Class Of 1964 USAF Academy




My father had been a career navy man my whole life. I outranked him the day I entered the Academy. I liked that. Actually, he did too.

I was a little disappointed the first day as I waited in line for my inoculations and witnessed several of my new classmates woozy and unconscious from needle shock. An alert nurse noticed I had a high temperature and declared I had mononucleosis and sent me straight to the hospital. I had not yet seen an upperclassman. Ten days later, unbeknownst to me, the powers that be determined that any further interment would preclude me from being in the class of '64. It was make it or break it. They decided that they would release me to the Cadet Wing and if I made it - fine; if not, I could go home and reenter the next year with the class of '65. I was evicted from the hospital with a 102? temperature. Of course I was physically shot. I felt much better after I got my own personal upperclassman to harass me and then bonded with my classmates the next day with PE and the 5 mile run.

The next 30 days was a grim blur. I remember eagerly anticipating the military history movies we got daily. I would be asleep before the lights went out. I still don't know who won the war. I still fall asleep just scrolling through the military channel.

The Cadet Chapel was under construction our whole Doolie year. Somehow, Dave Neal and I got together, made a huge “CLASS OF '64” flag and endeavored to hang it from the tallest steeple. Logistically it looked fairly simple. There was lots of scaffolding and ladders. At least until the last 30 feet. Reality was a little starker. Everything was covered with frozen dew. We couldn't climb with our parkas on. We couldn't use any lights. Our hands were frozen to the point that we couldn't tie a simple knot. It took us hours, but the class of '64 got the first and last flag tied to the steeple of the Cadet Chapel.

After the basic summer I was assigned to 2nd Squadron. This was critical. 2nd Squadron was on the sixth floor of a 6 story building. We could stand on our chair on the top of our desk and reach out our window and grab the metal rail used by the maintenance crew and window washers. My roommate, Pat Hardee, was a gymnast. He could grab the rail while facing out and kip onto the roof in one motion. I had to push and squirm like a mere mortal. Once on the roof we had access to every room in the dormitory. One of our classmates fell out of his window. The fall didn't kill him, but he died from exposure. You must appreciate the military mind. When you investigate an accident, the last step is implementing a plan to make sure that a similar accident never recurs. In this instance they came around and screwed all of our windows shut. We could only open them about 8 inches (unless you had a screwdriver.) The most memorable occasion was right before recognition. Hardee and I mapped every upperclass room. We hung over the roof and painted a huge 64 (backwards) on every upperclass window. Stealth was paramount. The upperclassmen were upset when they awoke to our graffiti. They were even more upset when they realized they couldn't remove it because their windows were screwed shut. Even if they unscrewed the windows, they couldn't safely reach far enough to remove it all.

I got one of my old high school buddies to send me a large, live tarantula. When I took it out of the box, my roommate (not Hardee) went berserk. He was screaming hysterically. An upperclassman whose nap was interrupted barged into the room and dressed down my roommate. I had put the tarantula on top of my head. The upperclassman was short and focusing entirely on my roommate. I just stood at attention and the tarantula went unnoticed.

I once took a black widow and hung it over the entrance to the room of an upperclassman I didn't like. But the spider died and wasn't terribly impressive.

I met my wife-to-be when I was invited back to the Academy to meet an Academic review board at the end of our second semester. I had flunked EE and Aero. The board said go home or get turned back. I officially became a member the the class of '65. My roommate (not Hardee) was not given the choice and I never saw him again. I was told the difference was that I had some good grades.

One of my favorite tricks was to go into the latrine in the middle of the night. I would lock the door to each john and crawl out. After reveille in the morning we all had to form up for roll call. Then we were dismissed and a substantial portion of the 100 cadets would head to the latrine with zero johns available.

After I met my wife-to-be, my grade point went from 1.6 to 3.8. I was on the Dean's list and the D list (deficiency). I lost privileges on one list and got extra on the other.

When I lost my privileges, about the only place I could legally meet my fiancee was the athletic complex. It was easy for me to get there but not for her. I showed her how to come through the subterranean tunnels. I never knew when we met if the big smile on her face was because she was happy to see me or because she had to walk through the men's basketball locker room to get to me.

After the cadets played intramural sports on the athletic fields we all had to walk back to the dormitory. We doolies had to run. When we got to the dorm, remember I lived on the 6th floor. Doolies were not allowed to use the elevator. We had to climb flights of stairs. The upperclassmen would all pile into the elevators. I would wait on the 6th floor and when no one was looking, I would enter the empty elevator and scramble through the hatch in the top of the elevator (they all have one). After carefully replacing the hatch, I would take over command with the manual override. I would take it to the first floor and pick up a crowded load of tired, sweaty upperclassmen eager to get to their rooms, relax and get ready for dinner. I would take the load all the way to 6, bypassing all the intermediate stops. I would wait without opening the door until everyone got agitated. Then I would take it back down and open the door on a solid brick wall. I could see them a little through vents and cracks and I could hear everything. It didn't take long before they got very frustrated and a little worried. The combinations were endless. Eventually, I would return them to the 1st floor and open the door. 99.9% of them would bail. I would wait a couple of minutes and pick up a new load. It was addictive - like playing Pac-man (which had't been invented yet.)

I validated a course and went to summer school. I took an overload and the Academic Board voted to allow me back into the class of '64. As far as I know I'm the only cadet to get turned back and returned.

I went out for the football team. I was so ignorant, I didn't even know you were supposed to be recruited in high school. If I had known, I could have gotten a scholarship. I was one of the bigger players at 200 pounds. As an offensive tackle I was playing across from guys almost twice my size. I remember one behemoth in particular. I was quicker and more agile. He rushed a pass play. I hit him low and hard and he crumbled. He came back the next play and hit me with a forearm that broke my helmet and my jaw.

I appeared to be a jinx on roommates. Clyde Gregory flunked out first semester. Pat Boyle flunked out second semester. William Palikainen was a moose of a guy; he died of a heart attack in 1965. Pat Hardee was a Mormon. He didn't even drink coke. He died of cancer in 1987. Roger Laws decided he would rather get married and resigned rather than room with me. I lived alone more than one semester. Fred Olmstead was about the only one who survived and thrived.

One night that I would like to forget, Hardee and I planned to tape footprints across the side of the academic building. Hardee went over the side first and got a couple of footprints in place. He came back up and complained that it was too hard to hold on the the rope while balancing and handling the cutouts and the tape. I should have better understood the situation. If there was anyone qualified for this job, it was Hardee. His nickname was Spider. But it was my turn so I went over the edge. In retrospect we should have made a harness and swung down, but we just tied a noose around our midsection in case we slipped. After I put up a couple of footprints, I decided to abort. Unfortunately I didn't have enough upper arm strength left to get up. I was hanging 5 stories above the ground. I outweighed Hardee by over 50 pounds, so he wasn't capable of pulling me up. We decided he would go back to the squadron and conscript enough mass to pull me up. Meanwhile I'm hanging helplessly and my safety noose is slipping and cutting me in half. Finally the cavalry arrived. Hardee had brought John Galbreath and Ray Lennon (2 of my football buddies) and Al McArtor (the future head of the Federal Aviation Administration.) They hauled up my limp body effortlessly. In the meantime the Duty Officer had arrived at the base of the building. Apparently he heard me screaming like a little girl. He was yelling up “You men stay there until I get up there”. We were all yelling “Yes sir” as we ran and limped back to the dorm.

I never got caught and I graduated proudly with the USAFA class of 1964.

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