Opinion

On July 4, saluting contributors to freedom Islander salutes fellow members of the Naval Academy Class of 1957

When I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1957, Dwight Eisenhower was the president. Russia launched Sputnik into space just a few months later and the Cold War was well underway.

On arrival at the Academy for plebe summer in 1953, 1,171 midshipmen were admitted. At graduation in 1957, 848 received a Bachelor of Science degree and almost all received commissions into the Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps.

Two-thirds of the Class went into the Navy (160 went to Flight School), a quarter into the Air Force and about 60 into the Marine Corps. The choice was based on a number drawn at random.

Many of my classmates intended to make the service their career, but a significant number were not sure. Yet seven out of every 10 graduates stayed in the service for 20 years or more.

What happened to my classmates from the Naval Academy during the past 50 years?

Several classmates were lost during the Vietnam War, having been shot down while on missions for the Navy or Air Force. Many lost their lives in flight training or during accidents flying off carriers.

Twenty-five became admirals or generals. Two were prisoners in Vietnam for over five years after being shot down. One became an astronaut and walked on the moon. Another had a key role in developing the now famous GPS (Global Positioning System).

Many went on to receive advanced degrees in engineering fields or management (many from MIT and Harvard). Some went on to complete doctorate degrees. Others left the service and entered the business world.

Several became lawyers. A few entered the medical field; a few became politicians, ministers or priests.

More than a few deserve special recognition.

Bob Brown, Lt. Col. USAF (deceased) — Bob entered the Air Force and became a pilot. He flew 299 combat missions in F-100s over Vietnam in 1966-67 and won four Distinguished Flying Crosses and 16 Air Medals as well as the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross. In 1972, Bob was again assigned combat missions flying the new F-111 from Thailand to North Vietnam and was killed in action while flying a mission on Nov 7, 1972.

Leo Hyatt, Capt, USN (Retired) — Leo went into Navy air and while flying his 33rd mission to Vietnam, in 1967, was shot down. He spent five years and seven months in captivity undergoing torture after suffering extreme injuries after he ejected from his plane at 850 mph. His captivity was similar in many respects to that of John McCain, who graduated one year after our class. Leo received a Silver Star for his heroism while in captivity. After being released, he returned to flying status and commanded a Skyhawk squadron and retired after 28 years in the Navy.

Charlie Duke, Brigadier General, USAF (Retired) — Charlie took a commission in the USAF at graduation and went to flight school. In 1962 the Air Force sent Charlie to MIT for a masters in aeroengineering, and after graduation, he went to Test Pilot training at Edwards. Charlie then became an astronaut in the Apollo Program. He was the Communicator on Apollo 11, the first lunar landing and was on the backup crew for Apollo 13 that helped to rescue the Apollo 13 crew. He went on to fly Apollo 16 and spent 72 hours on the lunar surface. Since retiring, he has been active in Christian ministry work.

Brad Parkinson, Colonel USAF (Retired) — Brad joined the USAF and later was sent to MIT for a master’s degree and then to Stanford for a Ph.D. in aerospace and astronautics. He then was assigned to the Air Force Test Pilot’s School as an instructor. While Deputy Head of the Astronautics Department at the Air Force Academy, he spent most of the year in southeast Asia, where he flew 150 hours of combat missions. Brad subsequently led a DOD team in developing the first GPS system. He was awarded the Draper prize for his leadership on the GPS System. He is presently a professor at Stanford and is also the Program Manager for NASA’s Gravity Probe B (which is a test of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity).

Bruce DeMars, Admiral, USN (Retired) — Bruce went into diesel submarines early in his career and afterward into nuclear subs with extended tours of duty away from his family. He served as Admiral Rickover’s successor, Head of Submarine Nuclear Power Department. As a four-star admiral, he was the Head of Submarine Warfare. Bruce left active duty in 1996 after 43 years in uniform and serves on several corporate boards.

Earle Smith, Capt. USN (Retired) — Earle was a battalion commander and captain of the 1957 Football team where he was an All-American end. Earle entered the Navy and became a submariner. His career was almost ended when a torpedo shot into his sub at a depth of 200 feet. Eighteen men were trapped and Earle, equipped with an oxygen mask, entered the toxic, filled compartment and helped rescue the men. He was awarded the Navy Marine Corps medal for his leadership, courage and devotion to duty.

George (Fritz) Warren, Lt Col USMC (Retired) — Fritz was brigade sub-commander at the Academy and Class president for 37 years. He served as an enlisted Marine before entering the Academy, and was commissioned 2nd LT USMC upon graduation. When the Marines landed in Vietnam in 1965, Fritz requested a frontline combat assignment. As a major, Fritz was forced to take command of a Marine detachment at Dai Do when his two senior officers were wounded and 85 Marines were killed and another 500 were wounded. For his actions, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Many more went on to help win the Cold War, serving on ships at sea for extended periods, flying strategic bombers or tactical fighters, or spending many man-years of duty in underground ICBM sites.

After leaving the service, one-third of the Class of 1957 owned at least one business. One-fifth of the class are/were presidents or vice-presidents of companies while 40 percent served as CEOs. At age 70, well over one-third were working full or part-time.

It was my privilege to have gone to the USNA and to be a member of the Class of 1957.

I think that our class represents a good return on taxpayers’ money.

Island resident George Bouvet was a Guided Missile Launch Officer in the USAF and later became the first 747 Marketing Director at Boeing. He can be reached at georgebouv@msn.com.

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