Appendix 11: The West Point Years, Fall of 1964 to June 30, 1965


Prelude: Fall 1964 to June 30, 1965

I do not believe that I considered applying to the United States Military Academy (See Appendix 1) until the fall of 1964. Of course, the military campaign in Viet Nam was in its infancy, and I was conservative in my viewpoint at that time. I viewed myself as patriotic and intrigued by the prospect of going to a military academy. As I wore glasses and could not swim, the Army’s military academy seemed most appropriate for me. While there were other reasons to apply, I did get the book explaining about West Point and began the application process. In the meantime, I did apply to the University of Iowa in Iowa City and was accepted for the fall term beginning in 1965.

I applied for admittance to the United States Military Academy through the office of one of Iowa’s US Senators, the Honorable Burke B. Hickenlooper. Congressmen were allowed to nominate a person for admission to the academy, assuming that the candidate passed the academic and physical requirements. I was placed in the competitive category by Senator Hickenlooper. That meant that I had to compete with other applicants who had applied through his office. I never knew how many others against which I was competing and never knew any of their names.

My application included two letters of recommendation: one from Kendra’s father, Dr. Maynard Jones and one from WWII Medal of Honor winner Herschel (Pete) F. Briles. Of course I was dating Maynard’s daughter at the time of the application. Pete was a farmer in the Colfax, Iowa area, part owner of the sale barn in Colfax, and the father of my high school classmate, James Briles. Pete was a larger than life personality with a loud booming voice. He was proud of his Medal of Honor status and was pleased to write a letter of recommendation for me.

I did complete a physical examination as well as completing both the SATs and the ACTs. I then had to travel to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas to complete a number of physical fitness tests as well as to meet with a representative of the military academy. My mother accompanied me on this trip. I remember very little about this experience, except having to jump straight up as high as I could reach.

I did not know the results of the application process until my acceptance was announce over the public address system at Colfax High School by Principal Robert Dimit. My mother had opened a letter addressed to me that morning and then called the school with the news.

So I had been accepted to two institutions and needed to make up my mind which place I would be attending after graduation from high school. The acceptance letter from West Point was accompanied by a letter of declination that I affixed to my bedroom mirror. I did have a short period of time to decline the appointment, but the letter was removed from the mirror by my mother without my permission. It was a not so subtle hint to accept the appointment. I do not recall any announcement or communication from Senator Hickenlooper.

With reporting date of July 1, 1965, I began a daily running program of about 3-4 miles running up a long hill, going past the Colfax Country Club and out into farm country, and coming back east on old Highway 6 (now F48) to my house. I could not foresee what awaited me in about 6 weeks.

My friend, Bob Van Elsen, was nice enough to arrange a going away party for me at his house. There were probably 15 or so friends from school who attended. Kendra was most upset because she was not able to attend because of an experience at the University of Iowa. As I gift at the party, I was given an American Tourister hardsided briefcase. Unfortunately, I could not use it at all at West Point, but I kept it for many years, ultimately using it when I became a medical officer in the Army.

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