LTC Douglas C. Kline USA (Retired)

Cullum: 26060

Class: 1965

Cadet Company: B1

Date of Birth: March 1, 1943

Date of Death: November 20, 2012

Died in Middletown, VA

Interred: Somerset Memorial Park, PA - View or Post a Eulogy


Kline, Douglas C.On Nov 20, 2012, the Class of 1965 lost a most singular and beloved member, Douglas Coleman Kline (D-1/B-1). The pain of that loss is but partly offset by the joy of having known him over the years. Doug was a loyal classmate, a faithful friend, a devoted husband, a superb officer, a consummate innovator, and a talented manager of diverse activities. Perhaps his most strikingly singular quality was resolute adherence to his goals, a tenacity that brought him from the Dean's "other list" to genuine achievement in the most esoteric areas of science and technology, from endless hours walking tours or sitting confinement to widespread recognition at the highest military and governmental levels, and from bucolic Western Pennsylvania into our hearts.

Doug was born to George and Isabel Coleman Kline in Somerset County, PA. His father served in WW II as an Army engineer officer and was a highway engineer after. Lamentably, he died quite young, but his example obviously inspired Doug; his father's portrait always enjoyed the place of honor in Doug's cadet wall locker. During Doug's early years, he attended a one-room school, where his winter duty was to arrive early to light the wood stove. He also performed chores on an uncle's farm, developing a robust physique and little fear of hardship-qualities that stood him in good stead in situations ranging from plebe boxing to repelling a sapper attack in the Central Highlands.

Doug's resolute independence of mind and spirit clashed with the lock-step curriculum and rigid discipline that prevailed at West Point in those years. Worse, he was assigned to D-1, then probably the most hellacious of 24 companies, where the upperclassmen pursued a procrustean approach to rearing plebes. Doug became a lightning rod with respect to the plebe system and though the rest of us also suffered, we did so the less thanks to the diversion he provided. Naturally, memorizing cadet trivia and the like left precious little time for academics, with the result that Doug's interest in and aptitude for math and science remained covert throughout his cadet years. Yearling year, he was integral to a small group who, after dodging the OC and nearly being apprehended by MPs in front of the Supe's quarters, twirled the rowels on Sedgwick's spurs in a successful effort to avoid being found.

Doug's upperclass years were frequently blighted by the tender attentions of the Tactical Department over offenses like "Unshined..." and "Late returning from..." Though not quite Century Club material, he nonetheless wore a deep rut in Central Area's pavement and was routinely in confinement when Glee Club trips came around. Bright spots were few: many friendships within the class, marathon weekend poker games hosted while in con...but especially time spent with the lovely Diane Speicher, whom he had known since middle school. They married in Somerset on Jun 12, 1965, and save for Doug's Vietnam tour were constantly together, lovers and best friends.

Doug served with distinction in Vietnam with the First Cavalry Division Artillery and in two tours in Germany with that arm. Any lingering suspicion that Doug's West Point class standing accurately reflected his intellectual acumen was vanquished by his performance in graduate school, where he distinguished himself pursuing an MS in nuclear physics and was selected to develop the Army's first laser weapon system at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Redstone Arsenal. Additional service at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency led to Doug's greatest contributions to national security in the area of ballistic missile defense. He served in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization for two years prior to retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1986, then, after a private-sector hiatus, was enticed back to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization as Deputy Director for System Architecture. After subsequent defense contracting work breaking new trails in the development of space-based chemical laser systems, Doug and two friends started their own consultancy with the Missile Defense Agency their major client. Doug's achievements there were highly significant, though not amenable to discussion in this unclassified venue, and he remained an energetic, hands-on manager and venerated "greybeard" to the end.

There we have it: the Goat who achieved surpassing success in highly technical fields; the Area Bird who led and commanded with distinction in the combat arms-to what can we credit these apparent anomalies? To that constellation of factors we term The West Point Experience...the loving support of a spirited and talented of country? Indubitably, yes, but for the full story we must examine what did not change about Doug.

The Doug Kline we met on Jul 5, 1961, remained the same warm, friendly, concerned, compassionate, dedicated, humorous, tenacious, ethical, creative, and unpretentious man to the end. The beaming smile and proffered glass of something fizzy that one might encounter in the Klines' home on the Shenandoah had spiritual origin in the smirks surreptitiously exchanged with classmates while being hazed by Ranger Dan. And the ingenuity manifest in rebuilding a small block Chevy found similar expression in the several laser patents he held.

Doug remained ever true to himself- without guile, without pretense. He gave bountifully of his time, attention, and treasure, and accepted graciously what life offered. He loved family, country, classmates and friends wholeheartedly, and empathized with the great and the lowly in equal measure. To reverse Caroline Lamb's characterization of Lord Byron, Doug was eminently rational, surpassingly good, and wonderful to know. We shall miss him acutely until our own summons to Fiddler's Green.

- Four-year companymate, three-semester roommate, fellow rowel twirler, and composer of his Howitzer caption