If West Point means anything at all to American youth it means a way of life — a life almost monastic in its preparation for the supreme sacrifice and in its stern mental and physical self-discipline. A soldier is removed from the world of material gain; his life is dedicated not to himself or to his personal success but to service. He is prepared to lay down life itself for country. There is something religious in this solemn dedication. Perhaps it is inevitable that the generals who lead our armies typify for us these ideals.
West Point is fighting in total war. A surprising number of graduates are in the forefront, as we shall see; many of these men have been associated with the Academy not only as cadets but as members of the Academic Board, as Commandants, and in three cases as Superintendents. Among these is General Douglas MacArthur.
MacArthur comes from a military family. His father, who was known as the "Boy Colonel of the West," performed brilliant exploits under the eyes of General Grant during the Civil War; later General Arthur MacArthur became Governor General of the Philippines and Chief of Staff.
It is often a popular belief that those young men who are brilliant in school or college are never afterward heard from. Douglas MacArthur disproves this theory. He was graduated from West Point not only at the head of his class but with the best grades attained by any cadet for twenty-five years. Nor was Cadet MacArthur one to rely nonchalantly on his gray p152matter. Before every "writ" (written examination) he crammed, used late lights whenever permitted, and hung a blanket over his window when these were not allowed. He was made first Captain of the Corps.
At the beginning of the first World War, MacArthur was a colonel, stationed in Washington, in charge of relations between the Army and the Press. He was the close friend of Newton D. Baker, the Secretary of War. When the Secretary sought a way to popularize the war, MacArthur was ready with an expedient. He remembered how, at West Point, classes were welded together: men who had come from literally all states of the Union were united by class loyalty. MacArthur now proposed something of the same sort when he suggested organizing a division to be made up of National Guardsmen from every state in the Union. The idea caught fire at once and MacArthur named his division the "Rainbow." How these men acquitted themselves in France is a matter of history.
When the newly made Brigadier General MacArthur, who had become Commander of the entire Rainbow Division, was decorated by General Pershing in France, he listened to a long citation of his heroic deeds which ended with the words "On a field where courage was the rule, his courage was the dominant feature."
When MacArthur returned from France he brought with him thirteen decorations for gallantry under fire and seven citations for extraordinary valor, not counting his many foreign decorations and medals. But, as we know, "he had not yet begun to fight."
MacArthur returned to an America he hardly recognized. Victory itself seemed to mean little to most citizens. He found that West Point itself had suffered from the general aversion of Congress to all things military. During the war it had been nearly suffocated by too many Congressional and War Department p153directives; now it was left alone and neglected. A representative on the floor of the House questioned the need of perpetuating an institution so plainly obsolete, now that war was forever outlawed.
In 1919 MacArthur became Superintendent of U. S. M. A. He was the man for the job and for the hour. He pleaded manfully for the rights of the Academy before Congress; at West Point he was able to recall and to revitalize its noble tradition. He gave as few directives as possible but saw that these few were meticulously carried out.
The Cadet Corps began to take a keen interest in sports. The Superintendent was careful to see that this was something more than the usual college enthusiasm. In the gymnasium a sentence of his was emblazoned on the walls:
Upon the fields of friendly strife
Are sown the seeds that,
Upon other fields on other days,
Will bear the fruits of victory.
As he watched the drills on the plain MacArthur fancied that he saw the old spirit reassert itself. But he wanted more than this, a thoroughly modern West Point. Leading spirits in the faculty saw eye to eye with him. They saw that the old ways must not be forever perpetuated. In his second summer in the house Sylvanus Thayer had built, MacArthur knew that while the road ahead would be difficult the Academy would not be left "a foundling in the mountains" unloved by the country it had served so well.
Because of psychological principles he has himself learned, MacArthur has always been careful to take no public pride in the part he played in U. S. M. A.'s re-creation. It was, of course, not a one-man job. He received increasing assistance. The Academy had been a ship hanging in stays; now on a new tack she was sailing, with bow wave curling as of old.
p154 After more than three years at West Point, General MacArthur left the Hudson for the Philippine Islands. As Commander of the Philippine Division, MacArthur became convinced of the necessity of preparing the islands for defense. For him, as for most American officers who had seen duty in the Philippines, the 'Yellow Peril" was more than a sensational threat. But he was recalled to America and before long we see him appointed Chief of Staff by Hoover, over several seniors of general rank. This was in 1930.
Gripped by the depression, hungry, cold, and in want or, if removed from hunger, a prey to devastating worry, Americans wanted to forget everything military. The army was neglected, all but forgotten. The war of 1918, our victory, our losses — all seemed in vain.
Many thoughtful Americans really believed that we had gone to war at the behest of J. P. Morgan and certain munition makers. In Washington, MacArthur himself was unmercifully slandered. He was called the "Swaggering Chief of Staff," and it was considered a crime that he favored the army's making purchases of ammunition and ordnance. How far below safe strength the army had fallen, few besides army officers knew or cared.
The rest of MacArthur's story is well known: however, serving the Philippine Government, he built up the famous Philippine Scouts; how, for the second time, he became an American four-star general.
We know the story of the defense of Bataan; we know how it ended. But General MacArthur did not know how it would end. He dared to defy an overwhelming force because he believed that American reinforcements would be sent to him. With his thorough knowledge of the Philippine terrain he picked Bataan, first, because it was defensible — as the event so conclusively proved — and, second, because it would have p155made an ideal beach head on which to land American troops.
General Homma — so long defied by almost-starved forces who were penned up on a peninsula •thirty miles long and hardly more than a mile and a half wide, forces which the Japanese outnumbered ten to one — lost so much face that he committed suicide. That is why, though it ended in a withdrawal to the Fortress of Corregidor, the battle of Bataan was in reality a victory which we as Americans shall always remember. We shall not forget Bataan nor MacArthur's words as, ordered to Australia, he left General Jonathan C. Wainwright in command. "I will return," he said.
When he arrived in Australia, though the moment was dark and full of doubt, General MacArthur was able to address members of the Australian House of Parliament. He spoke of the ties which bound the two countries, Australia and America, together; then he said:
"I have come as a soldier in a great crusade of personal liberty as opposed to perpetual slavery. . . . There can be no compromise; we shall win or we shall die, and to this I pledge you the full resources of all the mighty power of my country and all the blood of my countrymen."
Another tall and outstanding general is also in the southwest Pacific: Lieutenant General Robert Lawrence Eichelberger, who was Superintendent of U. S. M. A. when the news of Pearl Harbor came over the radio. During his tour of duty he had proved himself one of the most valuable Superintendents ever to occupy Thayer's house. Foreseeing clearly the way events were heading, he had taken every means in his power to thoroughly modernize West Point. It was Eichelberger who, seeing eye to eye with MacArthur and Arnold, wanted Stewart Field so that West Pointers might graduate with wings. He advocated the most modern type of combat training, visualizing Camp Popolopena in many of its details.
p156 But when war came he wanted to be in an active-combat area. He had his way. Only fifty-six, he arrived in New Guinea just as MacArthur's drive was getting under way — in time to lead an allied offensive over the Kokoda trail into Buna under what MacArthur described as "difficulties rarely if ever surpassed." General Eichelberger, because of his massive frame and commanding rugged features, looks every inch the general, almost a forbidding figure. In reality he is modest and gentle, anything but a stuffed shirt.
Once he was completely overcome by emotion when some of his junior officers gave him a farewell party and when his older brother, George, asked, "Say, Bob, how did they ever give you such a big job as Superintendent of West Point?" General Eichelberger replied, "I guess it was on account of my wife, Emma. Everybody is crazy about her."
General Henry Harley Arnold, class of 1907, has built the greatest air force the world has ever seen, in the shortest possible time, buying "days with dollars" as he himself puts it. He contemplates training at least one hundred thousand pilots annually, estimates that the country needs two and a half million airmen. He himself probably does not set a ceiling number on the planes America can and will build, perhaps one hundred and twenty-five thousand this year. We will go on building planes until we have enough for the job in hand.
"The size of any structure," he says, "depends on its base," and the base of the American air force, he explains, is as big as the United States itself, reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada to Mexico. Thus there is no limit to the amount of air power we can amass, no limit but the sky.
Even if he were not the first airman to become a four-star general, he would still be a famous ace. General Arnold in 1912 won the first MacKay Trophy ever given — for flying a Wright biplane around a course •thirty miles long, attaining p157the breath-taking speed of forty-three miles an hour! That same year he established an altitude record: •sixty-five hundred and forty feet, which must have looked a long way from ground in the type of plane Hap Arnold was then flying. He won the MacKay Trophy again in 1934 when he led a flight of ten Martin bombers from Washington, D. C., to Alaska. This proved the stubborn contention of a friend of his, General Billy Mitchell, that Alaska was within bombing range. Arnold carried the first air mail, but not very far, from Nassau Boulevard to Hempstead, Long Island, •five miles at least; that was way back in 1912.
The General, who gets up now, as he did at West Point, at five-thirty in the morning, spends his days in the endless inspection of airplane plants and in working with personnel problems. Simple, with a pleasant smile which somehow looks like a fighting grin, he is tremendously popular. Men want to please him. Americans everywhere are coming to appreciate his historical achievement, for in something like three years General Arnold has made the United States the greatest flying power in the world.
The general who will command what will probably be the largest military force ever assembled on this war-scarred planet was graduated from West Point in 1915, General Dwight David Eisenhower. If there is such a thing as a typical American, perhaps General Eisenhower is just that. His forebears came to this country from Switzerland before the American Revolution. His grandfather left his farm in Pennsylvania and followed a wagon road west to Kansas. But it is perhaps his upbringing which would qualify Eisenhower for "average American." His home was a small farmhouse where the land around Abilene, Kansas, begins to turn into country. Because his mother had six sons she wisely made them help her in the p158kitchen. When she went to church on Sunday the boys got dinner.
All six sons have been unusually successful. Mrs. Eisenhower explains this very simply. "They were always kept busy," she says. "If not at home, then helping some farmer — or running an ice wagon." When he was graduated from U. S. M. A. and commissioned Second Lieutenant, Dwight Eisenhower was twenty-five years old. Being a year or so older than his classmates does not seem to have spoiled his career; now, in the Philippines, he felt the need of flying his own plane, he became a licensed pilot at the age of forty-seven.
General Eisenhower has in one sense of the word gone to school all his life. In 1940 Eisenhower was still only a colonel; but he had steadfastly remained with the army, turning down offers of lucrative civilian jobs — and he had been learning things always. He was graduated from Infantry Tank School, from the Command and General Staff School, and from the Army Industrial College. This last institution he had himself helped to build. Then, at the Fort Leavenworth Command and General Staff School, Eisenhower finished first. The significance of this is that the honor of being high man at Leavenworth was so highly prized by officers that several broke their health trying for it — so many, in fact, that the honor has since been abolished!
Colonel Eisenhower was fortunate, too, in his superiors. During the trying years when General MacArthur was chief of staff, Eisenhower was one of his most able and trusted aides. Afterward Eisenhower went to the Philippines when MacArthur returned there, and helped that officer in developing the Philippine Scouts; he gave generously of his time in building up the Philippine Military Academy, which was patterned on West Point traditions. In 1940 he was in California, a lieutenant colonel of infantry; but before the year was out he p159had been made Chief of Staff of the Third Division, and he successively occupied this post in the Ninth Army Corps and the Third Army. In 1942 he was called to Washington to become Chief of the War Plans Division of the General Staff. The rest we know: Africa, Italy, and now England, with the largest military responsibility in the world. Perhaps we shall all be grateful that his mother taught "Ike" Eisenhower how to work.
In the invasion theater General Eisenhower is assisted by Major General John Clifford Hodges Lee, class of 1909, who is his deputy chief of staff. Lieutenant General Omar Nelson Bradley, class of 1915 — sometimes because of his popularity with the troops called the "doughboy's general" is Commander of Ground Troops, under Eisenhower. General Bradley was former Assistant Commandant of Cadets at U. S. M. A. and Commandant of Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Commanding strategic air forces in this most vital area is the well-beloved Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, class of 1914.
General Spaatz has been a flyer almost through his military life. He was, in 1916, one of the first of twenty-five army men to earn wings. In France during the first World War he not only won the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in aerial action but set up at Issoudun an instruction center for Americans which grew to be what was then the world's largest aviation school. He has been commander at Kelly Field, Texas, and commanding officer of the First Pursuit Group at Ellington Field, Texas. In 1929 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight." This was the achievement of keeping his plane, the Question Mark, in the air for one hundred and fifty hours, forty minutes, and fifteen seconds; he had exceeded all previous records for continuous flight.
In 1940 Spaatz was in England as special military observer. p160He saw England bombed and saw her defeat the Luftwaffe. The next year he was chosen to be chief of the air staff, serving directly under General Arnold. Nineteen hundred and forty-two found him in England again, preparing the groundwork for the American bombing of Germany; he was designated Commander in Chief of the American Air Forces in the European theater. General Spaatz's name is of Pennsylvania Dutch origin. Perhaps its proper pronunciation, on which he insists, provoked some comment in England because in 1940, while visiting an airdrome near London, he registered as "Brigadier General Carl Spaatz — Spy."
Lieutenant General Mark Wayne Clark, who was General Eisenhower's deputy commander in chief and commander of the ground forces in the Mediterranean, is a familiar figure to all Americans. He graduated from U. S. M. A. in the same class, 1915, with his superior. They are, General Clark says, like brothers. But although Clark had a brilliant military record few citizens had ever heard of him before his almost fictional descent upon North Africa. This took place three weeks before our invasion, when General Clark, creeping ashore, arranged a secret conference with high-ranking French officers. While these highly secret talks were under way the house was surrounded by Nazis, in true movie style, and General Clark got away — but without his pants, which at that time happened to be worth several thousand dollars because they were heavy with actual American gold. This serious loss occurred when General Clark had escaped the dangers of the shore and was in a rubber boat which was to have taken him on board an American submarine. His misfortune happened when the boat tipped over.
Clark had the satisfaction of helping to create an Allied victory in North Africa, but he is a man who all his life has been in hot spots. While no one testified during the winter p161of 1943‑44 that Italy was hot, but rather bitterly cold and muddy, it was, nevertheless, the bitterest kind of campaigning. But General Clark, at the head of the American Fifth Army, held on — clinging desperately to hard-won ground when he could not advance; going ahead whenever he could, if it was only a mile at a time. The American Army in Italy was a new army made of speedily trained troops, few of whom had seen previous fighting. The Germans all along the line offered stubborn and vicious resistance. As a result Italy has been a scene of bitter battles; young General Clark has needed all his courage.
Victories have never come easily to Mark Wayne Clark. The son of an army officer, he was appointed to West Point by the President. He was worried about his entrance examinations, but he passed them. His family was in China at the time and young Clark wired: "Passed." Next day, however, there was another cable, also one word but not such a good one: "Mistake." There had been fifteen vacancies for Presidential candidates and sixteen contestants in the competitive examinations. Clark was the sixteenth! But the young man rallied his reserves; relatives and friends helped him to get an appointment from New York State, and he entered West Point.
Lieutenant General George S. Patton, class of 1909, will be gratefully remembered for his excellent work at Casablanca and in Sicily, when he commanded the Seventh Army.
The Deputy Commander in the Mediterranean theater is Lieutenant General Jacob Loucks Devers, class of 1909. Full of a purely American type of go‑getterism, General Devers came face to face with all the problems of this war rolled into one, and typified, when he arrived at Fort Bragg. He found a four‑million-dollar building program tied up in knots. He found the new selectees disgruntled with an army life in which they never had a hot bath. He found troops arriving with p162pianos and pets and polo ponies, but no guns. This was in 1940, when we as a nation were still wondering what war was all about.
Within six months, at Fort Bragg, Devers had seen twenty-five hundred buildings finished, as well as ninety-five miles of paved roads; fifty-three thousand troops and thirty-five thousand workmen were housed. Devers had solved the hot-bath problem the first Saturday night after he arrived. He had ordered locomotive engines hooked to the water system! The problem of equipment shortage he solved with his famous "buddy system," under which trained and equipped outfits were paired with untrained incompletely equipped ones; thus everybody went to work and at once. The qualities which this general displayed at Fort Bragg are those which we need overseas, where he is now Deputy Commander in the Mediterranean area.
General Devers does not believe that this is a war of mere machines. "I believe," he says, "that the personal equation is even more important in modern war than ever before. . . . The machine is merely the instrument of destruction; the soldier furnishes the will, the brains, the courage."
In the Iran area another West Pointer commands: Major General Donald Hilary Connolly, class of 1910. Deputy chief of staff to Lord Louis Mountbatten, in India, is Major General Albert Coady Wedmayer, class of 1918.
Perhaps the American who knows most about the chain of events which began with the "China Incident" is our commander in the China-Burma area: Lieutenant General Joseph Warren Stilwell, class of 1904, who is "Uncle Joe" to his troops and "General Sze" to the Chinese. General Stilwell is the first foreign chief of staff ever named by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. A linguist by ear and inclination, he speaks perfect Spanish (which he taught at West Point), French, and not p163only national Chinese but eleven Chinese dialects. No native Chinese general is better understood by his troops than is this American.
In the first World War, Stilwell headed the victorious American Army which marched into Coblenz, Germany. At one point the Germans had obstructed the American route with automobiles. Stilwell did not destroy them; he merely sent troops to knock off the fenders with baseball bats. The Germans moved all the cars themselves.
During his long years in China as a military attaché, General Stilwell was never content with a desk job; he traveled the length and breadth of China, and he traveled alone. His respect for the Chinese increased as his suspicions of the Japanese grew ever stronger. It was after he had been appointed Chiang Kai-shek's chief of staff — thus becoming commander of the Chinese forces in Burma while he was concurrently commander of American forces in the China-Burma area — that American defeat occurred. In bitter disappointment, with unassuming bravery, General Stilwell personally led his small band of Americans, Chinese, British, and Burmese over the wild trails into India. It was General Stilwell who waited by the banks of swift-running rivers to see that all the party forded in safety; it was the General who took less than his share of the scant rations, living for days on cheese and crackers, and it was Stilwell with one or two officers who covered wild elephants with tommy guns while the rest of the party passed by the dangerous beasts.
But retreat, even the cleverest retreat, is deeply distasteful to this American. "The happiest day of our lives," he told newsmen, "will be when Chinese and American troops together enter Tokyo."
Commanding in the Solomons is Lieutenant General Millard Fillmore Harmon, class of 1912; and in that area, commanding the Army Corps, we have Major General Oscar Woolverton Griswold, class of 1910.
Lieutenant General Robert Charlwood Richardson, Jr., class of 1904, former Commandant of Cadets, is commander of the Hawaiian Department and Military Governor. General Richardson is an author, a former instructor of English and modern languages at U. S. M. A., and was at the start of this war public-relations officer at Washington. Perhaps this general owes his urbanity in part to his birth in Charleston, South Carolina; however, he is not a summer soldier but rather a cavalryman who was wounded in the Philippines fighting the rebellious Moros. Partly because of his good French he was chosen liaison officer for G. H. Q. in France during the Meuse-Argonne offensives. In a greater war he is, at present, bearing a greater part.
A West Pointer, class of 1908, in sharp contrast to General Richardson is a giant leather-lunged soldier who is "as hard-bitten a man as ever wore a uniform": Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commanding in the Alaska area.
General Buckner was born, in Kentucky, when his father, Simon Bolivar Buckner, a Confederate general, was sixty-three. He was attending Virginia Military Institute when the future General Marshall was a football star there, but in 1904 he was appointed to West Point by Theodore Roosevelt. He returned to U. S. M. A. to become instructor in infantry tactics, and later as Commandant. In that post he was formidable. On a long march under full packs, and in the intense heat of the Hudson Valley summer, three cadets collapsed from fatigue. In each case Buckner inspected the man for traces of faking; finding none, he put the cadet's pack on his own back and finished p165the march carrying them. As soon as the destination was reached he started back over the trail to see if the fallen cadets were able to navigate.
In the spring of 1940 General Buckner was sent to Alaska. He well knew that it is one thousand miles nearer Japan than Honolulu. Having served in the Philippines, he understood Japanese aggression. Hampered by the indifference of the country to even its own self-defense, his job was to fortify a longer coastline than that of the United States proper — to defend a territory one-fifth as large whose total population was less than that of a large American city. General Buckner never was given enough money and supplies or enough men; but when he could not get cement he quarried rock, and when cut lumber was nonexistent he felled trees. Now each mile of that mighty coast is patrolled; Alaska is prickly with fortifications.
General Buckner has long been a hot believer in mechanized warfare. He does things the modern way. Himself an aviator, he flies all over Alaska. He and Mrs. Buckner, who is the mother of a third Simon Bolivar and two other children, love Alaska. After the war they intend to build a home on a site they have chosen near Anchorage — a hill with a breath-taking view of Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak.
One of the General's tenets is that a man will never catch cold if he lets his wet clothes dry on him. Certainly it works with General Buckner, who seldom wears an overcoat even in Alaska. He expects his men to be tough, and yet he had arranged perhaps the most luxurious and democratic vacation opportunity provided for American soldiers anywhere. He took over the Mt. McKinley Park Hotel, where mere privates have luxurious rooms all to themselves, an orchestra for dinner, skiing and skating instruction — and a general good time, during which if they want to doff wet clothes and take a steaming bath in a gleaming tub there is nothing to hinder them.
p166 It is told that near the General's headquarters there is stretched, on a drying frame, the hide of an enormous Kodiak bear. Mysteriously there is no bullethole in this great bearskin. Visitors marvel until a sourdough explains how it was killed.
"The General," he recounts, "just r'ared back and bellered at it, and the dang thing died of fright!"1
In reality much the same thing happened when Japanese ships sailed into Dutch Harbor to find themselves attacked from behind by shore batteries and planes. Before Pearl Harbor those batteries had been placed in that spot. It was the General "bellering" and the enemy evacuated Dutch Harbor.
Deputy chief of staff to General Marshall on the home front is Lieutenant General John Taggart McNarney, class of 1915, of whom a correspondent had read in a newsmagazine that he was "dour, taciturn, ruthless." Feeling that this must be an exaggerated description, he determined to check it. He consulted several high-ranking officers. They all answered with pride, "That's right; he is."
They explained that while General McNarney was distressingly logical he was also absolutely fair. A man with less conscience could not have accomplished a task greater than any business executive ever dreamed of: the re-creation of the American Army, from the top.
McNarney was an important member of the Roberts Commission, which investigated Pearl Harbor. Then it became his difficult task to reorganize the general staff. He considered that it had become swollen with eight hundred officers attached to it. McNarney and the officers who worked with him reduced the setup to basic essentials: ground forces, air forces, and the service of supply. These plans eliminated about five hundred officers.
McNarney can make the sort of face for which good poker p167players are famous. He walked into the War Department council room, where sat all the men whom his new plans could not be expected to please. McNarney will never know whether or not they intended to accept them as written, because as he took his place he said, "Gentlemen, this is not a voting committee. It is not a debating society. It is a committee to put directives into effect. We will now proceed to do so."
In three weeks the reorganization was almost complete.
McNarney, a former instructor in the Army War College, believes in doing the job of the moment as if it were the last job on earth, and also that if a man has given himself to his country his last ounce of energy and the finest effort of his brain are not too much to offer.
Commanding ground forces, also directly under General Marshall, is Lieutenant General Leslie James McNair, class of 1904. General Marshall has said of him, "He is the brains of the army." His task has been so vast that it is almost impossible to understand its scope. When Japan struck at Pearl Harbor we had not more than fourteen thousand Regular Army officers; now McNair has trained some two hundred thousand officers. He believes that if there is low morale among troops it can in most cases be traced to lack of confidence in their officers; he almost admits that at the start there were many who deserved the low opinion in which the men held them.
Now all that has changed. As we contemporary the work these generals have done and the way the American soldier — who as a boy was brought up to believe that he would never see another war — has responded to their inspired leadership, we can only marvel that so much has been done in so little time. We Americans may feel as General Marshall felt after he had selected McNair for the training job: "Now that I have put this in your hands, I can forget all about it."
When General McNarney reorganized the army he divided p168it into three main divisions, as we have seen. General McNair commands the ground forces; General Arnold, the air forces; General Somervell, the service of supply.
Lieutenant General Brehon Burke Somervell, class of 1914, is a fine-looking soldier. He is strong and tall and straight. He needs all his stamina, for in the near-war which he is constantly waging with W. P. B. — with the seeming indifference of the country to the army's needs and his war against bottlenecks — he finds himself a lion in pursuit; he well knows that if he relaxed a moment he would find himself a stag at bay.
He is used to difficult assignments and to hot spots. At U. S. M. A. he was graduated sixth in a class of one hundred and six and commissioned into the Engineer Corps; he saw active duty in France in 1917‑18, and assisted in a survey of Turkey for Kemal Ataturk. Infinitely more difficult, he ran the Public Works problem in New York City when many strong men, including General Hugh Johnson, had given up in despair.
He himself describes the scope of S. O. S., which he says is set up to do everything that has to be done in a war except the actual fighting. It receives raw recruits (service commands); feeds, houses, and clothes the army (Quartermaster's Department); builds camps and roads and bridges (construction engineers); pays off the points (finance division); acts as provost marshal and judge advocate; runs the Ordnance Department, which supplies all weapons and ammunition and services the weapons; runs communications (Signal Corps); is in charge of all transportation; cares for the wounded, and for the souls of the soldiers through its Corps of Chaplains. At present S. O. S. employs more than a million civilians; when our army of eight million two hundred thousand is complete, General Somervell estimates that one in four will belong to the service of supply.
p169 On these three generals rests more responsibility than most civilians can even dream about.
In war as in peace, one of the important positions of command — one to which many aspire — is that of Superintendent of U. S. M. A. West Point is at present fortunate in its Superintendent. Major General Francis B. Wilby, class of 1905, is a descendant of the great navigator Nathaniel Bowditch. He commanded the fighting First Engineers in France, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Croix de Guerre with palm. General Wilby, who is considered one of the country's ablest engineer officers, mapped the plans for the fortification of Corregidor and Bataan. General Wilby's name will be historic, for at no time in its long and eventful life West Point has been more ably led. At no time have cadets been trained in so short a time in so many of the arts of war, nor have these ever before been so difficult and complicated to master. What would the ghost of a Continental soldier think of West Point's silver planes, of the artillery ranges in Camp Popolopen?
We have here mentioned only a proportion of West Pointers now in high places — men like the West Pointer General Jonathan Wainwright, class of 1906, who remained to defend Corregidor after MacArthur was ordered to leave. These men wait behind the tangled and rusty barbed wire of enemy prison camps. These are the heroes. We hope that as each slow hour of the day and night passes they feel the love and admiration of their countrymen, for whom they have given something less easy to bear than death in battle.
1 Don Eddy in This Week.
a In 1945, just a year after this chapter was written, Camp Popolopen, the site of much of the Academy's summer training in warfare, was renamed Camp Buckner; the appropriateness of the new name, by which the camp is still known, can be judged from the anecdote about General Buckner told elsewhere in this chapter.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
History of West Point
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 18 Jan 17