It all started on 29 June 1966. We came for a variety of reasons. Some were living out their legacy; some just wanted an education; some wanted adventure; some liked the uniforms; some wanted to fly; some wanted to serve their country; others wanted to avoid the draft. For whatever reason, 1337 (joined by two others who had been prior midshipmen) raised our right hands in Tecumseh Court and swore the oath of a U.S. Navy Midshipman. During the course of our four years on the Severn, eight others were “turned back” into our class and eight of our number were “turned back” into the class of 1971. Geoff Francis and Bob Yager both passed away while we were Mids.
Most came directly from high school and some from fancy prep schools, although a wide sprinkling of new Plebes had prior college experience or service in the fleet as White Hats or Marines. Most of the latter 93 (of whom 72% were sailors, and 28% were Marines) served a year in purgatory at the vaunted Naval Academy Prep School, at that time located in Bainbridge, Maryland. We still wonder if the “urban legend” is true about the Mom who dropped her son off at the Library Assembly Area to register and then trotted around to the Main Office to inquire as to where she would sleep.
Records show that the summer of 1966 was the second hottest in the Annapolis area in the last 50 years. Perhaps that explains our tremendous dropout rate. One company experienced attrition approaching 50%. But we did have points of pleasure. Who could forget the awful, 1950s Western shown to us one night? While the movie itself was forgettable, the phrase “Let’s ride!” was repeated throughout the flick, almost as a catchphrase. So, for that Plebe Summer at least, “Let’s ride!” became like a motto (funny how it never came to be included in Reef Points!). Then there were half a dozen heavy-duty lectures, unerringly occurring on evenings after a heavy evening meal, at which some 90% of us were lulled into dreamland. However, we were so polite our erstwhile guest lecturer never suspected the somnolent effect he had had on us, especially when he regaled in the standing ovation he received afterward, never suspecting that our belated over-ebullience was in part an appreciative response for our being able to catch up on our ZZZs. And who can forget the tormenting song “Teach Me, Tiger” coming from the Second Class Squad Leaders’ rooms?
Meanwhile back in the real world, also on June 29 the U.S. began bombing Hanoi and Haiphong in the Vietnam War and the following day future world boxing champ Mike Tyson was born. On July 18 Gemini 10 was launched; on July 28 the U.S. announced that a U2 spy plane was lost over Cuba; on August 1 a sniper killed 13 students from the bell tower at the center of the University of Texas; and on August 13 the Cultural Revolution was launched in Communist China. Despite our best hopes, the world was going on without us.
It was during Plebe Summer that our class developed its special relationship with the most outstanding leaders of the class of 1968 who constituted our summer Squad Leaders. While obviously some were more than forgettable, most were the kind of leaders we would seek to emulate. Perhaps this happens with every class, and perhaps this is why even numbered classes are more “alike” with other even numbered classes, and odd with odd. In any event, many times those summer Squad Leaders would be the first to “spoon” us Plebes upon the Brigade’s return; and in some, we found lifelong friends and mentors. One individual from the aforementioned class of ’68 is unforgettable, especially for those forlorn classmates in the 5th Battalion. This is one Jim Webb. Mr. Webb, all too often, would volunteer to run the Plebes’ extra duty in our batt. Most likely, you would end up with more demerits at the end of his high-volume inspections than you were running off that day. Added to that was the fact that while we were in gym gear (or sweat suits over gym gear) and our erstwhile ED leader was in full combat regalia, he still ran us all into the ground. It was most, most memorable! Mr. Webb, as we are all very aware, went on to become a highly-decorated Marine Corps officer in Vietnam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Secretary of the Navy, and now the senior U.S. Senator from Virginia.
We learned how to stand watches in Bancroft Hall. Always the “Mate” at this point in our military evolution, we learned punctuality, responsibility, and judgment – when to follow the letter of the rules and when to allow things to slide a bit. We got used to the routine, the gut-grinding routine: constant accountability – not only always where you were supposed to be, but always on time, in the right uniform, and squared away. You got used to weekly haircuts, weekly laundry bags, and later on in the year, weekly trips to the Academy dry cleaners. Tony Watson was elected our first class president in August 1966 and re-elected a year later. He was replaced by Pat McGahan our last two years. Thanks to you both for stepping up to the plate.
Parents Weekend came way too late and the Brigade seemingly arrived way too early. Attrition continued apace. Challenges like Plebe chemistry (for many of us) proceeded to outstrip our comprehension and in many companies, if you were “Sat” after the first 8-week grading period, then you were “bagging it” as a Plebe and you were in trouble. Some of us skated by that challenge as it was obvious that it was not in our quiver to have an un-Sat CUM; but for others, it was certain and expected. Football season took some pressure off, but frankly, guys, the Big Blue had only one winning season in our four years by the Bay and only once did we beat Army (Youngster year). But pep rallies prior to each game broke up our routine and gave us a channel for our abundant energies and tremendous class spirit. In fact, the huge Farragut Field bonfire before the Army game Plebe Year enabled some of us to meet ABC sportscaster Jim McKay.
Our world was more controlled by “come-arounds” than by academics. Our Firsties, the erstwhile class of ’67, were determined that our class – by God! – was going to have a “Real Plebe Year.” Accordingly, most of us were in the best shape of our young lives. Who among your civilian friends believed that you could change your complete uniform (complete with “soap” and shower), all in five minutes? How did you explain to them that “carrier landings” could not only be done in a dormitory but were really kind of fun? Or “water skiing?” Memories were sharpened, not so much by the ubiquitous “chow calls” but by the imperative knowledge of our “Plebe rates” which could be required of us to be spit out at any time. Such memorization of trivia, we learned in retrospect, was valuable in remembering the operational parameters of our ship while we were operating under great stress. After all, isn’t the purpose of having a “real” Plebe Year to weed out those who cannot handle stress? Are they able to do that today in Bancroft Hall?
For most of us, the first time we ever got away from Annapolis was the Notre Dame football game in Philadelphia in mid-October. Some met their “grease girl” there for a few hours of bliss, while other, less-enlightened classmates over-indulged in the long denied “fruit of the vine.” Of course, we didn’t win the game, but we won the party anyway – you can be sure of that.
Fall intramurals kept many of us busy. There was company volleyball and soccer; moreover, there was battalion football, basketball, boxing, crew, cross country, fencing, handball, squash, swimming, tennis, and wrestling (whew!). Few Plebes had as much pleasure as those of us who could tackle their company’s upperclassmen while playing linebacker on our batt football team! Being a member of a singing group – either the Glee Club, with its heavy travel schedule, or one of the three church choirs – kept many of us busy and entertained (not to mention the fun-filled exchange visits with the corresponding choirs of certain girls’ schools). Masqueraders and other such activities also provided alternatives to a constant menu of sports.
Meanwhile, the world was continuing apace: On October 6 Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Black Panther Party; on October 16 Grace Slick performed live for the first time with Jefferson Airplane; on October 21 Congress approved the AFL-NFL merger; and on October 21 NATO moved its HQ from Paris to Brussels.
Thanksgiving came and went in a flash. For classmates with families within a few hours’ driving time, this was an opportunity to take roommates and favored company-mates to the abode for a home-cooked meal. Most mothers “tsk tsked” at how much weight we’d lost, how polite we all were (what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her), and how much chow we could pack away. The bravest and “ratiest” among us took doggie bags back to Mother B.
The world still didn’t stop without our involvement: On November 8 Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California; on November 15 Gemini 12 (James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin) splashed down safely; and on November 24 the Beatles began recording sessions for their landmark Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
Army handed us a 20-7 loss, dashing our dreams of carry-on and dictating a 4-6 record for the football season. But once again we enjoyed a rare liberty in the City of Brotherly Love. And when we returned to Mother B, although we didn’t get “carry-on-until-Christmas” for beating Army, we did get something. Apparently some Congressman, worried that Plebe “hazing” was preventing us from excelling in the classroom, conducted an experiment to prove his case. During the experiment, we were not required to “chop” in Mother B, and the upperclassmen were not allowed to make us “drop for 70” (so they had us drop for 10… seven times). After this experiment ended, our academic achievement was analyzed and…true to an emerging class tradition of not exactly doing what was expected of us… our grades had dropped.
Despite the omnipresent burdens of Plebe rates and continuing academic struggles, planning for Christmas Leave took center stage, but little thought was given to the inescapable reality that three weeks after our return, finals would be upon us! Meanwhile, given the change from First Set Stripers to the Second Set, all of us had the pleasure of breaking in new Squad Leaders. Geesh, will all this work never end? I guess someone had to do it; if we couldn’t whip those new leaders into shape, who could? Cold weather arrived, and window closing duty was sprung upon us. Didn’t you just love it when some jerks, who knew you would be helping them out in the dead of night to ensure they didn’t freeze to death, would still set booby traps for you? (But didn’t you also love it when the same guys came back from weekend liberty to find their rooms strung like spider webs or filled to the brim with empty milk cartons?).
Christmas Leave was a much appreciated and deserved treat. Time with our families was important, but time with our old high school buddies made us more proud than ever that we had gone to the Academy and that we had so far made it through almost half of Plebe Year. Talking with our “civilian” contemporaries crystallized our thinking of why we were there (although some of our classmates made the decision during this hiatus that Navy was not the place for them) and reassured us that what we were doing was important and was really what we wanted to do. In contrast, many high school chums were seemingly adrift, and our being well grounded as future officers gave us reassurance and comfort. Upon our return to the Hall, we signed a new form for the first time: the one that swore we had not gotten married. How many of us asked ourselves the question, “Where else in the world do they require you to sign such a document?”.
Elsewhere, on January 4 The Doors’ self-titled debut album was released; on January 6 USMC and ARVN troops launched Operation Deckhouse Five in the Mekong River Delta; on January 15 the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35–10 in Super Bowl I; on January 27 Apollo 1 U.S. astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were killed when fire broke out in their spacecraft during a launch pad test; and on February 10 the 25th Amendment to the Constitution (presidential succession and disability) was ratified.
The Class of ’70 entered its first “Dark Ages” and Plebe rooms were overflowing with murmurs of prayers to help us pass our first finals and to hasten the advent of Spring. We engaged for the first time in the ritual of paying homage to Tecumseh, the “god of 2.0” by reverently tossing pennies to his statue on the way to our final exams. Winter sports seasons were in full swing, and in Brigade Boxing classmates Roy Golez (127 lbs) and Corky Peck (155 lbs) both won Brigade championships. The rest of you were just lucky that your Firstie didn’t win the heavyweight Brigade championship as mine did! Company sports like basketball, fieldball, and both light and heavyweight football occupied much of our time and provided a way to gain respect from the upper class in our company. Battalion handball and squash rounded out winter intramurals.
In late February the class of ’67’s Hundredth Night occurred, at which time we changed places with our Firsties for a day. Some brilliant classmates somehow rewired Bancroft Hall’s reveille bells to begin ringing incessantly at 0400, just as many of us were in our Firsties’ rooms setting booby-traps and making mischief. It was fun having the person who had been tormenting us for the past few months come around to us! However, we were ever-mindful of the fact that once the day was over, the shoe would be back on the other foot.
As a lonely Plebe, somewhat depressed and missing home, classmate Terry Bidnick once took a walk, alone, on a rather dreary Saturday night. In those days, there was a limit as to how far Plebes could wander. But Terry, being the adventurous sort, went up West Street as far as he could go. As he started to turn around and come back to Mother Bancroft, he saw a black and dirty-gold mongrel dog that looked as forlorn as Terry felt. He called the dog over and petted him for a while. The dog seemed to really appreciate the attention, and as Terry said “Goodbye” to the mutt and headed back to the academy, the dog followed him. Terry was concerned about the dog straying too far from home, if it indeed had a home; but try as he might, the dog wouldn’t listen to reason and kept following him…all the way back to the Academy. The dog followed Terry right up to the door of Bancroft Hall, and had a sad look on its face when he closed the door behind him. Dodo (how he got that name has been lost to history) became a member of the Class of 1970 and was ubiquitous throughout the Yard. Whether it be in our rooms, class, the latest lecture, or a hot new movie in town, Dodo was there with the inherent nonchalance of a Mid. During football games he would be on the sidelines sporting a “Bite Army” blanket.
After graduation, we lost track of Dodo. Shipmate reported that he passed away in March, 1971, perhaps from a broken heart, realizing that his classmates (as he clearly was a member of the Class of ’70) had all joined the Fleet and wouldn’t be coming back. Shipmate went on to say, “It was quite evident that he was meant to lead the life of a Midshipman.” (Like some of us?) It’s a safe bet that he is now watching ESPN and rooting for Navy from doggie heaven.
We studied our signal flags and our Morse Code for the mandatory signals exam. Any intentions we had to blow this evolution off was mitigated by the word that June Week watches would be assigned depending on our scores on this test as compared to our classmates.
We attended a half-dozen Sunday “tea fights” in Dahlgren Hall at which time each one of us hapless denizens of the Plebe ranks was (blindly) fixed up for the afternoon with a female companion for an afternoon of dancing, conversation, and punch. Most were memorable affairs; some were even pleasurable; others were… well, best forgotten. It was at a tea fight that most of us saw a mini-skirt for the first time in person. Some of us won pool bets as to who would be matched with the least attractive partner.
Spring sports ensued and once again (for the eighth straight year), Navy won the national lacrosse championship, while all other Spring varsity sports teams had a winning record. Weekly P-rades commenced and boy were we glad if we could legitimately avoid those evolutions due to membership on a Plebe interscholastic sports team or were involved with Big Blue’s spring practice. Some of us took up where we left off Plebe summer and checked out a knockabout on weekends. It was just a shame that we still couldn’t take a member of the female persuasion out with us. During come arounds we’d hear songs on upper class radios that were intriguing but unknown, as we couldn’t even ask about them (since we didn’t have the privilege of even listening to a radio). “Cherish” by the Association is one such song that comes to mind. Spring intramurals intensified competition within the Brigade. In addition to both slow- and fast-pitch softball there was company knockabout racing (who knew?). Additionally, those of us not involved in varsity sports played battalion gymnastics, lacrosse, rugby (did you know that over 20% of current Mids playing interscholastic rugby become physically unqualified to be commissioned?), squash, tennis, track, volleyball, water polo, and weightlifting.
Spring Break came and went, and those of us who were lucky enough to have a young lady with whom to spend this time clearly didn’t want to return to Mother B. Spring was also the time we realized we had to bear down on academics so as to obviate a visit to the Academic Board. Some of us non-technical types realized that as long as we avoided any “F”s we would be spared that travail, but the Academy insisted we major in engineering. What an antiquated concept! However, warmer weather made it harder and harder to concentrate on such a mundane thing as studying – after all, Annapolis is indeed the most beautiful town in the country in the Spring. But some of us couldn’t even take advantage of the red beach as Plebes unless we were sure the upper class in our companies would turn a blind eye to Plebes sunbathing. In other companies, Firsties would hang out in their doorways after class and stop one of us from a different company, calling out to his “wife,” “Hey, roomie come here, I got one!”
In the real world, on March 29 the first French nuclear submarine, Le Redoubtable, was launched; on April 9 the first Boeing 737 took its maiden flight; on April 15 large demonstrations were held against the Vietnam War in New York City and San Francisco; on April 24 Vladimir Komarov became the first Soviet cosmonaut to die, when the parachute of his space capsule Soyuz 1 failed during re-entry; on May 1 Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu were married in Las Vegas; on May 19 the Soviet Union ratified a treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom, banning nuclear weapons from outer space; and on May 19 Yuri Andropov became KGB chief.
Our final exams would be traumatic for many of us (you guys with stars will never know such terror), but most of us got through them okay. Dead Week followed and most of us just used it to catch up on much-needed sleep. Next was June Week, which kicked off for us with the Herndon Monument climb. The Alumni Association keeps track of each class’ time, and they say we took 1 hour and 21 minutes (beating ’69 by nine full minutes), but in any event, it was done despite a few broken bones and more than a few black eyes. Jim Zaborowski is the classmate who replaced the dixie cup on top of the monument with a combination cover. By tradition, he was supposed to become our first Admiral; while that did not occur, he reportedly was the very first one to make O-3! June Week itself was, other than our obligatory watch standing (depending on your signal exam score), a blast. We could legally ride in a car, and we could legally consort with a real life gal within the seven-mile limit!
Immediately after June Week, we took off for Youngster Cruise. Some of us left the very next morning on an APA, the USS CHILTON, (forever after known as the “Chilton Hilton”) that transported several hundred of us down the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk where we embarked on our assigned ships from the Atlantic Fleet. What a tan we got in just one day! Some two hundred of us were assigned to the USS NEWPORT NEWS and the USS COLUMBUS, the first missile-cruiser in the fleet. While it was fun, exciting, and challenging to spend some two months on an operational Navy ship – viewing the operations, communications, engineering, weaponry, and deck forces from the viewpoint of enlisted men – it was a complete turn-off when it became apparent that the ship’s company had painted over ten coats of paint awaiting the Mids’ arrival to do the hard paint-scraping work. You learned how to sleep anytime/anywhere, even in a paint locker or a covered ship’s boat. The local Navy wives’ clubs outdid themselves in organizing weekend hops at the Norfolk Officers Club to introduce local lovelies to us. Some of us met high-class ladies with whom long-term relationships were initiated. After a week or so in port, the LANTMIDTRARON headed for the open sea. Some of our classmates had their Youngster Cruise on the Academy’s 44-foot Luder yawls and maybe even a few went on YPs (the standard Youngster Cruise for today’s Mids).
After three weeks at sea, during which fleet maneuvers culminated with the two separate groups (organized around the two capital ships mentioned above) of LANTMIDTRARON coming together in mid-ocean, we retired to Puerto Rico. At this point, one of us may have become the only Naval Academy Midshipman in history to fall overboard during Youngster Cruise. Most of the ships went to the capital in San Juan, but the flagship, the COLUMBUS, went to Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico on the south coast of the island, where coincidentally Bob Hope was visiting. He promptly volunteered to do a USO show that very evening for the crew, which clearly was a cruise highlight. Some of the ships subsequently visited New Orleans and other Southeastern U.S. ports prior to returning to Norfolk. A month of annual leave then commenced before the return to Mother B.
Meanwhile, on June 5 the Six-Day War began with Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights after defeating its Arab neighbors; on June 8 Israeli fighter jets and Israeli warships fired upon the USS LIBERTY off Gaza, killing 34 and wounding 171; on June 13 Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall was nominated as the first African American Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; on June 14 the People’s Republic of China tested its first hydrogen bomb; on July 23 Detroit had one of the worst riots in U.S. history when 43 were killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned; on July 29 an explosion and fire aboard the USS FORRESTAL in the Gulf of Tonkin left 134 dead; on August 23 Jimi Hendrix’s debut album Are You Experienced? was released; and on September 4 the Marines launched Operation Swift, a search and destroy mission in Quang Nam and Quang Tin Provinces of Vietnam.
Sometime around the beginning of our second year at Boat School, the “diggers and fillers” finished construction of Michelson and Chauvenet Halls between Maury Hall and Bancroft Hall’s first wing. These engineering, science, and math buildings were the source of the generation of much brain power (and, for some, pain). One of our classmates, Ray Mast, even did pioneering laser work in the basement of Michelson Hall before some prof blew the whistle on him, bringing an end to his efforts. How many of us in the late ’60s had even heard of a laser?
Youngster Year’s academics were tough. We started our mandatory study of engineering, commencing – for most of us – six straight semesters of engineering courses. Calculus was one thing, but this stuff was ridiculous. Anyway, if you wanted to go here, you gotta take what they throw at you, right? Many of us found Youngster Year academics the toughest of all four years. If engineering courses like Statics weren’t bad enough, then they whipped differential equations on us – eeegad! At least Navigation class was fun, although sharing a classroom with 400 other guys at a time was a bit much.
The ability to date kinda, sorta made up for those onerous academic burdens, but just partially. Football season was very strange: despite beating Penn State, Michigan, Syracuse, and arch-rival Army (19-14), we actually lost to William and Mary and tied Vanderbilt!
Youngster Year brought with it one “rate” that we would have killed for Plebe Year: the right to succumb to the entreaties of the pad monster and rack out on the blue trampoline. At how many other colleges would one rush back from a classroom half a mile away just to rack out for 45 minutes, and then to rush out again for the next class?
We took our place on the sidelines of the Plebe/upper class indoctrination continuum and helped out the former when we could. Many of us spent an inordinate amount of time restricting for demerits that were clearly levied unfairly and without cause. Others spent many Sunday afternoons in Smoke Hall at the mixers, meeting young ladies from area schools and dancing to the Spiffies (whose lead singer was the Brigade Commander!), the Bitter Ends, the Outriggers, and the Marksmen. Some of us hit the hops when we were “supposed” to be restricting! Over our last two years, we also enjoyed the sounds of the JayGees, the first Academy “soul” group along the line of the Temptations. Most of the JayGees were classmates: Bobby Woo, Leo Williams, Tony Watson, Bert Freeman, Dean Knuth, and Lucian (Tick) Acuff. Many more weekends than we could count were simply spent in the library, trying to stay one step ahead of the Academic Board.
The Class of 1970 also made significant contributions in other, more substantive areas, having an impact outside the class room, beyond military training, and off the athletic field. The contributions to and the impact upon the underprivileged kids in Annapolis are something of which our class can be proud. At that time, the only social program connecting the Brigade of Midshipmen and the town of Annapolis was the Big Brothers Program. In 1967, Big Brothers was a small group led by Charlie Bolden ’68 who later became an astronaut, Marine Corps Major General, and Director of NASA. One of our first classmates to join the Big Brothers Program at the end of Plebe year was Barry Steelman. His involvement in this program would become the seed from which many other such programs developed. Other members of the Class who joined Big Brothers included Rick Farley, Brock McMunn, Bert Freeman, Leo Williams, Bruce Brunn, Mike Simmons, C.C. Davis, Mike Knudsen, and Mike Roberts.
By the time we graduated, the Big Brothers program had grown from a small group of midshipmen in our Plebe year to a Brigade-wide program of more than 50 midshipmen in 1970. The program still continues to be successful at the time of our 40th reunion.
At the end of our youngster year Barry Steelman started a tutoring program for local students. During our Second and First Class years, many 3/c, 2/c and 1/c midshipmen, tutored at four different elementary schools. Rick Farley was very active and assisted in the leadership of the tutoring programs. Other 1970 classmates who participated in the operation included Dan Bowler, Dave Butler, Ed Giambastiani, Bryce Graham, Aguedo “Bobby” Ingco, Rick Pilger, Chuck Paddock, Greg Potter, Mike Roberts, Dick Stearns, and Stan Weeks. Another contribution of our class to the Annapolis community was the Tyler Heights Boys Club that Barry Steelman created and led during our First and Second Class years. The Club, which consisted of approximately 25 boys living in the Tyler Heights Federal Housing Project, had weekly meetings, holiday parties, overnight camping trips, picnics, visits to monuments and museums, and various Navy sporting events.
Our class also helped the kids of Annapolis celebrate holidays. In one example, the Class of 1970 was the first to ever organize a “trick or treat” allowing local town kids to come inside Bancroft Hall for fun and a little Halloween treat. In addition, just before Christmas Leave of our First Class year, a group of Midshipmen helped put together a big Christmas party at the Tyler Heights Housing Project for the children of that community.
Many of us by now had “townies” or maybe “grease girls” who came down every weekend to help take our mind off of academics and the grind of day-to-day life in the Hall. We got to know the pleasures of the “drag house.” We still couldn’t legally ride in cars, but “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Our locker doors now sported posters of Farah Fawcett, Raquel Welch, and that beautiful blonde Atlantic Richfield girl with the huge brown eyes.
Meanwhile, on October 3 an X-15 research aircraft with test pilot William J. Knight established an unofficial world fixed-wing speed record of Mach 6.7; on October 9 Che Guevara was executed in Bolivia, and on October 26 Navy pilot John S. McCain, III was shot down over North Vietnam and became a POW.
In sports, the 150 lb football team went undefeated, the soccer team went to the NCAA tournament finishing third, and the wrestling team was undefeated (Bob Christianson and Ben Welch each taking third place in the Eastern Championships). Roy Golez again won the Brigade Championship in the 127 lb class and Craig Silverthorne was the 155 lb champ.
During the Dark Ages, clearly the hit tune “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by the Animals became our theme song. As far as the world was concerned, it was a total mess. On January 21 the Battle of Khe Sanh began, one of the most publicized and controversial battles of the war, ending on April 8; on January 21 a B-52 crashed in Greenland, discharging four nukes; on January 22, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In debuted on NBC; on January 23 North Korea seized the USS PUEBLO, claiming the ship violated its territorial waters while spying; on January 30 through February 24 saw the Tet Offensive, with Viet Cong forces launching a series of surprise attacks across South Vietnam; on March 18 Congress repealed the requirement for a gold reserve to back U.S. currency; on March 31 President Johnson announced he would not seek reelection; on April 4 Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot dead in Memphis, causing riots to erupt in major American cities for several days afterward (causing already-approved weekends to be rescinded at USNA); on April 29 the musical Hair opened on Broadway; and on May 22 the U.S. nuclear submarine SCORPION sank with 99 men aboard, 400 miles southwest of the Azores.
We staggered up to and barely through final exams and looked forward to a relaxing Dead Week and a fabulous June Week. Life was finally good again. Then, literally, our class was split into hundreds of pieces as classmates were flung north to New London for submarine indoctrination, south to Pensacola for exposure to flight training, askance to Little Creek to rub shoulders with Marines, and nowhere to Bancroft Hall for special classes and/or to serve on the Plebe Detail. Decisions on service selection were either formulated, changed, or re-thought as a result of this process. It still amazes me why the submarine service thinks people would be attracted to service in New England after a ten-hour bus ride back to Annapolis on a vehicle with no head, and the only reason the driver stopped for that purpose was that he had a full-fledged mutiny on his hands!
Our three to four-week summer leave was way too short, and we returned to the Severn with visions of Plebe indoctrination dancing before us. Frankly, it took some getting used to: Running Plebes is an acquired skill for most of us; it takes some practice to do it without just breaking out into laughter, especially if one’s Plebes were relatively squared away. But thanks to our classmates who served on the Plebe Detail for getting them that way!
Football was barely a diversion this Fall as the Big Blue struggled to a 2-8 record and another loss to Army, although classmate Dan Pike led all rushers in the annual Philadelphia Fandango with 107 yards and a TD. In soccer, Casey Bahr made the All-American squad and Bob Tamburini joined Casey on the All-South team. Noted performers in other sports were Es Marks and John Fedor in 150 lb football; Jan Fladeboe in cross country; Cap Parlier, Bill Kemp, and John Gilchrist in swimming; Bob Christianson, Ben Welch, Mark Kane, Greg Koons, and Steve Bannat in wrestling; Scott Semko, John Seeley, and Bill Parks in basketball; Jan Fladeboe, Doug Backes, Tim Joyce, and Monty Felix in indoor track; Bob Mackey and Steve Klotz in gymnastics; Greg Stiles and Harold Mashburn in squash; Bill Stockho and Gary Marvin in rifle; Tom Noonan and Carl Smith in pistol; Bert Freeman in fencing (First Team All-American); Bob Kirk, Reed Clark, Bob Edmond, Bill Parks, and Jim Kenney in outdoor track; Harry MacLaughlin (First Team All-American), Len Supko (Third Team All-American, and Ed Tempesta (Honorable Mention) in lacrosse; Denny Losh (.415) and Scott Semko (17 RBIs and second nationally in triples) in baseball; Dan Rugg an All-American in dinghy sailing; and Gerry Guppy and Mike Aycock in golf. In Brigade Boxing, Roy Golez won the 127 lb crown for the third year in a row; winning their second titles were Corky Peck (155 lb.) and Craig Silverthorne (165 lb.). Corky also received the Spike Webb Outstanding Boxer Award for being judged the Outstanding Boxer of the Brigade Boxing Championships by combining boxing skills, fortitude, good sportsmanship, and fair play.
Out in the real world, on October 14, DOD announced that the Army and Marines would send about 24,000 troops back to Vietnam for involuntary second tours; on October 30 President Johnson, citing progress in the Paris peace talks, announced that he had ordered a complete cessation of “all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam” effective November 1; on November 5 Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace for President; on November 11, Operation Commando Hunt was initiated to interdict men and supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, through Laos into South Vietnam. By the end of the operation, three million tons of bombs had been dropped on Laos, slowing but not seriously disrupting trail operations. On November 22 the Beatles released The White Album; and on December 24 Apollo 8 entered orbit around the Moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to see the far side of the Moon and planet Earth as a whole.
On the evening of October 4, 1968, occurred the seminal event in the history of the Class of 1970. It was a dark and stormy night… well, dark anyway. It was also “stormy,” but not in the usual sense of the word. On that night, the Class of 1970 made its mark forever on the history of the United States Naval Academy. Stories conflict on what actually happened, why it happened, or who – individually – was involved. But what counts is that that was the night we became famous. My recollection of it was that we, the Class of 1970, got a little too rambunctious for the administration’s comfort. We had a spontaneous pep rally that really was spontaneous. That is, it did not evolve from the announcement, “There will be a spontaneous pep rally in Tecumseh Court…” at evening meal. According to Don Patterson, he and Steve Wood were commiserating about our not being able to have a long weekend for the Army game. They decided that if we showed those in authority that our class has more enthusiasm and class spirit than they had ever seen, they might relent and give us a long weekend. So they decided to have a spontaneous pep rally to show them. When we heard people running though Bancroft Hall yelling things like, “Second Class pep rally in T-Court!” we thought, “A real spontaneous pep rally! What a novel idea!” and we rallied. We rallied for the purpose of, among other things, raising spirit levels for the forthcoming football game against Army.
But for some, there was another agenda: to vent spleen over a [perceived or real] denial of a privilege they thought we had earned. In years past, it was an unwritten tradition that if a majority of the Fall sports teams (excluding football) had beaten Army, then the Second Class (that’s Juniors, to anyone reading this who might be unfamiliar with Naval Academy jargon) would be allowed to have a long weekend (and not have to ride those horrid busses to Philadelphia) when Navy played Army in football.
But as it turned out, the majority of our teams had beaten Army, but we (the Second Class) were not granted the expected privilege. Some of us were disappointed. Some of us felt betrayed. A few were genuinely angry. (Some of us had by that time become so cynical and fatalistic that we just shrugged it off as another indignity to be endured.) But when we went out and blew off some steam, we may have gone just a little too far. By the time things quieted down, the rumors had hit the street – and, worse, the fleet – that there had been a campus protest at the Naval Academy of near-riot proportions. Remember: this is 1968 we’re talking about. There were protests of near-riot proportions (and beyond) occurring on other campuses. Indeed, there were actual riots. But not at the Naval Academy. We did not burn our draft cards or our bras (clearly, we had neither to burn). We did not occupy or trash any academic buildings. And we did not assault any professors.
It didn’t take the NIS long to find out where the whole thing started, and upon whom to fix the blame. (What ever happened to the concept of not bilging your classmate?) So Don and Woody found themselves after a day or so in front of the Midshipman Leadership Board (or whatever it was called) headed up by then-Brigade Commander, Tim Oliver, to present their case and for the authorities to decide whether they should be expelled from USNA. The Board let Don and Steve stay, but in addition to the two weeks the class had to restrict, they were “Class-Aed” and had to restrict an additional six weeks! Ironically, shortly thereafter the First Set stripers of our First Class were announced; Don was selected as the 6th Battalion Commander and Woody was selected as 34th Company Commander. Go figure.
OK. So we sat down on the Superintendent’s and Commandant’s lawns for a while (which proved disconcerting to our classmate Skid Heyworth, whose dad happened to hold the latter job at the time!). And we did not disperse “immediately,” as the Officer of the Watch had ordered us. And we did engage in some “provoking words and gestures.” For that, the powers-that-be proved the fallacy of the claim: “They can’t fry us all!” They did fry us all. And they restricted us all. We also came to be known to some as “the class least likely to succeed.” (But we’ll see about that. Ring-A-Ding-Ding!)
In January, some of us volunteered to march in President Nixon’s Inauguration parade. While it was memorable, our P-rade uniforms didn’t cut it in the freezing cold of that bitter winter’s day (the smart ones among us wore long johns, of course, but for those of us who believed that the weather was too cold to ski that time of year, it was miserable). Our company-sized complement marched behind the WooPoos, and it was surreal that both formations received cheers from our civilian (uniformly hippie) counterparts, while the same long-hairs jeered, booed, and chucked rocks at the helmeted army enlisted guys marching after us. Didn’t those Bozos know that the Woops and we were gung ho volunteers, and the poor army grunts were primarily draftees? Guess not!
Speaking of WooPoos, second semester of Segundo Year was when most of us spent a long weekend at either West Point or Colorado Springs on exchange weekends. We will never forget lining up for breakfast formation in the cold, wet rain – in the dark of upstate New York – and asking the grey-clad denizens why they didn’t have the common sense to come in out of the rain. There the weather is grey, the buildings are grey, the uniforms are grey – even the people are grey. But they did have one very hot assistant librarian.
Sometimes it was so cold in Bancroft Hall that “Famous Naval Sayings” took on new notables: “Heat is a Privilege not a Rate,” “Heat has been Spotted in the Fourth Wing and is Rumored to be Heading this Way,” etc. You get the drift. Blessed be the fortunate ones on decks 7-0 and 8-0, however. Back when we were Mids, those decks were right over the boilers and at night in the dead of winter, we’d sleep with the windows wide open. You didn’t dare step on the linoleum floor in your bare feet, as you were likely to get your soles burned from the heat emanating from below. Aahhh!
Marching time came around with the Spring, and we endured the P-rades as much as we could. More time was left for studying and guys in our midst were actually starting to get engaged (yikes!). We got our class rings and spent wasted hours staying away from the ’69ers who, if they caught us with our ring on, would make us do soda runs to the basement. Serious time was spent planning the upcoming purchase of a new automobile (given the extremely low-interest loans and delayed onset of car payments offered by two banking institutions). When contemplating whether to include a certain accessory on your dream vehicle, the decision was made much easier when you converted the problem into terms of “how much will it increase my monthly car payment?”
In the land outside the wall, on January 12 Led Zeppelin I was released, an album considered to be the first in the heavy metal genre; on January 14 an explosion aboard the USS ENTERPRISE near Hawaii killed 27 and injured 314; on January 16 two cosmonauts transferred from Soyuz 5 to Soyuz 4 via a spacewalk while the two craft were docked together, the first time such a transfer had taken place; on February 4 Yasser Arafat was elected Palestine Liberation Organization leader; on February 9 the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight; on March 3 Sirhan Sirhan admitted that he had killed presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy; on March 18 Operation Breakfast, the secret bombing of Cambodia, began; on April 1 the Hawker Siddeley Harrier entered service with the Royal Air Force; on April 15 North Korea shot down a U.S. EC-121 unarmed patrol aircraft over the Sea of Japan, killing all 31 on board; on May 10 the Battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam began; on May 18 Apollo 10 (Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan, John Young) was launched, a full dress-rehearsal for the Moon landing; and on June 3, the Australian aircraft carrier MELBOURNE collided with the U.S. destroyer FRANK E. EVANS in the South China Sea, sinking the forward half of the vessel, killing 74.
Exams, Dead Week, and June Week hit in rapid succession, and most of us concentrated on getting the right girl to agree to come to June Week as the Ring Dance was (and is) really a big deal. It’s not every school that is able to have water from the Seven Seas conveyed to its premises for such a purpose. The Class of 1970 was very fortunate to dance under the stars by the Reflection Pool to “Take the A Train” and other wonderful music played by the legendary Duke Ellington and his Band. It was a memorable affair and it was reported that no rings were lost during the dunking process. The same could not be said for certain companies’ “ring dip” parties, however.
Following June Week, we newly anointed Firsties again scattered far and wide. Some enjoyed a leisurely cruise to Europe and the Med. A few lucky ones went on NATRON cruises with members of the class of ’72. The pilot cruise was on the East coast to Europe and the second one went to the West Coast. We worked hard at sea and played hard in Plymouth, England and Hamburg, Germany with available tours to London, Berlin, and Copenhagen. Some were stuck in the Yard for a myriad of reasons; some skippered major sailboats on the East Coast; some were assigned to JO billets on ships of the First or Second Fleets; and others were selected for a WestPac cruise off the coast of Vietnam. We were assigned to literally every class of ship in the US Navy arsenal – from aircraft carriers to oceangoing minesweepers. The smaller the complement of Mids aboard, the more responsibility one gleaned. One classmate reported that he, armed with an M14, was assigned JO duty on a motor launch circling his ship all night in Saigon Harbor. We stood bridge watches as JOOWs, engineering watches, and CIC watches. Such experience was invaluable to our future careers. Some went to jump school and others received special assignments too numerous to mention.
A small anecdote will be illustrative to those wondering what makes us tick. The Academy chartered a DC stretch 8 to take several hundred of us from the West Coast to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines for distribution to our WestPac assignments. At the culmination of the cruise near the end of August, the Academy supplied another such plane to return us from Japan back to the West Coast. When this charter arrived at Travis AFB near San Francisco it was after 5:00PM on a Friday afternoon. The large plane was ending its charter there, and our classmates desiring to return to the East Coast had to transfer to a smaller chartered aircraft; however, all the Air Force ground personnel had secured for the weekend. So, without a whimper or a whine, our classmates in their service dress khakis dug in and transferred all the appropriate bags from the larger plane to the smaller one, literally crawling inside the baggage holds of the respective aircraft. Thank goodness one of our number knew how to operate the ground machinery to make the task a little easier, but then our comrades had to persuade the patrolling Air Police to leave us alone and let us complete our task. The Air Force was used to folks just coming in after they had left, spending the weekend enjoying San Francisco on TDY pay, and not complaining. We are different – devotion to duty and all that, and just do what needs to be done.
The most memorable event not involving our class directly that happened that summer was the U.S. moon landing by Apollo 11 on July 20. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle on the moon while Mike Collins piloted the Apollo spaceship. Five days later President Nixon announced the beginning of the “Vietnamization” of the war and began to pull U.S. troops out. Some of us were patrolling off the coast of North Korea (because of their unprovoked shoot-down of the U.S. patrol plane) under darken ship and radio silence. So we were unaware of the moon landing until we pulled into Sasebo Naval Base and were mobbed by admiring Japanese civilians enamored with our nation’s space fete. Cool. On August 9, members of Charles Manson’s cult murdered actress Sharon Tate and five others; August 15-18 saw the Woodstock Festival held in upstate New York, with classmates Nev Shaffer, Eric Peters and Jay Jenkins in attendance.
For once, returning to the Brigade was a pleasure. Of course, having been treated practically like royalty in some quarters as a First Class Midshipman meant returning to reality in that respect. But now, we ran the Brigade. Bill Currer was our Brigade Commander. High stripers in our midst left the cozy confines of our company spaces and roomed with other classmates on Brigade, regiment, and battalion staffs. Meanwhile, we assumed the roles of Company Commander, Sub Commander, and CPO, as well as Platoon Commander and Squad Leader. The saltiest amongst us assumed the roles of Mustering Petty Officer/Right Guide whose invaluable contribution was to find the company’s block on the parade field while running full speed. I, on the other hand, sometimes had to stop and take a knee halfway there!
Upon returning to Annapolis, many of us immediately picked up our new cars (six months early to be sure, but who’s counting?). We kept them in the garages of nearby residents (for a fee, to be sure), as we couldn’t park them in the Yard until Spring Break. Some of us had to stroll past the officers’ quarters outside of Gate 8 to reach those garages; we were never challenged. Thus freed from the bonds of hoofing it, unfettered freedom prevailed. One thing remained the same, however – the grinding routine back at Mother B!!
In September we enjoyed Little Anthony and the Imperials; in November it was Jerry Butler. Something had to take our minds off football, where the Big Blue only mustered one victory all season over hapless Virginia. Army even shut us out. At least the away games at Pittsburgh and Rutgers permitted some fun weekends away from the Yard. The 150-lb team, however, went undefeated and won the league championship; Bob Berger and Duke Dubia were both named First Team All-American. Soccer was 8-1-2 with one of the ties being Army and the one loss coming in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Casey Bahr was again named an All-American and was selected for the U.S. Olympic soccer team; Dan Bowler was named All-South goalie. Cross country, gymnastics, fencing, pistol, swimming, wrestling, squash, lacrosse, baseball, golf, and tennis all beat Army. The fencing squad, again led by All-American Bert Freeman, finished 4th in the NCAA tournament; the pistol team won the Conventional national championship; the swim team finished 4th in the East; the grapplers finished 1st in the East and 23rd in the NCAA tournament; the indoor track guys finished 8th at the Heptagonals (early in the season two schools cancelled their meets against us because of Vietnam); and the lacrosse team clinched a tie for the national championship with a one-goal victory over Army during June Week. Harry MacLaughlin, Len Supko, and Greg Murphy were All-Americans in that sport, and Dan Rugg was again selected to the All-America dinghy sailing team. Firsties cleaned up in the Brigade Boxing tournament: Roy Golez won for the fourth time in a row at 127 pounds (hey Roy, wanna go a few rounds?), Norm Carley finished on top at 135, Craig Silverthorne won his third crown at 165, and Tom Flaherty was crowned champ in the heavyweight division. Roy was the first boxer in Academy history to receive the Tony Rubino Four-Time Brigade Champion Award; and Craig received the Spike Webb Outstanding Boxer Award. Despite the anti-military feelings on many college campuses during our First Class year, it is noteworthy that Jim Smee and Bill Ferris, competing against hundreds of other colleges and universities, won four major intercollegiate debate tournaments that season, placed extremely high in numerous others, and ultimately finished fifth in the national intercollegiate debate championship.
Beyond our hallowed walls on October 16 the “miracle” New York Mets won the World Series, beating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles 4 games to 1; on November 15 the Soviet submarine K-19 collided with the American submarine USS GATO in the Barents Sea; on November 15 in Washington, DC, 250,000-500,000 protesters staged a peaceful demonstration against the war; on November 21 the first ARPANET link is established (the progenitor of the global Internet); and on December 1 the first draft lottery in the United States since WWII was held.
Dan Pike was the Second Set Brigade Commander beginning in early December. In December the new Commandant, Captain Coogan, announced that henceforth First Class liberty would be expanded to a 50-mile limit and extended to 0200 on Saturday nights. Christmas Leave was, of course, a highlight of the year. For those so inclined, and with a willing woman, engagements were the order of the day. Those of us who did not succumb often heard, “You’re not good enough for her, so why don’t you just pop the question before she gets away?” Did you sign your non-nuptial form upon your return? Some guys bought wigs while home on leave so as not to stand out so glaringly at DC and Baltimore clubs. But there was only one word to describe the feeling upon returning from Christmas Leave with final exams inexorably only three weeks away: depressing.
One of the gutsiest classmates we have is Dan Ellison, who was editor of The Log Firstie year. Now, we all know that what makes The Log well-read in the Hall is its biting satire. The incident that justifies the adjective in the first sentence of this paragraph, however, involves the cartoon that appeared in the December 1969 issue. It showed a Marine hanging a hand grenade on a Christmas tree. Funny and no big deal, right? Wrong. A senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (whose name we all remember but who will not be reprinted here for obvious reasons), took umbrage at this “sick” sense of humor and clearly let the Navy powers- that-be know of her displeasure. Of course, the proverbial you-know what flowed downhill and our classmate caught a major ration. Well, what did our erstwhile editor do? The next issue of The Log contained a cartoon showing a grey-haired lady at her desk with the Capitol Building in view out her window reading The Log and tearing her hair out while large stacks of paper titled “Vietnam,” “the Soviet Union,” “the economy,” and so forth lay unread on her desk. That is the epitome of having large ones, my brothers!
The Grassroots entertained us during the Dark Ages, perhaps to take our minds off those infernal weapons labs where they tried to take brilliant writers (ahem!) and teach us how to design an ingenious weapon to blow holes in tin cans. I’m sure the Soviets were shaking in their boots. Or maybe they wanted to eliminate from our collective memories YP drills where we practiced conning a ship, conducting ship ops via a maneuvering board, and trying not to redesign the bulkheads lining the seawall. (Who was that classmate who hit his new car with a YP? The claims adjusters at USAA are still wondering how a car has a collision with a boat.) Then there was after dinner speaking to develop us fully as skilled, engaging dinner partners. If they really would have desired such an outcome, they would have provided us with real champagne!
Many of us were probably unaware of the event at the time, but on January 21 of our Firstie year six Mids and a Woop filed suit in DC in an effort to break the academies’ requirement for compulsory chapel attendance. This was aided by the ACLU, of course. Since the Academy later changed the compulsory chapel regs, one presumes that either this suit was successful or the policy was changed in anticipation of an imminent court defeat. I do recall Father Jake Laboon bragging to his counterpart at Georgetown University (a Jesuit school) that there were more guys voluntarily attending a 0500 Mass in our chapel during the week on a Catholic holy day than in any Catholic university in the country.
Two highlights during the Dark Ages were our own Hundredth Night (funny how my own memory has been blocked out concerning the details of that day) and Service Selection Night. We had no “2-7” ceremony or whatever it is they do now, commemorating the fact that we had served two years and had seven more to go in our commitment to Uncle Sam. But on Service Selection Night we rolled the dice and hoped our class standing was sufficiently elevated to get a decent billet or a start for the next phase of training not too far removed from graduation.
In the rest of the world, on January 11 in Super Bowl IV the Kansas City Chiefs beat the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7; on February 26 the Pontiac 2nd generation Trans Am body style was introduced; on March 5 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into effect, after ratification by 43 nations; on April 11 Apollo 13 ( Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert) was launched toward the Moon (classmates Ray Mast and Warren Mackensen were at Cape Canaveral for the liftoff ); on April 22 the first Earth Day was celebrated in the U.S.; on April 24 China’s first satellite (Dong Fang Hong 1) was launched into orbit using a Long March-1 Rocket; on May 1 President Nixon ordered U.S. forces to cross into neutral Cambodia to root out NVA and Viet Cong troops and sanctuaries, sparking nationwide riots and leading to the Kent State shootings in which four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard at an anti-war protest on May 4; and on May 9 100,000 people demonstrated against the Vietnam War in Washington.
There was even a bit of snow on Easter Sunday (but not nearly as much as during the two large snowfalls we encountered earlier in the year), and the NAFAC and the Masqueraders were interesting diversions from the routine. We also enjoyed watching the Young Rascals perform.
Spring Break brought our new cars out into the open; we could park them in the Yard and spend more time attending to them (not counting the YP encounter). Cars meant more private time with our OAO and road rallies for those inclined. Some of us just spent time putting mileage on our new set of wheels. After all, one needed 500 miles on that puppy to “break it in” before it could really be aired out, right? More of us were learning how to SCUBA dive and this leave period was an optimum time to practice our new nautical skills in a warmer clime. I remember the night of my SCUBA qualification test in the natatorium was on a Sunday steak night, and I was so full I almost drowned! I got permission to complete the test the following Sunday. Speaking of the natatorium, who could forget the leap from the 30-foot tower (once you climbed up, they wouldn’t let you climb down; you had to jump) or the annual progression of onerous swimming tests culminating with an hour swim in whiteworks and tennis shoes (with at least a hundred of your favorite classmates) during which you could not touch the edges of the pool? Our prayers go out to those classmates who spent time on the sub squad trying to pass those blessed swimming tests.
Bill Currer was named the Third Set Brigade Commander. Of course, with Spring comes weekly dress P-rades. Since we now led the Brigade, we had a little more to worry about during these evolutions. Just pray no one changed around all the company blocks on Worden Field. Company drill competition followed, as well. Is the rumor true that the platoon commander of the very last place platoon in this competition even forgot to have his men fix bayonets? We had the trusty ol’ nine-pound M1 to lug around; what does an M14, the current parade piece, weigh? And do they really no longer fix bayonets – lest they hurt themselves?
Our final exams, our “no more rivers to cross,” finally arrived, and we collectively heaved a huge sigh of relief when they were behind us. Dead Week saw us scattered to the winds and/or making final June Week preparations. June Week itself, was a major “come around” for many of us, while we attempted to keep family and girlfriend happy as they cohabited in a usually too-small June Week cottage while awaiting our arrival from the Hall. And, oh by the way, some of us even had an occasional watch to stand, and there were several command performances. It was a trying time; we just enjoyed the Blue Angels and kept focused on what was coming at the end of the week.
The Color Parade was memorable, especially because it was our last, and our immersion in the Reflection Pool of the Library Assembly Area will never be forgotten. How many of you knew that our classmates in the Anchor Company of that year’s Brigade Competition intended to begin a new USNA tradition: to march in the color parade with a guidon trimmed in black? That would have happened except that a smack of a Segundo heard of the plans and blew the whistle to the Company Officer, so the proud, notorious 13th Company just marched without a guidon! At the opposite end of the spectrum, 32nd Company, under the leadership of Ed Giambastiani (a sign of great things to come) was Color Company for the second year in a row.
On a humorous note, after one June Week Parade a certain Company Officer was watching his Company as they were marching off Worden Field and proceeding toward the road behind the O’Club. As the Company crossed the road, a small voice broke from the crowd, “Daddy! Daddy!” Most of the Company broke out laughing, as they knew who “Daddy” was. The Company Officer supposedly said later that he always wondered why there was that photo in a certain Mid’s locker.
If people ask you what was the happiest moment of your life, how many of you do not say, “The moment I threw my cap in the air when I graduated from Annapolis?” On 3 June 1970 the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium never looked more beautiful. Although some of us were disappointed that President Nixon chose not to address our graduation, Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., CINCPAC, was more than an adequate fill-in. Not to overuse the word but he was memorable. Five foot four and full of p__ and vinegar!
Actually 825 of us graduated on 3 June; six graduated on 31 July, and one graduated sometime after that. According to the Registrar, 842 comprised the Class of ’70 “membership at the end of the course.” Two completed the four-year course, but were “deficient in the second semester and honorably discharged” and one was turned back due to illness. So, 838 graduated and were awarded degrees. Steve Zavadil graduated at the top of our class; Preston Rusch was our Anchor Man and $838 richer. Two were not commissioned, being physically disqualified; one had his physical status “pending and to be reevaluated” in June 1971; and four were foreign nationals (two from the Philippines, one from Peru, and one from Panama). Of those commissioned, 710 were unrestricted Navy line, one was unrestricted line in the Naval Reserve; twelve were Supply Corps, five were Civil Engineer Corps, and 103 were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps (12.4%). The Alumni Association says that three were actually commissioned in the Air Force. Funny how the Registrar didn’t know about them (spies, maybe??). (OK, I know some of you retentive math majors noticed that the numbers don’t add up. Sorry. That’s what the Registrar’s Office gave me.)
Eleven of the Class were selected for the Advanced Science and Engineering Program, 24 were selected for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, 13 were selected for the Navy-sponsored Civilian schools program, 13 were selected for individual scholarships, six were selected for Guggenheim Fellowships, and eight were selected as Olmsted Scholar candidates. Four were actually selected as Olmsted Scholars: Stan Weeks, Jim Smee, Dave Faucher, and Fred (Corky) Peck.
Compared to the classes preceding ours (going back to ’61), we had the second highest attrition rate (37.8%). Only ’68 beat us, and that was only by a tenth of a point. The class of ’62 had an attrition rate of only 27.6%.
After graduation, a good many of us got married – some in The Chapel; some not. All of us went on commissioning leave to unwind, to recreate, and to get ready to join the “real” Navy. We said goodbye to the gents we’d intimately spent the last four years with, especially our roomies, our “wives.” Some classmates we would never see again. Some of us went immediately to graduate school, 103 to Quantico for The Basic School, others to nuclear power school, some to flight school, some lucky ones stayed and taught sailing to the class of ’74 Plebes prior to our next assignments, and some directly to ships. Some unlucky ones got stuck in duty as library or recruiting officers (or some such mundane assignment) awaiting their respective schools to start. In short, we scattered to the four winds and began paying back Uncle Sam for our wonderful free education as junior officers and leaders of men!
As we established ourselves in our profession, absence from home was a common theme. This caused some to get out after our mandatory obligation had been fulfilled. Others thrived on it. Most of us missed the war of our generation, Vietnam, but a small number picked duty on river patrol boats so as not to miss out on the action; some received their wings of gold in time to fly missions over North and South Vietnam; and a very few were in special warfare operations doing the dirty, mean work of up-close warfare. A number of the Class of 1970 proudly served on various surface ships from 1970 to the war’s end in 1973. We patrolled up and down the coast, provided Naval Gun Fire Support for the Marines and Army, and performed plane guard duties for the Carriers; and some participated in Operation End Sweep – removing mines from Haiphong Harbor. Some of us earned the Combat Action Ribbon as well as other medals and ribbons associated with service in and around the waters of Vietnam. At least one classmate who left us during Segundo year has regaled us with his exploits as a gunner on a PBR; hairy stuff. Dan Rugg was aboard HIGBEE when that ship was bombed by a North Vietnamese MIG. And Lynn Widener, Mike Kuhne, and Reed Clark were serving in USS MAHAN and responded to aerial attacks on USS WORDEN (DLG 18) – which turned out to have been “friendly fire” from our own Air Force. And lest we forget, a number of our blackshoes and aviators aided in the rescue of the SS MAYAGUEZ in 1975.
Meanwhile, the Rickoverites were burning the midnight oil getting through nuclear power school; others were cutting holes in the sky working toward their wings; still others were already standing bridge and engineering watches aboard ship as they punched their cards for promotion to department head.
The first ten years, serving as junior officers in the best and most technically-advanced Navy in the world was exciting. We were putting our training as young leaders into practice for, as you well know, you can’t fool a bunch of White Hats. They soon know who’s “got it” and who doesn’t. Such is especially the case in the Corps with a squad of grunts. You lead by example, not by ordering people around. By the way, in 1976, they permitted the first women to join the Brigade of Midshipmen. Now, 17-20% of each class is female.
As we put on our baby stripe as LTJGs after 18 months – 15 months for some – (it now takes two years), more and more responsibility was handed to us, and as we approached O-3, we were starting to get the hang of it. We were being awarded our wings of gold, our dolphins, and our surface warfare badges. One classmate, Frank Lord, earned both of the last two and was just short of his wings when he DORed! We were serving in Norfolk, San Diego, Long Beach, Oakland, Honolulu, Mayport, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Kingsville, Newport, Philadelphia, Whidbey Island, Portsmouth, Pt. Mugu, and a host of other places. Operational ship drivers were visiting ports like Naples, Holy Loch, London, Malaga, Athens, Barcelona, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Yokosuka, Subic Bay, Hong Kong, Sasebo, Guam, and various others where liberty meant fun times and scenic sites. We spent way too much money in places like Hong Kong trying to get “deals” on clothes, watches, cameras, electronics, and booze. If we were married, we would add to that list linens, flatware, and china. Some classmates returned to the Boys’ School on the Severn as profs or as Company Officers.
Some of us made the decision to join CIVLANT after our obligation was fulfilled, and we joined others still wearing a blue suit in going to graduate school to either further our careers or to start new ones, perhaps in the professions. We joined the ranks of those in the corporate world and, if we were lucky, got junior management slots in the burgeoning IT world as it began to take off. Some of us got out, and after checking out what the “real world” had to offer, got back in. Many of us joined the vaunted military industrial complex to further the aims of our nation from a different vantage point. A great many of us, not wanting to sever totally our connection to that fine outfit known as the Navy, stayed in the Reserves. A great many of us made O-6 that way.
In the Western world, liberal values that began in the 1960s, such as increasing political awareness, the political and economic liberty of women, and the environmental movement, continued to grow. As the Vietnam War wound down, the counterculture receded, leaving its distrust of authority, longer hair, and rock music as its primary legacy. Much of the West experienced an economic recession due to an oil crisis caused by an oil embargo by Arab countries in partial payback for the West’s support of Israel during two conflicts in the last decade. Meanwhile, Japan’s economy boomed. The economic crisis at home saw the first instance of stagflation with rising prices but sluggish economic growth causing the U.S. economy to have its worst ten-year performance since the Great Depression. In Asia, Communist China started liberalizing its markets after the death of long-time leader Mao Zedong and its acceptance into the United Nations. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan where it stayed for ten years before pulling back in defeat. International economic competition heated up as industrialized countries were forced to compete with Latin American and Asian low priced labor in the manufacture of textiles, consumer goods, and spare parts. Only the advent of the computer revolution kept the U.S. at the forefront of industrial performance.
Domestically, in 1972 Richard Nixon was overwhelmingly reelected President but was caused to resign due to the Watergate scandal, leaving his appointed Vice President, Gerald Ford, as President. Ford helped put that scandal behind us, but his pardon of Nixon helped Academy grad Jimmy Carter defeat him in 1976. What followed was a period of economic and spiritual malaise enabling Californian Ronald Reagan to defeat Carter in 1980, sweeping in the first Republican-held Senate since the Eisenhower Administration.
The end of the 1970s saw a retrenchment in the nation’s investment in our military infrastructure. Accordingly, a number of observers believed that many senior military officials shirked their responsibilities by overly cutting budgets and using the services as social experiment laboratories more than as established military cadres. This forced many conscientious classmates to choose life outside their continuous tenure in the Navy, despite the intentions of many, from the outset, to make the Navy their entire life’s work.
During the 1980s, our class entered the mid-rank cadre of Naval and Marine Corps units. Department Head, XO, and CO billets were taken on and mastered in the naval service, such as Mike Malone’s command of the carrier USS ENTERPRISE, Ed Fahy’s command of USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, Larry Baucom’s command of USS CARL VINSON, Mark Flaherty’s command of USS TRUXTUN, and countless others. Our Marine counterparts took on battalion and regimental ranks, designated as field grades. By this time, most classmates still wearing a uniform had been to graduate school, perhaps the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey where they enjoyed the coniferous surroundings, balmy breezes, and golf courses. Some had perhaps been to the Naval War College in Newport or the National War College or the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair in Washington. In fact, many more classmates were now being cycled back into the DC maelstrom for spots in the Pentagon or NavAir, NavSea, BuPers, or joint billets, since “joint” now seemed to be the ticket for promotion. For many, this second decade was their first real shore duty since graduation. It was a time to strengthen their family bonds or to begin a new family, since the long years at sea or deployment overseas had caused havoc within many families.
The 1980s saw increased economic vitality, fueled in large part by multinational corporations, throughout much of the world. Under President Reagan, the country enjoyed almost a decade of peace and prosperity. However, much manufacturing capacity was transferred from North America and Europe to Mexico and the thriving countries of Eastern Asia (plus newly-emergent China). At the end of the decade, the Cold War ended when many former countries in the Warsaw Pact threw off their communist governments, and people throughout Eastern and Central Europe demanded freedom from the oppression they had borne since WWII. The Soviet Union collapsed, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated with countries breaking away, and Russia underwent an economic depression. In the developing world, struggling countries faced onerous financial and social burdens and petitioned the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for loan forgiveness or restructured debt. This decade saw the largest increase in population in the planet’s history, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. For the first time ever, trade between Latin America and Asia equaled that between Western Europe and North America.
In the 1990s, our class began to reach the zeniths of our careers. In Gulf War I in January-February 1991, our classmate, Clay Grubb, led the Marine paratroopers who spearheaded the Arab forces that retook Kuwait City, breaking through to the Kuwaiti resistance occupying the inner city and then linking with the Marine Division approaching from the southwest. In 36 days of direct ground combat including three intense days in the City of Khafji and numerous border skirmishes, as well as reconnaissance in and the charge through Kuwait, his units suffered only one minor American casualty. He was warned by at least one classmate that 42 was a little old to still be jumping out of perfectly good airplanes! Clay does brag that he is the last commander in history to be assigned a direct support battleship (USS WISCONSIN) in combat. We also had a number of classmates who began to be selected for major command billets.
Others also were stepping into major executive slots in the civilian world. Dan Akerson became CEO of General Instrument, Nextel, MCI, and the Carlyle Group; Bob Prince was CEO of Duratek for 22 years; Kevin Sharer was CEO of Amgen; Jack Johnson was CEO of Active IQ; Mark Crisson was CEO of Tacoma Power; Bill Currer was CEO of Channel Master, Cogent, and now of Scot Inc.(IL); Ken Keymer was CEO of Taco Bell, Sonic, and other food service companies; Jim Langdon was CEO of Andros Analyzers, Cal Zeiss Meditec, and Oraya Therapeutics (all medical technology firms); Mike Malone was President of Skarven Enterprise; Cutler Dawson is currently President and CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in the world; and Steve Reinemund became CEO of Frito-Lay and then Pepsico and is now the dean of both the Undergraduate and Graduate Schools of Business at Wake Forest University. Mark Crisson, Woody Sutton, and Brian McCoy have been CEOs of trade associations, and Roger Hill was the Chief Operating Officer of Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland. There are amongst us at least a dozen dentists and at least a like number of physicians. There are also at least three ordained ministers. Don’t even ask about lawyers!
Worldwide, a combination of factors, including the mass mobilization of capital markets and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, led to a realignment and reconsolidation of economic and political power. Living standards and democratic governance generally improved in many areas of the world, notably East Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and South Africa. However, new ethnic conflicts emerged in Africa, the Caucasus, and the Balkans; and the Middle East continued to be a cauldron of conflict. Many countries, institutions, companies, and organizations were prosperous during the 1990s, and the West experienced steady economic growth for much of the decade. Oil and gas were discovered in many countries in the former Soviet bloc, leading to economic growth and wider adoption of trade among nations. These trends were also fueled by inexpensive fossil energy in a time of low petroleum prices caused by a glut of oil. Political stability and decreased militarization due to the winding down of the Cold War led to economic development and higher standards of living for many peoples. The United States found itself to be the world’s lone superpower.
The country experienced its longest period of economic expansion during the decade. Personal incomes doubled from the recession in 1990, and there was higher productivity overall. In Western Europe, the European Union was established, creating a freedom of movement among member states, such as the 1992 and 1995 free trade agreements, a single currency, and a trading bloc to rival the economic power of the U.S. We countered with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which phased out trade barriers among the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Financial crises hit East and Southeast Asia, especially Japan, in 1997 and 1998 after a long period of incredible economic development. Specific major events included the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and the subsequent Gulf War in 1991; the German reunification on October 3, 1990, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the breakup of Yugoslavia beginning on June 25, 1991, after the republics of Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia, which was followed by the subsequent Yugoslav wars, involving NATO and the U.S.; the World Wide Web became publicly available on the Internet on August 6, 1991, greatly accelerating the expansion of public use of the Internet; and the Moscow coup and subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union on December 21, 1991, ushered in a new era. Domestically, Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, succeeded him in the top spot, but he was defeated for reelection by Arkansas governor Bill Clinton in 1992 who was easily reelected in 1996.
In the first decade of the 21st Century, the seminal event was clearly the attack by radical Muslims crashing commercial airliners into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. That caused the economy to tailspin and the national spirit to first be depressed and then to rise to new heights. The nation responded by invading Afghanistan and Iraq to root out Al Qaida/ Taliban and Saddam Hussein, respectively. We still have troops in both countries joined in various degrees by our NATO allies. After a period of decline, Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, former head of the KGB, is newly emergent and overly bellicose, both in its unwarranted invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet state, but also in its economic blackmail of Western Europe which unwisely became over-dependent on the Russian bear for natural gas supplies. China has become a major economic power – and the U.S.’s major trading partner; however, lax regulatory, copyright, and quality control procedures have held back its ultimate potential growth. China and India both have flourished as multinational corporations increasingly take their manufacturing – and as of late their service and customer operations – offshore. Many fast growing economies throughout the world, especially in Asia, have been a major factor in the rapidly increasing demand for fossil fuels, which – along with fewer new petroleum finds, greater extraction costs, and political turmoil – forced two other trends: a soar in the price of petroleum products and a push by governments and businesses to promote the development of environmentally friendly technology. However, a side-effect to the push by some industrial nations to “go green” and utilize biofuels has been a decrease in the supply of food and a subsequent increase in food prices. This, in turn, may threaten the world’s poorer nations with an even more severe food shortage.
Politically, after eight years of a Democratic administration, the country was ready for a change and former President Bush’s son, George W. Bush, defeated Clinton’s VP, Al Gore, in 2000. Bush was reelected in 2004, but the domestic debate over our continued involvement in the Iraqi conflict and the Republican-controlled Congress’ rampant spending caused a voter backlash to return Democrats to power in 2006 in Congress and in the 2008 presidential election when Barack Obama defeated Annapolis grad Senator John S. McCain, III.
Lax federal regulation of the financial sector and uncommon greed among the investor class caused a major U.S. bank failure in early 2008 and raised fears of many more to come unless the government stepped in. Despite the government’s bailing out one of these major banks and the nation’s largest insurance company, the tremendous increase in home foreclosures cratered the economy and caused the Stock Market to crash, in turn causing a major credit crunch. With fears of a new depression, government intrusion into private economic decisions became the order of the day – including the virtual takeover of both General Motors and Chrysler.
SUMMARY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
With the retirement of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ed Giambastiani in October 2007, our class has collectively retired from the Naval Service. Gentlemen, pat yourselves on the back, for we did pretty well. Some 153 of us achieved the rank of O-6 in either the Navy or Marine Corps. Sixteen made Rear Admiral, five made Vice Admiral, and three made Admiral. On the Marine Corps side, we had one Brigadier General and two Major Generals. Ed Giambastiani, in addition to having held the number two military job in the nation, was NATO’s first Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) and the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM); Tom Fargo was CINCPAC; and John Nathman was Commander Fleet Forces Command (previously known as CINCLANTFLT). Ed was recently added to the Board of Directors of a small firm called Boeing.
Woody Sutton became a Commerce Department Assistant Secretary (three-star equivalent), Tim McLain was General Counsel at the Veterans Department (three-star equivalent), Kirk Van Tine was General Counsel (three-star equivalent) and Deputy Secretary (four-star equivalent) at the Transportation Department, Nick Williams was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Operations (two-star equivalent) at Treasury, and I was a Deputy Assistant Secretary (two-star equivalent) of Energy. John Grossenbacher is currently the President of the Battelle Energy Alliance and Director of the Idaho National Laboratory. Not bad for a bunch of disgruntled sit-inners! Classmate Bill Daugherty was a 17-year veteran with the CIA and was one of the 53 American Embassy hostages held by the Iranians for almost two years.
As for academia, Ron Machtley is President of Bryant University, Dick Gurnon heads the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and Dave Ellison is the president of the National Defense Intelligence College (and was formerly president of the New Mexico Military Institute after heading the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey in his “twilight” tour as an O-7).
As for elected officials Russ Hauck was mayor of Altamonte Springs, FL, from 1999 to 2008, Bob Baker is a sitting Council Member in San Clemente, CA, Dan Ellison is a City Commissioner of Helena, MT, and I was vice mayor of Falls Church, VA. Also, Roy Golez has served the Republic of the Philippines as Postmaster General, National Security Advisor and as such a member of the Cabinet, and five-term Congressman. Eloy Bermudes was elected a Senator in Guam. But, damn, we had only one U.S. Congressman (Ron Machtley from Rhode Island), so let’s get to it, guys!
That’s the good news. The bad? As of this writing, 80 of our number are deceased. Twenty of these were “operationally killed” (all aviation accidents), two of whom were not recovered. But ne benefit of having “missed” the Vietnam War was that we lost no classmates in combat.
Since graduation the leadership of our class went from Jeff Schott (1970-75) to Jeff Krstich (1975-80) to Terry Huff (1980-85) to Fred (Derf ) Hall (1985-2000) to Lynn Widener (2000-present). It is to these men (plus notable others) that our thanks and appreciation should continually go for their efforts in putting together our major anniversary reunions, representing us before the leadership cadres of the Alumni Association, deciding where our class’ donations should go. Two of these are USS LAKE ERIE, (CG 70), which classmate Bill Parks commanded and USS HOPPER (DDG 70); we sponsor annual awards to the outstanding junior officer and the outstanding petty officer for leadership in both ships. Closer to home, we have provided financial support to the 11th Company Wardroom over the years.
Our class leaders have also helped keep us connected by organizing football tailgates before every home game – with added kudos here to Gino Marchetti, Rick Heaton, and Grant Thorpe. A special recognition must also be given to Royal Connell, who has written the class column for many, many years, as well as being the honcho for ferreting out reunion memorabilia for the class. Way to go, Royal! Also, Nick Visco deserves a big pat on the back for setting up and maintaining the Class of 1970 email list and web page, thereby enabling us to stay connected, advised, and updated. Most of these “worker bees” are residents of the Annapolis area, which is paramount in representing our interests on class matters. These leadership burdens continue and members of the class are encouraged to step forward when and where they can, and whether or not you can serve, express your appreciation for those who are carrying the ball for us on a continual basis.
Over the past 40 years the Class of 1970 has generously “given back” to the Academy. As of this writing, direct cash contributions to the Alumni Association have exceeded $8.6 Million. These contributions have funded projects in Alumni Hall (East Concourse Landing, Music Room, Coaches Conference Room); the Academy Seal above the Visitors Center entrance; the Sailing Center Trophy Room; the China Station Battle Arch at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium; Capstone Seminar Support; and Athletic Excellence Support.
This does not include additional untold millions of dollars in corporate matching funds and special donations like Leo Williams’ negotiation of a $10 Million contribution from his then-employer, Ford Motor Company. (Did you ever wonder why so many members of the Class of 1970 drive Fords? Now you know.) Nor does it include individual and Company gifts such as memorial seats in various buildings in the yard, and other ad hoc donations. And then there are the many millions we gladly pay for memberships in the Naval Academy Alumni Association and the Blue and Gold (Athletic Association).
Many classmates returned to the Academy as Professors, Company Officers, Battalion Officers, and other positions. Noteworthy are Tony Watson and Jerry Farrell, who came back as Deputy Commandant. Also worthy of mention are Carl Wick, who returned to USNA after a 20-year Navy career and became a member of the permanent faculty as Professor, Associate Director of Research for Midshipman Research, and was for several years Systems Engineering Department Head; and Dan Rugg, who serves as Sailing Master, focusing on the training of adults and Midshipmen participating in the Offshore Cruising program. Many others served as Naval Academy Information Officers (Blue and Gold Officers), representing the Naval Academy at college fairs and career days, and helping select future generations of midshipmen and Navy and Marine Corps officers. And let us not forget Skid Heyworth, who as a Vice President of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, is strategically positioned to provide information and support to our endeavors. Paul Zambernardi was head of the financial operation at the Alumni Association but has moved on to other endeavors. By the way, let me hasten to add that apologies are given if I omitted anyone for any noteworthy thing they have done or achieved; clearly, such an oversight was not intentional and the fault is mine alone.
And then there were some “intangible” gifts from our classmates: Roy Golez designed our class crest, and Chip Lancaster designed the now-ubiquitous head-and-shoulders Bill the Goat logo that graces much of what the Naval Academy Athletic Association publishes.
As Skip Thaeler, editor of the 1970 Lucky Bag, put it on the last page of that publication, “The Class of 1970, right or wrong, famous or infamous, has proven in the past four years that its individual members are, in the final analysis, merely human beings – damn good human beings – but human beings, nonetheless.” After 40 years, that statement remains true. “Least likely to succeed?” I don’t think so.
Gary D. Knight
Updated: August 18, 2018
Curator: Ed Moore