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17958 Hughes, David Ralph 
 T H E  P O I N T E R   M A G A Z I N E
T H E  P O I N T E R   M A G A Z I N E
October 25, 1957

By Captain David R. Hughes, '50

Editor's Note: The following message to the Corps is the stirring and profound speech given two weeks ago at the Notre Dame Rally in the Dining Hall by Captain David R. Hughes, class of 1950. We of the First Class would like to add our humble bit of praise to the chorus of the entire Corps by stating that this speech is undoubtedly the most impressive we have heard during our three and a quarter years at the Academy. At the request of numerous Cadets, and in the hope that we may capture and perpetuate the purer, stronger spirit described so well by Capt. Hughes, we offer the following message:

(When Capt. Hughes appeared on the speakers' platform the greeting cheer by the Corps was followed by the traditional roaring cry "Take it off," referring to his, the speaker's coat. He was wielding a medieval Mace)

I will not take it off because I remember. I remember sitting here as a cadet for four years not so very long ago, and I remember these past two years. I have seen the direction spirit and tradition have taken. I am afraid I know that whatever I might wear or fail to wear beneath this coat would only get one of two reactions. A groan if I did not have some gimmick, some witty device on my shirt; a laugh if I did.   But laughter is not spirit.   A groan is not an expression of the will.

(Mace smashes down on the PT stand)

And neither a laugh nor a groan goes back to one of the original, traditional, reasons that a speaker removes his coat. They are not meaningful. No gentlemen, I ask that nothing you or I do here tonight will be words without belief or gestures without meaning. I ask only that no man raise his voice a single time unless he feels in the bottom of his heart a burning determination to shake the very rock on which this building rests with the shudder of his desire to take the sweet fruit of victory from Notre Dame.

Perhaps now we have an understanding. But because no speaker, whatever his rank, formally invited by the Corps to speak in this place should appear as other than your equal in the unity of our comnion goal, and only because of this lost meaning of the traditional speaker's gesture, I will gladly shed my coat to help beat Notre Dame!

(Mace smashes down)

It is for this loss of meaning of some of our most potent traditions that I, from my academic room, cast down a cold eye on the gadgetry that can here go by the name of spirit; the shouting that sometimes forgets the face of its own purpose; and upon men who seem too removed, too aloof to humbly contribute their spirit to either the whole or a single representative part.   But I would not stand here before you tonight if I did not feel that powerful determination to win lies latent in your hearts. Yet knowing that the West Point 2500 Mule Team leads not follows the wagon, I ask, why is this spirit, this determination, not expressed? Perhaps I can tell you.

I remember a company commander in Korea who stood one day on his observation post and watched his company claw to a stop just a hundred yards short of his last objective. He had led the members of his company forcefully and successfully in the battle over the hills in seven days and seven nights. He had managed their weapons, their tactics, their units, their leaders and they had won. But now, just a hundred yards short of final victory they had stopped. To the men who were fighting there was reason enough why they had stopped. In the savage fighting up to this point, the company commander, out of seven officers and one hundred ninety-four enlisted men, had lost six of his officers and one hundred sixty-five enlisted men. Only twenty-nine men remained on that hill.   Yet from his tactical knowledge, from his experience, from the knowledge of the terrific beating the enemy had taken on that hill, even while his own company had been absorbing terrible punishment - from all the evidence, he knew that all that lay between his twenty-nine men and victory was one last hard grenade-ignoring assault. But they would not move.

He searched his mind for a reason. Suddenly the answer stabbed into his brain, an answer that stunned him with its simplicity and force. He realized where he had failed. In all his leading of the company over the past seven days he had managed and led every quality his troops had shown BUT HE HAD NOT BEEN A LEADER OF THE SPIRIT, OF THE WILL TO WIN. He had simply not imparted his own intense conviction, his faith in their capability, his spirit, to them. He had forgotten to use the very quality that had gotten him success as a platoon leader among his first days.  But now it was almost too late, it was the last hundred yards, time was running out. Grenades and mortars and artillery were raining down. The game was almost over. Men were dying. In desperation he put down his company commander's devices like toys, the things which helped him reinforce a thousand fold the rifle strength of his company; his own mortars, heavy machine guns, his ability to get tanks, artillery, planes, other units. But all these had depended on the movement, and the will to move, in the hearts of the riflemen.

He put down his devices and went forward to do what he should not have had to do - personally lead the rifle men over the enemy defenses. He crossed the little ravine separating him from his twenty-nine men and soon arrived there. Under the rain of steel he moved back and forth pleading, cajoling, exhorting, proving, until the line began to move again. It steadily moved up the hill until, from one huge bunker in the center of the great and decisive trench line, came rolling down a giant anti-tank grenade. It burst between two men and killed them. The line saw, and faltered. The crisis was at hand. In a last desperate attempt to show the riflemen that all they had to do, all they had to see, all they had to muster was the will to cross the trench and get on top, in the last possible way he could influence the outcome, the company commander put his fear down like a toy and went on alone, up to the bunker, silencing it with a grenade. In his heart he knew that if he fell, all direction, all will, would evaporate from those men and they would be defeated where they stood. But luck (or was it spirit?) intervened and the men saw, and they moved again, and they raised a cry and they swirled over the trench and carried the hill.

But the last bit of wisdom had not been given to him yet. For when his small band, joined now by the fragments of the rest of his battalion, saw what it had defeated, he was amazed. He had thought there was an enemy company there. It had been a battalion. In a few hours he had one hundred ninety-two prisoners. The dead were uncounted.

The two lessons of that hill burned into his mind; the power of determined men, and the need for man's spirit to be led before the battle is joined, not just after.   Leadership. Perhaps that is the word. The problem and the answer. YET EVERY MAN IN THIS HALL IS A LEADER. Reflect upon yourselves. If you cannot draw out of yourselves or out of The Corps, the powerful desire and determination to win, how will you be able to lead a possibly dispirited nation in a war in which we may never again enjoy a superiority of means? But I know you can do both. It can be done if the leaders of the Corps, especially the designated leaders, cadets of the First Class, take as their challenge developing, fostering, leading the Spirit of the Corps as it backs every segment of itself, the football team, the chess team, the debating team, the basketball team, as well as enforcing orders and regulations. Do not mistake the purpose of regulations and order and law. All of these things, and the organization you have, are for the purpose of channeling energy, not frustrating it. If a platoon leader of the First Class quells the noisy overflow of spirit during call to quarters, but ignores it at other times, I think that the company commander I referred to would say that this man is but half a leader. And of course if the cadet does not quell the noise, he is not a leader at all.

But the need is clear. These gadgets, these painted sheets, these displays, show a need for a more vital spirit. Someone must draw out of the Corps the latent power of its real spirit. I say that that someone is first, each cadet himself, and then each man as a leader. We do not seek twenty-five hundred sprited horses, we want, on this Saturday, a Notre Dame-crushing, 2500 Mule Team!

(Mace smashes down)

Yes, I hear your roar. I hear the noise at this rally tonight but I wonder. HOW MANY RALLIES DO YOU SUPPOSE WERE HELD IN KOREA TO INSPIRE IN AMERICANS THE WILL TO WIN? I hope you see that spirit is not laughter, spirit is not a groan, perhaps spirit is not even a roar.

But I did not come here under false flag, to chide or criticize. I came here to draw out of you the utmost of your effort to put down Notre Dame Saturday. Listen now as you have never listened before. Listen now to a Ghost Story that ought to make you shudder, in order to steel your hearts.

It has been ten years since Notre Dame last played Army. Few of you realize what a rude beast you have awakened in South Bend. Few of yourealize the rude beast that is even now slouching toward Philadelphia to be born. Few of you realize that in the darkness I see outside this hall, a great and shadowy Goliath is pacing up and down the black turf waiting for you to venture into the arena.

You have read the newspapers. You have seen the scores of Notre Dame in these past two games, and you see the chances we are accorded, that we are favored. Gentlemen, beware! The writers are remembering, too, and when they favor us over Notre Dame I know they are assuming in us the gigantic show of spirit we have mustered in the past. And I warn you. Only a mighty surge of spirit will beat Notre Dame! I hear remarks about their having the flu. Let me read the headlines in the New York Times from this morning's paper. "Notre Dame Eleven 'Hurt Badly' by Outbreak of Flu, Coach Says." And "Illness Confines 8 Players to Bed." "Brennan Says Notre Dame Won't Be in Top Shape for Army Saturday."

Gentlemen now let me read from a volume entitled The Big Game which concerns itself only with the Notre Dame-Army series. Let me read to you from the report of the 1932 game. "Director of Athletics Jesse Harper of Notre Dame told reporters that he was skeptical of the staying powers of the Irish. A mild epidemic of influenza had hit the South Bend campus in the early part of the week and when the team left Thanksgiving morning Bill Milokovich went from the infirmary to the train wrapped in blankets. Stumpy Jim Harris was another invalid." Now let me turn over two pages and read to you that they WHIPPED US 21-0 and that Army took such a physical beating that there were rumors that the series might be terminated! Influenza. One of the worst things that could have happened to Army is the Irish team getting the flu. That campus out there fields such an emotional team that by tomorrow morning the millions of Notre Dame backers, Irish, and all those who wish they were Irish, will have deluged the team with such over-wrought expressions of fear that they will have made the perfect basis for a sentimental victory.

Never underestimate Notre Dame. The team that takes the field Saturday will not be the same team that has played these past two games. They will be the descendents of gladiators the likes of which football has never seen before. This is the thing that you cadets seated here are too young to know, this is the thing that has made this series over the years more than a football game to Notre Dame. To them it is a crusade. It all starte long ago not two hundred yards from where you sit, 25 years before you were born, out on Cullum Field, when a limping Knute Rockne, in a fierce burst of determination shed his limp, and without breaking stride pulled in a forward pass, crossed the goal line and they beat us 35-13. And it came down through the mighty and mysterious George Gipp who, as left halfback in 1920, in one afternoon against Army, ran and passed 332 yards. They won. And in the warmup of that game he and our own Colonel Red Reeder had a little drop kicking duel again on Cullum Field. They moved back further and further from the goal until finally George Gipp asked for four footballs, and he drop kicked two perfect goals over the north goal and then two over the south goal. He was standing on the 50 yard line!

And six weeks later, at 25, he was dead. I know his ghost hovers over Municipal Stadium tonight. In 1924, opposite our own All-American center Ed Garbisch a man named Adam Walsh played. Although he was knocked unconscious four times in the game he played every minute and in the last quarter raised up to pull down, out of the sky, an Army pass, stalling us forever. After the game the doctors looked at Adam Walsh and saw that both of his hands had been broken since the first of the game!

They won, 13-7. Behind that line were a thundering backfield called the Four Horsemen, who were not ever called that until after the Army game of their senior year. Then there was James Chevigney who once said "I don't care if they carry me off cold, as long as I can just tell my dad I was in the Army game." And tears rolled down his face when he scored. They won. And in 1934 when 300 Notre Dame students turned out for spring practice and they all were given suits and they kept them. And the Titantic Battle in 1946, which I saw, as a plebe. When Johnny Lujack, Emil Sitko, and Terry Brennan fought against our superb ends Barney Poole and Hank Foldberg, and we had in our backfield three names you might recognize, Tucker, Blanchard and Davis. Yet, with all that power and talent and determination no one crossed a goal line. And I can remember, for it is burned into my eyes, that moment in the game when mighty Blanchard broke into the clear and there was only one man between him and the goal line, in on open field. Yet that man, Lujack, brought him down. It ended 0-0. This was not a game of men, it was the clash of warriors and giants.

(Mace smashes down)

Then in 1947 Brennan took the kick-off and ran 97 yards through us to a touchdown. They won that last game of the series 27-7. What an ironic score that is. I know in my bones that it was Knute Rockne riding down the Four Horsemen who put the shadow of George Gipp into Brennan that day to make that score. For swallow this bitter pill, though the average difference of score over the long 34 game series has been less than two points we have won only SEVEN times and have failed to win TWENTY-SEVEN times. The last twist of the knife.  HAVEN'T WE GOT TWO MORE POINTS OF SPIRIT?

(Mace smashes down)

Gentlemen, I urge you. That game Saturday will not be fought on the ground; it will be fought in the clouds over Municipal Stadium. It will be fought out by Knute Rockne and George Gipp against our own immortals Elmer Oliphant and Chris Cagle.


Yes, I hear your roar. I hear. But noise is not enough. I ask for a new kind of spirit, a deep and powerful spirit. A spirit that can be expressed in a firm handshake, in a cadet who will go well out of his way to express his desire and encouragement to a team member he has never met, in a look of the eye, in the firmness of a jaw, in the purposful way of performing ordinary things.

I am calling for a refreshment of the kind of spirit at West Point that expresses our unity, our solidarity, our fierce loyalty, a kind of lasting spirit that can be expressed a thousand ways, even by silence.  EVEN BY SILENCE!

Let us prove that gentlemen, let us for the first time try to communicate our intense desire and deep will to this team about to represent us all by STANDING and WATCHING them come forward from their Corps Squad Tables in a fierce ovation of SILENCE. A power and compelling unity of SILENCE!

Let that team come forward NOW. To be seen by all so that they may know our will and feel our support, that we may communicate these things to them.

(Note - the entire Corps of Cadets Stood, faced the center aisle, silently, as the Army Football Team walked soberly from the back of the center wing of Washington Hall, under the golden glow of the lamps near the ceiling, while everyone could hear every footfall as they came)

And now as your team comes forward through this hallowed hall let me make you finally see that what you are going out of here to do Saturday is not just to play a football game but to justify the West Point way. The way of unity, of determination, of solidarity, against a team which has traditionally shown great imagination, strength, talent, and the overwhelming affection of the people. Notre Dame's way to victory has been the noisy way of the ordinary American people. West Point's way has been the lonely, stoic, way of America's military.

Our strength is our spirit. Gentlemen, no matter what the score at the last gun let us not fail in our spirit. Now they stand before you. Here are the men of your team. They are but men. You have only until tomorrow morning when they depart to express to them your determination, your desire, your loyalty - your Spirit - to make them more than men.

Now - break your Silence! And let us all BEAT NOTRE DAME!

(Mace smashes down for the last time, the band struck up, and the Corps exits, singing)

(Note:  The score in 1957 was Army 21, Notre Dame 23)