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Bill Thayer

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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Sixty-ninth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 13, 1938.

[image ALT: A head-and‑shoulders photograph of an old man. He wears a shirt and tie and a suit jacket. He has somewhat wavy hair, prominent eyebrows, and a benevolent expression. He is George W. Van Deusen, the subject of this webpage.]

 p113  George W. Van Deusen
No. 2842 Class of 1880
Died March 3, 1938, at Los Angeles, California, aged 79 years.

George William Van Deusen — the only son of William I. Van Deusen, and Sarah T. Ball — was born February 11, 1859, at Van Deusen Villa, Massachusetts. His father was descended from an honorable Dutch family, which emigrated from North Brabant, Netherlands, three hundred years ago.

George Van Deusen graduated from the Great Barrington High School at sixteen. Then taking the competitive examination for West Point, he passed the highest and entered the Academy, September first, 1876. The young George who had boasted at home of direct descent from William the Silent found the first year as a "plebe" developed a greater silence due to homesickness — he was thinking of returning home — but nostalgia conquered. The quietness helped him to become a fine student, and he graduated  p114 one of the highest of the Class of 1880. Assigned to the 4th Cavalry, his first service was on frontier duty at Fort Hays, Kansas. Scouting in Colorado and at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, later brought much adventure; he served in the Apache and Sioux Indian campaigns.

In 1884, he was transferred to the First Artillery. With this branch of the Service, he was destined to become the foremost authority of machine guns, in the entire Service.

After being in the Spanish American War, he was ordered to London, England in 1899 to inspect Mountain Artillery. Proceeding to the Vickers Works, he purchased for our government the first Maxim Nordenfelt guns, equipment and ammunition. With these guns he proceeded to Manila to take part in the Insurrection.

After many campaigns in the Southern Islands, and the mountainous North, the guns proved of the most practical service. On one occasion, a mule, carrying ammunition, fell over a 20 foot embankment, landing on rocks in a stream. The ammunition was found intact. Colonel Van Deusen had more than the allotted amount of Philippine Service, but he proudly claimed to have never been on sick report as an officer.

Garrison life and the routine of peace irked him: he was always happiest when in the field or had the prospect of orders for a move, and he could get away as quick as any gangster.

The World War found him anxious for overseas service, but low blood pressure found him physically disqualified.

After 42 years' service, he retired in 1919. The Second Field Artillery knew him the longest and claimed him as a beloved Commander. He was kind, tolerant, fearless, and noted for his fairness to all. Many a man transferred regiments to serve with him.

His interest in sports, especially baseball, helped to give him a great quality — an understanding of the human element in men.

Colonel Van Deusen died March 3rd, 1938, in Los Angeles, California — just a few days after his seventy-ninth birthday. He is survived by his widow, Florence L. Van Deusen, daughter of Major Curtis E. Munn, and by two daughters, Gladys Bright and Hazel Lee.

Hazel Van Deusen Lee.

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Page updated: 10 Apr 16