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25409 Hutchison, Charles T. III
January 25, 1943 - May 10, 1965


Charles Thomas Hutchison III   

View Ward Entry

Personal Eulogy

John Ward's Directory Entry

Although one of the uglier men in our class, Hutch will always be one of the more memorable characters. Everything he ever did as a Cadet was quite unbelievable. He belongs in one of those classes all by himself, unaffected as he is by any environment. He will never change and somehow I think we love him just as he is-Hutch.

~ USMA 1964 Howitzer

"The lieutenant’s been hit!" screamed a soldier as he saw his platoon leader go down, felled by an enemy bullet. The victim was 22-year-old Second Lieutenant Charles Thomas Hutchison III. It was 10 May 1965. The place: the Dominican Republic. Lieutenant Hutchison had volunteered to lead a patrol into rebel-held territory to neutralize a 50-caliber machine-gun position that had been harassing his unit from a cupola atop a two-story building in the capital city of Santo Domingo. He led his patrol, darting doorway to doorway, down the sidewalk toward the building with the cupola. Suddenly one of his men was wounded and stumbled toward the curb, clutching at his wounds. The lieutenant instinctively ran through the enemy gunfire to rescue his wounded soldier. Almost immediately he took a round in the side of the head, killing him instantly.

Less than a year earlier, Charlie, or Hutch as he was called at the academy, had still been wearing cadet gray as he counted the days until graduation on June third. Now he lay lifeless in a street in a Caribbean country, the blood soaking his combat fatigues. What was Hutch doing in the Dominican Republic?

In April 1965 the government of that country requested assistance from its allies to put down a rebel insurgency which had strong Communist connections. Repressing Communism was top priority at the time for the American government and its armed forces. The numerous units stationed in Europe lived constantly at the ready in case their Warsaw Pact adversaries decided to invade Western Europe. The American response to the Communist insurgency in Southeast Asia was already beginning to expand significantly and by the end of the year 180,000 U.S. troops would be in Vietnam. President Johnson did not want another Cuba in his backyard so, on 28 April 1965, he ordered military assistance to the Dominican Republic, mainly consisting of elements of the United States Marine Corps and the Eighty-second Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Eighty-second, the "All American" Division, was, and still is the army’s most rapidly deployable division, capable of having its lead elements airborne within eighteen hours of notification. The rapid arrival of American forces brought some levity to the Dominican Republic, where thousands of its citizens had already died. A cease-fire was signed on 30 April and peace-keeping operations were begun by American soldiers and those of several other allied countries, thus forming the Inter-American Peacekeeping Force. For Hutch and the other participants that meant conducting patrols through the streets in order to maintain peace and eliminate pockets of resistance which seemed to be ubiquitous as there were constant violations of the peace accord. Eventually the U.S. military strength on the island reached approximately 23,000. It would take a year for the peacekeepers to completely restore stability. Hutch had been there less than two weeks, doing his part to help accomplish the mission while providing exemplary leadership for his men. He died unhesitatingly, in the service of his country, the first member of West Point’s Class of 1964 to be killed in combat.

Hutch’s home was Kittanning, Pennsylvania, where his father had been the county sheriff and the family actually lived in the Armstrong County courthouse complex. Throughout his early years, the sheriff’s son always seemed to be in and around the courthouse offices, learning about the law and politics and making friends. His little sister, Vicki, often tagged along, and their mother, Dorothy, had the unenviable task of preparing meals for the prisoners in the county jail, right there in the same building they lived in.

Such a background gave Hutch a working knowledge of politics and a desire to someday enter the legal profession. It also whetted his appetite for learning, which enabled him to stand tall in his academic endeavors at Kittanning High School. He also stood tall in the athletic world, most notably basketball, where, at six-feet-five, he dominated the competition. As the team captain, Hutch led his team to the league championship and was offered nearly thirty college scholarship opportunities. In making such a tough decision, he depended heavily on the influence and ideals that had guided him throughout his youth. Advice from his parents, teachers, and friends, coupled with his own personal convictions about what would be most beneficial to his as a student, led him to the gates of West Point on 5 July 1960 to join the class of 1964.

Another Western Pennsylvania athlete who would also join the class was Altoona’s Tom Kerns, who first met Hutch when their basketball teams squared off during their senior year in high school. Tom vividly remembers that trip: "One thing was very clear. Their success centered on their big man, Hutch. Honestly 6'5" in 1960 was BIG. … He led the state in scoring. He had the agility of a man a foot shorter and the attitude of a driven winner. We arrived in Kittanning and very quickly became aware of the world that was Hutch’s. … He could shoot the net off a basket. Well, he was their team. He was Kittanning and they were proud of it, and so was he."

Tom continues: "During that winter, we were both being recruited by the Military Academy as well as many other well-known universities, not only in the East, but all over the country – he for basketball and I for football. Later we compared notes on this topic and discovered our thought, opinions and decisions were similar. We were both from middle-class America. Without athletics, there would be no opportunity for college. College was available only for the more fortunate. We grew up in towns that survived on some particular industry. It was our home and we would be part of it. But suddenly this thing called basketball and football – that we were doing because we thrived on competition – was offering us the opportunity to further our education.

"Our parents were beside themselves with the thought that their sons would have the opportunity to go away to school and achieve a professional level that only a few in their communities enjoyed. This was 1960. The Korean War had ended only a few years earlier. Dwight Eisenhower, an academy graduate, was president. To our parents, the Eisenhowers, MacArthurs, Bradleys and Van Fleets were true American heroes tha tin their eyes were very special… both of us saw the academy’s interest in us as an opportunity we could not afford to turn down. We did things to please our parents and cause them to have pride in us. They raised us to be good, contributing Americans. This was the ultimate opportunity."

"Well, neither of us was prepared academically for the next level on the education ladder. Since we hadn’t planned on having a chance to go to college, we didn’t take the college boards for the first time until the spring of our senior year and we did very poorly. But we had good grades in school and we had the interest of our respective coaches at West Point. We were offered the opportunity to attend Braden’s Prep School, just a few miles up the old Storm King Highway, north of West Point."

"We attended English and math classes for eight hours a day, followed by six hours in class study halls. We weren’t there to have fun. But because of a special mix of characters, led by Hutch, we had a good time. Weekends allowed enough time off for us to hitchhike or walk to the academy. Saturdays in the spring at West Point were and still are special, especially for athletics. There were numerous contests to watch and we dreamed that one day we might have the opportunity to compete. We retook the college boards in late June and achieved a score sufficient to allow us to join the Class of ’64."

"Thus, the first step was taken that would allow us the honor of wearing the uniform of our country. In early July Sheriff Hutchison picked up several of us from Western Pennsylvania for the journey to West Point. Without the interstate highway system it was an eleven-hour trip. It was the beginning of a long relationshipfor not only us future cadets, but also for our parents. The Kerns and the Hutchisons made frequent weekend trips together and remained friends for many years."

From the first day of "Beast Barracks" (officially called New Cadet Barracks), Hutch knew he was in for a challenge. From being a "Big Man on Campus" at Kittanning High School, he was suddenly just one of over 800 new cadets at the United States Military Academy, struggling through a day like he never had before. It seemed like there were a million things to do, all while being screamed at by upperclassmen who demanded that for the entire year every plebe must maintain a bracing position (chin thrust back, neck to the rear) whenever in the presence of upperclassmen in the cadet areas, barracks, and mess hall. Although he was exhausted at the end of the day and ordered to go to bed, like many of his classmates, Hutch did not sleep well. "What have I gotten myself into?" he wondered, and "How am I ever going to get all those socks, handkerchiefs, and underwear folded into neat little stacks in my locker?" As he finally drifted off to sleep, he imagined what it would be like to be a big jock on a civilian campus.

During the summer many of the new cadets resigned, most of them realizing that military life was not to their liking. Hutch wasn’t exactly enjoying himself, and, as is normal during "Beast Barracks," occasionally thought about resigning. However, as was the case with most of his classmates, he hung in there, convincing himself things would get better. He knew how important a West Point education was and he knew he was smart enough and tough enough to muck it out and graduate in four years. But he didn’t like starving! It seemed that mealtimes were spent reciting the volumes of plebe "poop" (knowledge) that each new cadet had to memorize – the "Alma Mater," the cheers, the chain of command, the "Days" (the number of days remaining until each key event during the year), the movie schedule, and on and on. Very little tiem was left for eating, which had to be done in tiny bites with the chin crammed in. Collectively, the Class of ’64 last several thousand pounds during the summer of 1960.

Charlie Hutchison was beginning to resemble a skeleton. Soon enough though, “Beast Barracks” was over and the academic year began – with a twenty percent heavier academic load for the new plebes. In addition to mathematics, English, foreign language, engineering fundamentals, physical education and tactics, three new courses were to be required and would be taken in succession – physical geography, world geography, and astronomy. This was the first of many changes that would befall the Class of ’64 which, in the eyes of its members, would become the "experimental class." It certainly made for a highly challenging academic year for Hutch, who quickly found there was a big difference between high school and college academics, at least those at West Point. In fact, the courses seemed to get more difficult each year, but Hutch put his nose to the grindstone and did not let the academic department get the better of him. His outlet was basketball, where he was a valuable forward, first on the plebe team and later on varsity. In his first-class (senior) year, the team put together one of its best records ever, going 19-7, with a victory over Navy and a third-place finish in the National Invitation Tournament.

Despite the rigors of academy life, Hutch was able to adapt to all situations and was extremely popular and well liked. He was always willing to help whenever a favor was asked of him and he rarely asked for a favor for himself. One of his high school friends, Linton Stroud, remembers when he was stationed at West Point in 1963 and 1964 as a member of the Army Band: "And while there, Charlie was a true leader of his fellow men. He had a magic of attracting people to him, and they really respected him. We lost him too soon in life. But he was admired by me and the people who had come to know him very much. I played taps at his military funeral which is the saddest day I have known."

Hutch and Tom Kerns continued their strong friendship as the two flourished on the fields of friendly strife. Tom was a mainstay on the Army line (those were the days of two-way football) as the team had winning seasons every year. Although Navy had their number, Tom and his teammates were victorious against Penn State all but three of their varsity seasons. As luck would have it, the two buddies ended up being roommates during their last two years in company L-2. Tom often tells the following story about how they chose their first duty assignment a few months before graduation: "We were required to turn in a selection slip by 10 P.M. At 15 minutes till, I asked Hutch what he was going to do. (He didn’t know and neither did I.) He said, 'You know, Fort Bragg is close to Duke, NC State and the beach. Think of having all those girls that close by!' I said, 'Sounds good to me!' He said, 'Well, hell, we might as well go Airborne, Ranger, Infantry!' Honest to God, that’s how we made the decision – in two minutes at the eleventh hour, thinking of the girls in North Carolina. A little different thinking, he might not have lost his life and I might not have spent a tour in Santo Domingo and two in Vietnam trying to lose mine."

After graduation, Hutch hopped into his silver Corvette and returned home to be with his family and friends for what would be his last summer. His sister, Vicki, then in High School, enjoyed those times with her older brother, the prankster. Among her many memories is one of Hutch waterskiing down the river on a ladder! Another is when, earlier, he had let her win a swimming race (she was on the swimming team) and she was so happy. It did a lot for her self-confidence, as she didn’t realize what really happened for years. Later she would remember his funeral procession: "The old veterans of the town gathered on the corner in the park. As Charlie went by, they all stood and saluted. I can’t pass that corner without seeing them honoring Charlie."

Hutch raised hell with his old buddies all summer. They all revered him and have submitted numerous anecdotes to this anthology. From Terry Thompson: “I was an ‘at-risk’ young man in junior high school, a poor student, running with the wrong crowd and headed in the wrong direction. Charlie befriended me, for some reason he cared about me. He went out of his way to spend time with me and keep me out of trouble. He truly was my best friend.

"His car – or Thomas C.'s (as his father was affectionately referred to) station wagon. It was filled with basketballs, sweatshirts, cups, papers, and anything else Charlie discarded. He would pull the front seat clear back to leave room for his long legs and away we would go to our next game. If we needed something to eat, chances were we could find something in the car.

"I remember the boat trips on the Allegheny, the family's camp in East Brady. How his relatives got together and enjoyed life and each other! How kind they always were to me!"

Doctor John M. Shaner, a superintendent of schools at this writing, sent the following: "We grew up together and shared so many of life's great experiences, and I will always think of him as my brother. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who once said, 'A brother may not always be a friend but a friend will always be a brother.'

"Although he had great academic potential, studies took a backseat to good times and basketball. He was first and foremost a team player and he was a vicious competitor. We beat our arch rival twice during our championship senior year, and Hutch won both games in the closing seconds with his 'soft jumper' from the top of the key.

"One time we climbed among the high beams above the gym ceiling in our school just to paint our names on the steel beams. Twenty years later I was the principal of the school and I crawled back up there and found the names still there.

"When Hutch was a plebe and I was a freshman at Penn State, Army came to State College to play basketball. Hutch came to the men's clothing store where I worked and insisted that I sell him some civilian clothes. After a protest, I did so, and he put them on. When he went outside, he ran straight into a colonel who admonished him and sent him back in the store to replace the clothes with his uniform. Hutch told me to bring them to him later when we were to meet up outside the hotel after bed check. I did so, he put them on again, and off we went to the fraternity parties. We returned, a bit under the weather, just as the team bus was loading to depart. The colonel immediately took charge of Hutch and sent me on my way. Hutch later told me the hours he spent walking the area were well worth the time we had.

"When Charlie died, an army sergeant accompanied his body home and remained with the casket throughout the days of viewing and the funeral. The evening of the first day, after the last mourners had left, I invited him to accompany myself and several of Charlie’s close friends to a little bar to have something to eat and a few beers. After a little encouragement he finally agreed to accompany us. He did so each night he was there and would sit and listen as we all told stories of our exploits with Hutch. I believe he really came to know the kind of guy Hutch was and how much he was loved. He always maintained his military bearing until the moment came at the funeral when he presented the flag to the parents. At that time all the emotion came to the surface and he began to cry. He stepped back and saluted and then came to stand with us, Charlie’s friends. He cried along with us as if he had known Charlie as we had. We saw him off when he left town and I don’t think any of us have ever forgotten him or his kindness. I feel sure he has never forgotten those days either. Even in death Charlie made a new friend."

In August Hutch reported to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Airborne and Ranger training, which he completed successfully before joining the Eighty-second Airborne Division's First Battalion, 325th Infantry. He spent his first few months on the post basketball team and was just getting broken in as an airborne infantry platoon leader when the alert order sent him and his men to the Dominican Republic. Shortly thereafter Hutch requested permission to remove the machine-gun nest. In making that request, he unknowingly committed to death as fully as he had committed himself to life. In completing his mission, Hutch gave his life for his country and for his men. No greater sacrifice can be made by any man.

A few hours later, a few miles away, Tom Kerns got the bad news. He recalls: "I know today that I immediately went into shock. How could it happen? How could a person so young – with so much to offer – with so little experience – whom I had relied on over the past four years to help me maintain my wits – be sacrificed in such a way? We had a life to live together; we were just beginning. We had both struggled to survive four years at West Point and had finally graduated. We completed Airborne and Ranger schools together, and together we elected to be assigned to the "All American" Eighty-second Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. How could it be? We had rejoiced together that previous spring when it became obvious that there was a war coming. After all, General Eisenhower spent all those years as a captain in a peacetime army. A war was coming for us! We were anxious. We were confident. We had completed four years at West Point, the absolute best preparation for combat in the history of warfare. But all of a sudden, it was about the loss of a buddy. I missed that preparation. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I recognized back then, and feel the same today – I dearly loved the guy. I was closer to him than either of my brothers or anyone I’ve met since. And yet he wasn’t a sentimental person, nor was I. It was his attitude that drew you to him. He wasn't really a very good cadet (nor was I) but he was very intelligent. I can vouch for that – he spent many hours helping me get through. He was a tremendous athlete, and not just in basketball. He physically excelled in anything whether on the field of play or in the field. And he knew no fear. ..."

Janet and Tom Kerns named one of their sons Hutch. Amazingly, he is very much like his namesake, much to the joy of his parents.

To those who knew and loved Charlie Hutchison, his passing does not dim our memory of him. He was a man's man and he lived a man's life. To him, life itself was an obsession to which he was dedicated, and his every moment was crowded with a sincere interest in the people and things which surrounded him. Hutch will be sorely missed by his family, friends, and classmates, but he will never be forgotten.

~ Fallen Warriors The West Point Class of 1964 by John Murray


I recall having read, I believe in John Murrays book, that there was a memorial to Hutch in the yard of the American Embassy in Santo Domingo Therefore, when my niece Christine Dooley Searby and her husband David Searby, assigned to the Embassy, reported for duty, I asked David to check on the Hutch memorial. The pictures that he sent are of the SD Embassy Complex, the huge Ceiba Tree, which provides the background to Hutchs Memorial and the memorial with Hutchs name on it. ~ Thomas Dooley



It was a beautiful, sunny and clear day for the “reunion” for Charlie. There were about 40 people there to celebrate a friend and his memory. It was a tribute to Charlie that people came from near and far, classmates from high school and classmates from West Point. His roommate from West Point, Tom Kerns, has devoted himself to the fact that Charlie should never be forgotten and he returns every five years to the gravesite to be with his good friend. Tom was in the Dominican Republic when Charlie was killed trying to save a fellow soldier’s life. John Shaner and Tom worked together this year to bring about this day and it was a warm and touching day to say the least. I was surprised when I arrived to see as many people, particularly classmates and fellow basketball team members, already at the gravesite. We all renewed our relationships as if no time had come between us. The last time many of us had been together was at that same gravesite 44 years ago. John then introduced Tom Kerns to the group and the proceedings began. With Tom and his fellow cadets recounting somewhat humorous stories of Charlie and his continual run-ins with the administration at West Point that led to demerits that put Charlie in great physical shape, it became apparent that some of the witty person we knew in high school survived in the military. This was followed by stories from his childhood and high school years by his KHS friends. After a brief ceremony, the honor guard played the clearest sounding and perfect taps I had ever heard and a 21 gun saluted rang out over the valley……….a sobering reminder of a life taken too soon. We continued to visit for awhile before meeting at the Apollo Elks for lunch and more stories. There were some things that I learned about Charlie that day. Although I had heard accounts of his death, I didn’t have the actual facts. Tom recounted what he knew of the day and it was a different version than the one that I had carried for these 44 years. In Santo Domingo, there were rebel troops and government troops and the rebels occupied a section of town with the dividing line being a street. One side was rebel forces, the other side the government troops and a machine nest for the rebels was located in a corner building. Doorways along the street were recessed and the troops were moving from doorway to doorway advancing on the machine gun area when one of Charlie’s troops was hit by rebel fire. Without hesitation Charlie raced out to rescue his fellow soldier when the sniper fire claimed his life. As John recounted at the “reunion”, Charlie was not only awarded the Purple Heart but also posthumously was awarded a sliver star for gallantry. After talking with friends on Saturday and recalling water skiing at their camp at East Brady, him hitting the winning shot in the Ford City game and numerous other recollections of his “activities” as a teenager, it was a grim reminder of how fragile life can be. The one thing that was apparent as we adjourned, was that we were all fortunate to have had Charlie in our lives, brief as it may have been.

Pictured below is Charlie's West Point class mate and friend Tom Kerns with his son Hutch Kerns and Grandson Thomas Hutchison Kerns........taken at the Veteran Memorial Wall in front of the Armstrong County Courthouse...........Charlie's old home. And also a remembrance from Tom Kerns.

On Saturday September 5, a grave side visit was conducted in memory of Charlie Hutchison L-2 at Riverview Cemetery, Apollo, PA. "Hutch" was our first classmate Killed In Action, dying in the Dominican Republic on May 10th 1965. Classmates in attendance were Ed Mackey, Indiana, PA, Chet Kempinski, Erie PA, Frank Hughes, Pittsburgh, PA, Rich Stanko, Omaha, NE and Tom Kerns, Chesapeake, VA. In addition to classmates, some 35 others from Kittanning High School's Class of 1960, Hutch's alma mater, were there as well as a number of local friends of the family. Hutch's only remaining kin, his sister Vicki, had intended on coming from the big island of Hawaii but as the date got closer she felt she could not get through the emotion of the grave and so many close friends. She did send several stories which were read aloud. I was proud to be able to introduce my son "Hutch" and his family, including nine year old "Hutchison" from Asheville, NC. Many attendees offered reminiscences, both sad and joyful -- all were emotional. Chet Kempinski read the Cadet Prayer prior to the American Legion closing. Many of the attendees adjourned to the Apollo American Legion for lunch and continued sharing stories.

We were successful in attaining support from the local newspaper, the Kittanning Times-Leader. They published a human interest story two days prior to the service. We also received support from the Armstrong County American Legion who offered a memorial message, honors and Taps.

My family and several others also drove to Kittanning to see Hutch's name engraved on a veteran memorial wall adjacent to the Courthouse. Hutch's home is part of the Courthouse in that his father was Armstrong County Sheriff. Hutch's name is also on a memorial plaque in the garden behind the American Embassy in the Dominican Republic as well as a memorial plaque in the 82nd Airborne Division Museum at Fort Bragg, NC.


Pictured below are all those assembled for the service.


Newsletter to the U.S. Mission, Santo Domingo

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