YOUR LETTERS – SPRING 2012

Exceptional Training
The student service-learning project with the Vermont National Guard I read about in the winter 2011 Record sounds exceptional. With the type of war, or conflict if you like, that we are fighting today, this is precisely the kind of training that is needed. The fact that the students played a role in training the soldiers is the most impressive aspect. It is necessary that current soldiers and leaders go through this training, but how much more important for the future leaders of our military. I wish I had had this type of learning experience; it would have served me well. No longer are we kicking in doors, now we knock. I believe that the role your students have played in this is more beneficial than they probably realize, but one day they will. The hardest part of helping those of different countries is that you don’t share their language. Even with an interpreter it is difficult, and I believe your students as well as the soldiers realized this. The language barrier takes an already difficult task and turns it into an errand that requires effort and patience beyond what people understand. 

2LT George T. Rouson ’10
Deployed to Afghanistan

Bataan Death March
Some months ago I remember reading in The Record that a team of Norwich guys went to White Sands Missile Range to participate in the annual Memorial Death March. My dad, Major Robert B. Blakeslee, was on the original Bataan Death March, and I am involved in the descendants group of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor (ADBC). A few years back, my sister and I went on a tour of the Philippines, where we retraced the route of the march and visited the three prison camps my father was in. While on the trip, we met a retired Marine colonel, Gerry Schurtz, one of the organizers of the White Sands event. His dad was also a POW, but did not survive; my dad did.
Yesterday I received the publication of the ADBC (called The Quan), and in it was a notice about this year’s Memorial Death March and a registration fee structure. The early-registration fee for a five-man team is $425. In honor of my father I would be honored to contribute $425 to the Norwich team if they are going to participate again this year. 

Steve Blakeslee ’62
Deland, Florida

More on Iranian Students
The Iranian revolution, which culminated with the overthrow of the Shah in January 1979, began in 1977. In the summers of 1976, 1977, and 1978, Norwich enrolled a full contingent of Iranian Imperial Naval cadets. My memory is that at the peak there were more than 140 Iranian students. The Shah was overthrown in January 1979. Khomeini’s government stopped sending naval students to Norwich that summer, but did allow the previous three classes to continue. Thus, at the time of the deportation in April 1980, the Norwich Classes of 1980, 1981, and 1982 included Iranians.

I remember how angry I was at the time of the deportation. That anger intensified when we learned that similar Iranian midshipmen at the Citadel and VMI were not deported. How stupid to return angry people to Iran who had the potential to be among the future leaders of their country, instead of future ambassadors of goodwill toward the United States.

When a handful of Iranians returned to Norwich to finish their education, I stuck my neck out and did not charge them for tuition and fees while they completed their degrees. My reasoning was that the cost to educate them was negligible since their reenrollment did not result in any additions to the payroll. Also, the Iranian Navy had paid the tuition and fees for the 1980 spring semester for which they received no credit, through no fault of their own. Lastly, they had no money, because the Iranian government would not let their families send funds out of the country. However, I did tell them I expected them to support Norwich after they graduated. I am pleased to note that at least two whom I got to know quite well are today strong supporters of Norwich. Both are quoted in the article—Sussan Shahin Coley and Kazem Yahyapour. My wife, Jackie, and I have maintained contact with them and exchange Christmas cards. So I can pull my neck back in—my faith in those two has been vindicated.

All in all, from my perspective, enrolling those Iranian midshipmen turned out to be a very positive factor for Norwich. The concern over having more than ten percent of the student body from a foreign country proved groundless. 

Gerald “Gerry” Painter
McMinnville, Oregon

More Ink on Ink
I am writing in response to the responses in your winter 2012 issue to the earlier article “Norwich Ink.” I should start by stating that my connection to Norwich, while important to me, is not of the traditional sort: Master of Arts in Military History, 2009. My more traditional educational history is much older and very “left coast”: BA, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 1967 and JD, University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall) School of Law, 1970.

In 1961 I enlisted in the United States Army and, for reasons that seemed to make sense to me at the time, volunteered for parachute training. Hence, just before Christmas 1961 I graduated from the 82nd Airborne Division’s jump school.

Immediately after graduation on a Friday afternoon (or more accurately, very early on Saturday morning) I had a tattoo consisting of the Army’s parachute badge placed on my right arm. I think well over half of my class took essentially the same step that weekend. I do not think this was nearly as common among our officer classmates, but I cannot be sure. I could state that I was three sheets to the wind when I actually got the tattoo but this would be misleading. I knew from the day I arrived at jump school that I was going to get one upon graduation. In fact, my father had a tattoo on the same spot from World War II in the Pacific.

It is my opinion that the present-day change in attitude toward tattoos is a very good thing. Imagine the 60s’ attitude toward tattoos in general (as expressed by your readers) through the lens of the People’s Republic of Berkeley* during the Vietnam War, and you will be able to understand my feelings on the subject.

Stuart W. Willis M’09
Martinez, California

*Editor’s note: i.e., Berkeley, Calif., known not only for its well-known public university with a tradition of free speech, but for its reputation as a liberal/progressive community and a tradition (dating back to the Vietnam War) of the city government taking positions and passing resolutions on foreign policy issues (despite having no influence or authority in this arena).

The Harmon Trophy
I was happy to see the letter regarding the Upper Athletic Fields in the fall 2011 issue. The handsome guy in the foreground blocking for Pat O’Brien is me. The intramural competition in different sports was a big thing at Norwich then, and the goal for every company was to win the Harmon Trophy, which had a formula of points for all the sports and a yearly winner. We even had company-level hockey teams back then. Before that game depicted in the photo, we did have a substantial amount of snow, (not unusual) and we played on and won the game. Our company later dominated in other sports and I believe won the Harmon Trophy. I was in two different companies that won the award during my time there and it was a big deal (after all, not a lot to do up there!). On a side note, I was a participant in the first rugby activities in 1970 and went on tour to Wales in 1974. “Men of Norwich hats off to thee/True our colors we will always be!”

Carl J. Hamm ’74
Charlotte, N.C.

Benefits of Travel
You are so right about foreign travel (Spinning the Record: Winter 2012). And so too was Mark Twain… I love that quote. I spent a junior year abroad in Vienna in 1973–’74 and it was life-changing. I enlisted in the Army after college to learn a foreign language and then go back to Europe. (This didn’t happen quite as I had planned, as I was sent to Fort Hood, Texas). Fortunately, I met my husband in the military and we were subsequently stationed in Germany and then France.

France was the best … we were the only American family at the French Military Academies (Coetquidan, Bretagne) and for miles around. We lived the French life, were housed in French quarters, shopped at French stores, socialized with the French military, and our kids attended a French Catholic school founded in 1808. It was truly an awesome experience. We love our amenities here in the U.S.—the large houses, the huge kitchens, the cheap food and utilities. Living abroad one learns that the American way is not the only way to live, that other cultures and nations have their own ways, different maybe from ours, but that are as important to them as our ways are to us.   

Maureen Painter Vanek
Dupont, Washington

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