Your Letters – Summer 2017

The Record welcomes correspondence from its readers. All letters will be considered for publication, but yours is more likely to be published if it is less than 300 words and addresses a relevant and timely topic. We reserve the right to edit for grammar, length, taste, and clarity. In addition, all letters must include your name. Address letters to: Editor of the Record, Norwich University, 158 Harmon Drive, Northfield VT 05663. Or, email with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line.

Known as “Old Gravel Voice,” General Ernest N. Harmon served as Norwich president from 1950 to 1965. (NU Archives)

Known as “Old Gravel Voice,” General Ernest N. Harmon served as Norwich president from 1950 to 1965. (NU Archives)

Memories of General Harmon

My Norwich class, 1952, had the honor of having General Ernest N. Harmon as president for two years.

General Harmon took office and his secretary, Ellie, had to learn to cope with four-letter words.

As a cadet, I was walking next to a new building being built, when I came upon the following conversation. General Harmon was talking to a man eating his lunch while leaning against the building that was under construction. Harmon asked the man why he couldn’t lay 700 bricks a day. The man looked up at Harmon and said something like: Harmon may have been a big man in the Army, and that he, as the union steward on the job would lay 500 bricks a day, and, that unless he got an apology from Harmon, he and his crew were walking off the job, which happened. It was two weeks before the job got under way again, so I guess General Harmon ate crow to get work started again.

Harmon didn’t like fraternities and eventually got rid of them. I was a Lambda Chi at the time, and when I graduated in 1952, Lambda Chi was still there.

Met Harmon while he was visiting Pittsfield, Mass., after I had graduated. He asked me to get a couple of the enemy for him, knowing our class was headed for Korea. My first duty assignment in Korea was with the Prisoner of War Command where we had some 5,000 POWs on the island of Geoje-do. These POWs were being sent to Freedom Village at the DMZ where they would be processed by the Indian Army custodial troops; they were not going back to communism, but rather, going to Taiwan to join Chiang Kai-shek’s forces.

The Norwich I went to had an open-entrance policy, $425 a semester. It was easy to get in—the job was to shape up to the demands to be able to stay. Let me tell you, you worked your butt off to stay. The ring I wear will never leave my finger.

Warren A. Messner ’52
Cotuit, Massachusetts


It was great to see your article in the Record about MG Ernie Harmon. He was a significant figure in the lives of many Norwich alumni, myself included. For my rook and sophomore years on the Hill, he was that larger-than-life figure we learned all about and saw on the stage at gatherings like graduation ceremonies; and we occasionally noticed him around campus.

During my junior year, I was surprised to be selected as the editor-in-chief of the Guidon (the first, and as far as I know, only, electrical engineering major to hold that position) and General Harmon called me into his office to congratulate me—he called me back in several times over the next year to express his pleasure or ire at something in the Guidon. He always respected my position and listened carefully to what I had to say before he started chewing me out with all the class of a true expert.

I would like to relate something I have never told anyone about with regard to the General: When ROTC summer camp was over in 1964, I reported back to Norwich as a cadet second lieutenant member of the cadre, with the position of rook platoon leader in Golf Company. The day before the rooks arrived, General Harmon summoned me again to his office. He first congratulated me for doing well at summer camp. He then let me know that if I felt that the jobs of being editor-in-chief and leading the rook platoon might be too heavy a load to combine with being an engineering major, he would be happy to arrange a lower-stress position for me on the regimental commander’s staff. I told him that I believed I could handle the workload and asked him to allow me to continue, as is. He looked at me with that gruff smirk he could give you and then broke into a smile—his only comment was that’s what he thought I was going to say, and that the attitude would stand well by me in the Army. Then he told me to get the h–l out of his office and go get ready for the rooks. He was a great officer and leader.

Bill MacHarrie ’65
Bristow, Virginia

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