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Bill Thayer

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The Collected Works of Ducrot Pepys

The Work and the Authors

"Collected Works" is a misleading title. These "works" are the diary, or something that purports to be the diary, of the mythical cadet Ducrot Pepys during his entire career at the U. S. Military Academy from 1940 to 1943: his last name is that of the celebrated English diarist, and his first name was a generic moniker, long traditional and usually disparaging of course, for a new Cadet. The diary is one of the classics of American humor, which owes its low profile largely to being a sort of inside joke: anyone who has ever been a Cadet at West Point or even, as in my case, at one of the other service academies, will recognize this stuff all too well, and the Foreword is all too accurate in saying that "cadets have laughed 'til the tears came over Grady's diary of Ducrot Pepys, because not only was it funny, but amazingly, it was true".

Those of you familiar with my site, and in particular the sixty-odd books transcribed so far in the American History section of it, will be noticing that this little book is the only work of fiction you'll find here: a fiction so true to life, however, and so well reflecting the realities of cadet life at the Academy that it is as firmly a part of the history of West Point as the more formal material onsite. ▸ For this reason too, I recommend this funny little book as useful reading to any young man or woman considering applying to the Academy; and even, if you can find the time early on, for helping you cope with the stresses during your plebe year.

A close reading shows that the book is in fact based on its cadet author's real experiences of the time: the stressful second-class year for example, made even more stressful by its sudden acceleration and compression to six months due to World War II, percolates here and there into the writing of that part of the book. More technically, we see that each week starts with a specific date, which a look at the calendar almost always shows to be a Friday although the text, again almost always, starts on Monday: the solution is provided by the week titled "January 2, 1943" in which the Friday entry is Christmas Day (p62). Ducrot kept track of his week then summed it up on the following Friday; or in that case, Saturday since Friday was a holiday.

[decorative delimiter]

"Ducrot" was Ronan Calistus Grady, Jr. — b. July 14, 1921; U. S. M. A. Class of June 1943 (graduated 133d of 514), Cullum No. 13579 — the son of Navy Commander Ronan Calistus Grady, Class of 1906 U. S. N. A., who at the time was Captain of the Boston Navy Yard. In later years our author would write under the pseudonym John Murphy: his best-known works are a 1966 novel, The Gunrunners, and Pay on the Way Out, 1975.

The illustrator, whose delicately lovely drawings complement the spirit of the writing so well, was classmate Lewis Webster, b. Nov. 8, 1920, Cullum No. 13681; according to his very brief entry in Cullum's Register, Supplement, Vol. 9 (p1278) he would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for combat in World War II.

Their classmate Roger Hilsman (b. Nov. 19, 1923, Cullum No. 13491), compiled the diary and first published it in the cadet magazine The Pointer when he had become its editor-in‑chief. During the World War he would serve with Merrill's Marauders in Burma behind Japanese lines.

"J. Phoenix, Esq." (the pseudonym of a West Point graduate who writes for the West Point Association of Graduates) gives us some further biographical details of both Grady and Webster:

"Grady," as he was known to his friends, retired as an Army colonel, died in 1992, and is buried at West Point. He was awarded the Silver Star (for valor) and Purple Heart (for wounds) for WWII combat with the 17th Airborne Division, served in the old MAAG‑RVN (military advisory assistance group in Viet Nam) as well as with MACV (Military Assistance Command — Viet Nam), and later spent time in South America. Although he is the main source of Ducrot Pepys, he was aided immeasurably in perpetrating the myth by classmate Lewis Frazer Webster, who drew a number of cartoons illustrating the foibles of Ducrot and his two roommates. Lewis, a WWII veteran of air combat, was killed in action as a lieutenant colonel in Corea on 8 January 1952 when, returning from flying his 98th combat mission of the war, he diverted to check out suspicious enemy activity on the ground.

Table of Contents

There is no table of contents in the book as printed; the one below is mine. As for the illustrations, however, their subject matter is so diverse and slippery as to defy turning them into a similar table.


Mr. Ducrot Pepys

September 27, 1940


October 11, 1940


October 25, 1940


November 8, 1940


November 22, 1940


December 6, 1940


December 20, 1940


January 3, 1941


January 17, 1941


January 31, 1941


February 28, 1941


March 14, 1941


100th Night


March 28, 1941


April 11, 1941


April 25, 1941


May 9, 1941


May 23, 1941


June 6, 1941

|  Mr. Yearling Pepys |

September 12, 1941


September 26, 1941


October 10, 1941


October 24, 1941


November 7, 1941


November 21, 1941


December 5, 1941


December 19, 1941


January 2, 1942


January 16, 1942


January 30, 1942


February 13, 1942


February 27, 1942


March 13, 1942


100th Nite


March 27, 1942


April 10, 1942


April 24, 1942


May 8, 1942


May 22, 1942


May 29, 1942

| |  Cadet Pepys — Second Class | |

September 11, 1942


September 25, 1942


October 9, 1942


October 23, 1942


November 6, 1942


November 20, 1942


December 4, 1942


December 18, 1942


January 2, 1943


January 15, 1943

| | |  Cadet Pepys — First Class | | |

January 29, 1943


February 12, 1943


February 26, 1943


March 12, 1943


Femme Sandy Pepys


April 9, 1943


April 23, 1943


May 7, 1943


May 21, 1943


May 28, 1943

[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details


My transcription is from what appears to be the first edition, Moore Publishing Company, Inc., Newburgh, N. Y., 1943. It bears the notice "Copyright Applied For", and I didn't check whether it had indeed been registered with the Copyright Office at the time: rather merely whether any copyright had been renewed when it should have been, in 1970 or 1971, in order to benefit from an extension of copyright which would have made it impossible for me to put it online. By my good fortune and yours, there was no renewal, and the book is now in the public domain. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)


This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

Like almost any printed book, this one has its typographical errors. Elsewhere onsite, I mark the corrections with either a bullet like this,º or a dashed underscore like this. Here this seemed overkill, and I've made the (few) corrections tacitly: to see the reading of the printed text you will need to look at the sourcecode. A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!-- sic --> in the sourcecode as well, just to confirm that they were checked. Bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

Pepys seems not to have liked hyphens, or to have lost them at the bottom of the swimming pool or in the Riding Hall: I supplied quite a few from my own private stash.

Any mistakes not marked, please drop me a line, of course.

Pagination and Local Links

The text for each entire year could have fit pretty comfortably on a single webpage, but not with all the drawings; I've taken a hint from the printed edition, which almost always has one week per page, and done the same.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line);p57 these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, each day's entry has its own local anchor, and can therefore be linked to specifically.

[image ALT: A drawing of a young man standing rigidly at attention, facing us; he is wearing a uniform made distinctive by a tight-fitting jacket with a wide stripe down the center. He has a dazed expression, and a shining halo floats over his head. It is a cartoon of a West Point cadet; the image serves as the icon on this site for The Collected Works of Ducrot Pepys.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a detail of the diary's first illustration, on p8. It's thoroughly misleading.

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Site updated: 20 Sep 14