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How I got my appointment to West Point
After graduating from high school in 1948, it was clear to me that, given the state of my family's finances and my earning ability, I wouldn't have an easy time financing four years of college. I learned that the Military Academy and Naval Academy offered a four year college education for free! But I was unsuccessful in obtaining an appointment, principal or alternate, from any of the Congressmen whom I contacted. However, the Senator from Wisconsin (Joe McCarthy!) offered any high school graduate in the state the opportunity of taking a Civil Service examination (as I remember math, spatial relations and english/vocabulary). He then sent the four men with the top scores to Fort Sheridan, Illinois to take the entrance examination to West Point. I failed the math portion of the Civil Service exam the first time I took it primarily because I had never taken geometry in high school. My high school principal offered to give me the course after his work day, an offer which I gladly accepted. I retook the Civil Service exam the next year and must have finished lower than fourth, because I didn't hear from the Senator until a few days prior to the date of the entrance exam. He told me that someone had dropped out, and if I wished to try the entrance examination I should report to Fort Sheridan. After completing the entrance exam, the Senator informed me by wire that I had earned his principal appointment. My very first reaction was 'My God, what have I done?' I knew nothing of the Army, and the only things I knew about West Point were shining shoes and parading. However, I figured that the three year commitment to active duty was a small price to pay for a good college education, because at the rate that I was going I'd never be able to afford it. So, I entered with my classmates in July 1951. In retrospect, I have three observations:
1. For me, accepting the appointment to West Point was a truly life-changing decision, as I suspect that it was for each of us. I was truly fortunate in that I found my career in the Army to be both challenging and personally rewarding. My education and experiences during my active duty years also prepared me well for my second career.
2. I have treasured, and continue to treasure, the friendships and associations with my classmates.
3. Finally, without the generosity of Arv Gordon, my high school principal, none of this would have happened.
2 August 2010