Class History: 1945

Sixty Years Together 1944 - 2004

INTRODUCTION:

This history is a celebration of the lives and times of a unique group of men who were brought together in the summer of 1941 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where we were indoctrinated, trained, and educated in our nation’s premier Academy for producing Navy and Marine Corps officers. We came together in turbulent times; the world was in a state of upheaval with dictators and wars and invasions threatening the equilibrium of all nations. Shortly after our Academy experience began, the United States became involved in a declared war of immense proportions, and after graduation we went forth to fight in that worldwide struggle that changed the future for everyone.

Some 18 of us were killed in action in our single year of combat in World War II; those who survived were profoundly affected by our experiences. Some continued in military service and subsequently fought in two additional major conflicts: the Korean “police action”, and the Viet Nam War. After WWII and completion of our obligated service, about one-third of us returned to civilian life and became successful as business leaders, attorneys, engineers, ministers, medical doctors, educators, and in a variety of other occupations. Most of us achieved some level of success. All of us became better men and more responsible citizens because of the Naval Academy—and our shared early training and mutual experiences.

Together, our lives form a tapestry—a fabric woven of almost a thousand individual threads tightly bound by shared foundations, common goals, and mutual experiences. Each thread is the lifeline of one individual who entered the Naval Academy and graduated with the class of 1945. There are also threads of some who did not graduate with the class, but profited from their experience at USNA and continue to take pride in being members of The Class of 1945. Our fabric is rich in texture and design, with colorful highlights and designs as the lives of individuals—the threads of the fabric—twist and turn with our experiences and our adventures, and as we achieve substance and polish through the years. Thick and broad in the beginning, the fabric gradually becomes thinner and narrower as some of our threads end with the losses of classmates.

But despite the thinning of our numbers, the tapestry of our shared lives becomes ever stronger and more tightly woven as our life-lines separate and then reunite repeatedly over the sixty years of our unity. And nothing—neither time nor death nor distance—can dim the color and the sparkle, nor diminish the splendor of the fabric of our lives. Time and visits of the grim reaper only serve to make it smaller and more compact—and in some ways to make it even stronger.

Our class is but a small slice of our generation—“The Greatest Generation” as portrayed by commentator and author Tom Brokaw. It- was above average in many respects: intellectual attainments, physical abilities, and leadership traits as demonstrated by early-life achievements in school, church, and community. Such above average performances were, as might be expected, basic requirements for admittance to the U. S. Naval Academy. The stringent selection process—applied to many thousands of applicants—resulted in admission in the summer of 1941 of 1,117 healthy, motivated young men who became Midshipmen, United States Navy. We were determined to meet all challenges and to excel in the rigorous program necessary to produce effective Navy and Marine Corps military professionals. And soon—December 7, 1941—we were given added incentive to prepare for wartime service and to go out and win the war for our country. Three years later, after a wartime compression of the normal four-year Academy curriculum, 912 of our class graduated and were commissioned Ensigns, U. S. Navy, and Second Lieutenants, U. S. Marine Corps. Two special cases were given commissions in the active forces of the U. S. Army and the Army of the Philippines.

Military involvement in World War II resulted in 18 of our classmates being killed in action. Others died in training accidents, from diseases and illnesses, and from a variety of motor vehicle and aircraft accidents in wartime and later years. Sadly, there were also a few suicides and unexplained deaths. While typical in the variety of causes of death, the survival rate of our class is far higher than that of other groups of the same generation—a tribute, perhaps, to the early selection of healthy, physically fit members and to the attentive medical care of those who continued to serve in the military. Today, some 60 years later, there are still alive almost 500 of the original 914 who were commissioned in 1944.

HOW WE BEGAN:

We came from a variety of backgrounds, as might be expected from a cross-sectional slice of Americans. We arrived from homes on farms and in small country towns; from cities large and small, and from pleasant suburban areas. Our financial circumstances were varied: our parents were rich and poor and in between, but most of us came from the great American Middle Class. Our families were largely the traditional type with working father and home-making mother. Some of us came from broken homes, and some were orphans.

Educationally; we had different levels of attainment; some arrived directly from high schools, while others had already completed one or more years of college, and two had college degrees. Some of our class came from the Naval Reserve and some from the enlisted ranks in our Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Even though we were varied and diverse in our beginnings, we united quickly and assimilated the ideas of teamwork and of helping classmates to succeed. We began the process of blending into a solid foundation for a strong, capable group of achievers, intent on becoming excellent military professionals. Our three years at the Naval Academy were the most important three years of our lives—those were the years when we learned the military trade and were shaped into officers of the Navy and Marine Corps. They were years of fun and frolic, good times and bad, joys and heartaches, wins and losses. But most of all they were years of achieving our goals and entering into our chosen profession. Thus was born the unique, united, and forever faithful LOOK ALIVE Class of 1945 of the United States Naval Academy.

WE GRADUATED AND WENT TO WAR:

Graduation came after a joyous June Week on 7 June 1944, shortly after the D-Day landings in France. The day we had all looked forward to for three long years had finally arrived. We were now starting our military career as Ensigns, United States Navy, and as Second Lieutenants, United States Marine Corps; we were anxious to get into the fray. But first there were other things to take care of. Many of us entered the wondrous world of marriage. We all set out into a crazy, mixed-up world of cars, but no gasoline; train, but no seats; and the need to get to many places in a hurry. But duty called and we all responded.

Some 50 of us elected to go into Amphibious ships and received commands and spot promotions to LTJG or LT. Our 44 Supply Corps members went to Harvard to Supply School. The rest of the class was divided in half; one group went on 30 days leave and then went to Jacksonville to Aviation Indoctrination for 30 days. The other group went to Jacksonville first, followed by their 30 day leave period. But at the end of the 60 days, all started the mad dash to reach our ships, or, for the Marines, to go to Quantico for additional training to equip them to be top-notch platoon leaders in battle.

Most of the Navy types—clad in that strange gray uniform with black plastic buttons and black Ensign’s stripes on shoulder-boards—headed for the West Coast, since most of the fighting that remained was in the Pacific and we were needed to win the war there. We found plenty of fighting yet to be done. Our Marines completed their training just in time for the Okinawa landings and there encountered fierce fighting against a determined foe backed into a corner. All Navy and Marine Corps members of ‘45 persevered and the war ended. We all crowed that it only took ‘45 a year to finish it off. But we paid the price: 18 classmates killed in action, including four Marines killed on Okinawa in their first battles, less than a year after graduation.

After the war, we settled into the peacetime draw-down in personnel, the decommissioning of ships, and new assignments. Some went to flight training, others to sub school, and still others to various post graduate schools. Our jump from Ensign to JG came rapidly after about a year and a half. The next step, to Lieutenant, took much longer—about five years—and involved taking our first promotion exams. Those were discontinued soon after we took them. Soon the exodus began for those who wanted to enter a civilian career; almost one third of our classmates decided to return to civilian life; the rest settled into the peacetime military until the Korean “police action” sounded GQ and called everybody back to action once again.

Following Korea, we settled again into a peacetime military. Promotions to 0-4 and then, much later, 0-5 were tough; we encountered extremely tough selection boards attempting to cope with the “Hump” in personnel remaining in a shrinking Navy and Marine Corps. We lived the life of the times, both as military officers and as civilians, advancing in our careers in each category. Our families grew, we saw many new and different places, and those remaining in the military enjoyed the “life of genteel poverty” offered by the military pay system of that time. We formed the Association of the Class of 1945 during this period, and bonded into a solid, substantial group. And the shout, “Look Alive,” could be heard wherever ‘45ers were found.

AS TIME WENT BY:

In preparation for our peak achievements during our middle years, we built upon the twenty years of development that went before. During our early years, we had honed our skills, developed our minds, and had become leaders, both as civilians and as military officers. We transitioned slowly through the learning and performance levels, as military men, as junior executives in industry, and as junior professionals. We gradually built a base for significant positions in future life. As we reached the twenty year anniversary of our graduation, some 60% of our original 1944 graduates remained on active duty, having served through two wars and a portion of a third. And most of those who had resigned their commissions to enter civilian pursuits continued to serve in the Naval Reserve, ready to answer the call to duty when required.

These years were marked by important changes in all of our lives. Those of us in the Navy were senior Commanders, and our Marine classmates were Lieutenant Colonels, while our civilian classmates were building successful careers as senior business executives, physicians, lawyers, engineers and scientists. The discipline, the loyalty, and the drive learned at the Naval Academy served us well as we all tried to be what John Paul Jones described as a Naval Officer. He described the person we strived to become as, “…a capable mariner…but also be a great deal more…a gentleman of liberal education and refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.” We carried this challenge with us subconsciously as we continued with our lives and accomplished our missions both as civilians and as military officers.

Soon we had all served out our military time and ended our military careers. These were the years when we achieved our military pinnacles, following which some of us moved on to high level positions in government and civilian industries. The Class of 1945 provided, during this period, 119 Captains and Colonels for our Navy and Marine Corps. And of these were promoted 34 Flag Officers: 30 Navy, and 4 Marines. And we provided numbers of influential Presidents and CEOs for civilian firms, one Astronaut, a number of capable medical doctors and men of the Church, and a wide variety of successful civilian executives in many occupations.

But finally it was time to retire, and to take up other activities. Some moved on to second careers in retirement, and some to the leisurely pursuits we had longed for during long periods of military assignments. These were the years when we learned to unwind, to travel with our families, to take up golf and gardening and relaxing—and settling down.

WE BECAME SENIOR CITIZENS:

After a long and involved Cold War, the momentous political event was the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The United States became the only superpower. Terrorism reared its ugly head. On the individual level, personal computers, E-mail, the internet, and instant communications changed our lives. During this period, most of us retired from work for pay, but not from work. We discovered the joys of pro bono volunteering and the satisfaction of doing things for others. We started to enjoy the fruits of our past labor. We saw our children reach significant maturity and assume positions of responsibility. We watched our grandchildren grow, mature, and even graduate from college?a number graduated from the Naval Academy.

We also began to feel infirmities and illnesses. As we entered this period, our longevity was still well above average. As we approach our sixty years anniversary of graduation, we had lost, from all causes, a total of 415 of the 914 who graduated on 7 June 1944.

It has been a great life! We have lived it to the fullest, and we have been blessed. We have served. We have contributed. What more could one ask?

MEMORABLE MOMENTS:

On June 7 1944, we scatter far and wide never again to meet in one place. We were eager to win the war which was then going so well that it seemed unlikely we could prove what we knew to be true—that neither Germany nor Japan could stand for long against the onslaught of ’45.

In his talk to the midshipmen before leaving the Academy, Admiral Russell Willson had said: “Even the Plebes here today will see plenty of fighting in this war.” Few of the Plebe Class of 1945 really believed him then. After spending the summer and fall of 1944 hitch-hiking all over the world to join our ships, fewer still could agree with that prophetic statement. However, from the Great Typhoon of 1944 to the end of the Okinawa campaign, most of us saw enough of war to last us for a lifetime. Of our contingent of 25 Marines, for example, 20 percent were lost, and in all branches of the service, our classmates earned awards for gallantry in action, capped by one Congressional Medal of Honor given to CAPT Richard M. McCool, Jr. While most of us were serving as J.O.’s in floating behemoths, others held more responsible positions in smaller ships. Some reluctant volunteers for the amphibious forces found themselves in command of combatant ships within a few months of graduation.

The war’s end found us all restless, and most of us changed our plans in some way. Some resigned to start new careers in civilian life, while others remained in the service. Among those, there was a rush to flight training, Sub School, and PG School. Those who were left manning the bulwarks remember the demobilization as a period of starvation --of men counting points for discharge—of too few engineers to take the ships to sea, and not enough seamen to paint the sides.

The Class of ’45 found out about the Cold War early. We lost a classmate in one of the earliest incidents when his plane was shot down by trigger-happy Russians over the Baltic. Other classmates were involved in similar attacks off Japan. The Cold War turned hot in Korea. The aviators and Marines of the Class got a taste of action, but the rest of us mostly found out, again, that war usually consists of equal parts of hard work and boredom—many times far from the scene of action. Tensions grew hot again in the Cuban Missile Crisis and we were called upon to blockade Cuba. Throughout the experience of the Vietnam years, we bore the brunt of the tactical direction of an unpopular war which placed demands upon the Navy and the Marine Corps, and upon ourselves, not only in a military sense but as citizens in a nation’s transitioning perception of our roles and responsibilities.

We led the way into space by sending a ’45er as the first American in history to enter the limits of outer space. He was boosted out of this world on 5 May 1961, taking with him only one personal possession—his Class ring. We also participated in other space exploits by providing an X-15 pilot who opened the ways for new break-through in flights to the very fringes of space. We provided a CNO for the Navy of the newly independent Israel. Our classmates have been to professional, Medical, Dental and Law Schools, and earned master’s and PHD degrees. One classmate became a Hollywood writer, and turned out good mystery books and magazine stories.

We took the steps necessary to become a real, operating class; we formed The Association of the Class of 1945, complete with constitution, by-laws, treasury, and stock holdings. We found that the ’45 spirit was still there “LOOK ALIVE WITH ‘45” BECAME THE BY-WORD, AND THE GREEN BOWLER was everywhere in evidence.

So, let us remember the old days when the world was our nut to crack, and let us rejoice that in some small measure, at least, we did it! Look Alive!

 

CLASS PROFILE AT GRADUATION IN 1944
Admitted to USNA in 1941: 1,117  
Ex-midshipmen admitted and  
later advanced to class of 1044 7
ADMITTED, CLASS OF 1945 1110
Separations prior to 7 June 1944  
Died 1
Resigned (academic: 125; 136
Conduct: 3; Voluntary: 8)  
Honorary discharge (physical 18
disabilities: 10; studies: 5:  
conduct: 2; aptitude: 1)  
Turned back into class of 1946 41
 
TOTAL GRADUATED 7 JUNE 1944: 914 LINE SUPPLY USNR USMC
Commissioned: 912 823 44 14 31
Not Commissioned:
(1 Physically Disqualified, 1 Filipino)
2  

 

CLASS PROFILE AFTER OUR FIRST TWENTY YEARS (1944 to 1964)
Resigned 334  
Deceased 65
Other (Hon. Discharge, Medical, separated, other services) 12
 
TOTAL NOT ON ACTIVE DUTY: 411 (45%)  
RETENTION AT 20 YEARS: 55%
First selection for 0-6 (1964) 195
O-6 (CAPT/COL) Speciality: Surface Subs Aviation Supply Other USMC
Numbers selected in each specialty: 41 44 62 15 23 10

 

CLASS PROFILE AFTER THIRTY YEARS (1944 to 1974)
Resigned 334
Retired 332
Deceased 86
 
TOTAL NOT ON ACTIVE DUTY:
RETENTION AT 30 YEARS:
752 (82%)
18%
Reached Flag Rank:
(Navy: 30 USMC: 4)
34
Reached 0-9 Rank:
(All 9 Became Navy Vice Admirals)
9

 

USNA CLASS OF 1945 STATISTICAL PROFILES AT SIXTY YEARS AFTER GRADUATION
CALENDAR YEARS
  1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 TOTALS
Classmates born in each year: 68 249 337 221 39 914
% of Graduates born in each year group: 7% 27% 37% 24% 4% 100%
 
Graduated in upper half of class, by yr.grp.: 23 116 164 123 31 457
Percent of each year group and total class: 34% 47% 49% 56% 79% 50%
 
First selection to 0-6 from each yr.grp.: 12 46 76 45 16 195
% of each year group & total in first selection: 18% 18% 23% 20% 41% 21%
 
Selected to Flag from each year group: 1 12 9 10 2 34
% Flag from each year group and total:: 1% 5% 3% 5% 5% 4%
Selected to O-9 from each year group: 1 0 2 5 1 9
% made O-9 fro each year group & total: 1% 0% 1% 2% 3% 1%

 

HOW HAVE WE DONE IN LOOKING -- AND STAYING -- ALIVE
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1920 1921 1922 1923 1924 TOTALS % OF GRAD.
Age at death:  
20-29 years old at time of death: 3 12 16 14 0 45 5%
30-39 years old at time of death: 3 5 4 9 1 22 2%
49-49 years old at time of death: 0 1 9 4 3 17 2%
50-59 years old at time of death: 2 18 9 17 0 46 5%
60-69 years old at time of death: 5 33 25 16 4 83 9%
70-79 years old at time of death: 11 52 66 37 7 173 19%
80- years old at time of death: 4 11 9 3 0 27 3%
TOTALS: 28 132 138 100 15 413 45%
Percent of year group: 41% 53% 41% 45% 38% 45%  
Percent of graduates: 3% 14% 15% 11% 2% 45%
 
 

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