and Savatiel leading the way. Fred Laughlin assembled a committee of about a dozen or so who worked very hard to decide on the gift itself (to be part of the new Thayer Walk between Grant Hall and the main academic building).
On the civilian side, one state had a Director of Finance (Jim Scheiner). Swensson and Tyner made a movie. Pfeifer was in one (or was it three?)! Many assumed leadership positions in their local West Point societies. John Longhouser, after serving his country admirably for 30+ years, was forced into early retirement at two stars, by that same government and the crazy media, for telling the truth. His classmates rallied and, led by Ray Pollard (a civil service veteran with an equivalent O-8 rank) provided a proper send-off for this fine soldier and his lady at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. John then replaced Laughlin as head of the Gift Committee. We entered the computer age in a rather auspicious manner as we were snookered into the WP-ORG net. Fortunately, Chuck Nichols volunteered to serve as our moderator and kept everything straight.
As we approached the millennium, '65's leadership became prominent throughout the Army. Gill runs the Army budget. Pickler runs the Army staff. Christman occupies Quarters 100 as the 55th Supe. Under his leadership, the alumni association received the necessary institutional support to start its first ever fund-raising effort, $200 million by the Bicentennial! Three years later, Ric Shinseki was saluted by more than 200 of his classmates and families on the parade field at Ft. Meyer as he was sworn in as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army.
And so, as we proceed to our 35th reunion, we can look back on these memories as only participants of such events can, with great pride and satisfaction on a job truly well done. "Those were the days my friends, those were the days!"
Denny Coll, Scribe