Alumni

Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Bob Cotten, ’42, sat down to work on an article for this magazine, then called Alumni Bulletin. After writing about Santa Claus and term papers, he took a break about 2 p.m. and walked into another room. There, he found “a blaring radio, a group of silent, attentive boys, and numerous ‘shushs.’” That was how he learned about the attack at Pearl Harbor.

In the years that followed, this magazine published war-related class notes received from Richmond College students and alumni under the title “Passed by Censor.” Here’s a sample of what they sent:

DECEMBER 1942
From Ward Island out in Corpus Christi, Texas, Henry Black, ’40, good naturedly complains, “I am fast becoming known as the ‘perfect-type-for-permanent-apprentice seaman.’” He confesses that he has “done everything ill-befitting a college grad from scrubbing windows, being mess cook, scouring pots and pans, to … scrubbing the inevitable decks.” The Navy school is described as even “rougher than U. of R. freshman math.”

A letter from Second Lieutenant Robert P. Van Buren, ’41, whose duties as a member of the Quartermaster Corps have carried him throughout most of England. “It makes quite an impression on you to see at first hand the ruins of the big cities that we calmly saw in a newsreel at home. You realize what these people have been through.”

APRIL 1943
Captain Reed Taylor, ’39, who will be remembered as a strong-armed third baseman on some very good Richmond teams, achieved a masterpiece of understatement when he described the jungle, guerilla warfare as “exceedingly rough.”

Ensign W.H. (Wish) Martin, ’39, who achieves the honor of being the first alumnus to have a letter to the alumni office mutilated by the censor, is somewhere in the Pacific ... “hell west from nowhere” which is more graphic than exact. He tells that “Parke Starke, ’40, and I left San Diego approximately the same time. He’s the squadron’s weatherman. Lyle Graham, ’37, reported in recently, and the three of us form the U. of R. alumni chapter in this particular part of (that censor again) country.”

Wilbur Hoffecker, ’31, writes from officer’s candidate school that in just two weeks he’ll know whether he’s to be “a second lieutenant or an awful smart corporal stuck off somewhere.” (He’s an awful smart second lieutenant now. Congratulations.)

Lieut. Russ Walton, ’39, (the salty fellow who has been reported by Spider servicemen from Labrador to the Equator) was “fortunate enough to visit the States recently and I was introduced to my son. Don’t forget to send him a catalog. It is great to know that I have him back there waiting for me.” Russ encloses a picture of the young Commander, resplendent in his ol’ man’s seagoing headgear.

JUNE 1943
Pete Dunford, ’15, will never forgive the Axis for taking him clean out of the country during the spring of 1943 when the Spiders won both the Southern Conference and State championships in baseball. No one ever pulled quite as hard as Pete (Lt. Col. J. Earle Dunford) for the Spiders and the award of the gold baseballs wasn’t quite official without Pete on hand.
Always welcome are the letters from Ensign W.B. (Bo) Gillette, ’40, who’s having the time of his life in the Southern Pacific. There has been “plenty excitement,” he writes. “We are doing fine in this area, and I wish I could tell you more.” The only unhappy note is the postscript: “There are swell tropical moons on these sleepy lagoons — but the other very necessary element is lacking.”

From John Archer Carter, ’16, comes word that young Nick (Charles Carter, ’44) is “first at the gun ... a sight setter ... with the champion gun crew on all oceans. He’s been chased by a Nazi raider, bombed in Bristol, and God knows what else in the whole year that he’s been sloshing his life about on our behalf.”

NOVEMBER 1943
From a prison camp somewhere in Italy, Jimmy Turkington, ’41, writes that at last he has “come down to earth.” The card, which cleared through the Italian censors, arrived just a few days before Mussolini took it on the lam. Whether Jimmy is again flying a P-38 for the Army Air Forces or has been moved to a German prison camp is uncertain.

Pvt. J. Ben Rouzie, ’43, who has always had his head in the clouds, is still flying planes as an Army Air Corps cadet and is still writing poetry.

From North Africa comes a letter from Private Bill Bareford, ’43, who sends his best wishes to the boys in the armed reserves on the campus. “Let’s finish this job,” he writes, “so that we may meet soon at U. of R.” His friend and college roommate, Straughan Richardson, ’43, is also in Africa. “So far, I haven’t seen any fireworks yet (August 21),” Bill writes, “but we are not over here on a vacation.”

The funniest thing Jack Gordon, ’41, ever saw was Private Lewis Ball, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., peeling potatoes. Dr. Ball, late of the English faculty of the University had traded in his three degrees for the military degree of K.P. when Jack ran into him at Camp Lee where both of them were inducted into the service.

MARCH 1944
Pvt. H.J. (Jack) Gordon, ’40, is soldiering in England and his biggest complaint is the weather. “The sun may never set on the British Empire,” so he says, “but, on the other hand, it never shines on England.”

Pvt. W.T. (Willie) Bareford, ’43, sends a newsy letter to Dr. Mac about the invasion. He says that censorship restrictions have been somewhat lifted. “About six o’clock on the night we were going to land, it was announced that Italy had surrendered. The air was filled with the cheers of the boys aboard. I firmly believe that the news made the invasion harder than it would have been. Before I left the ship, the wounded and dead soldiers and sailors were being brought aboard. I tried not to see anymore than possible. It took about an hour to get to the beach in our landing barge. German ’88 shells fell about us but we were lucky and didn’t get a hit. When the barge hit sand, we ran ashore in water about waist deep and two hundred yards up the shore, we dug foxholes and prepared to stay the night.”

JULY 1944
The mail brought a letter from Lt. [Jimmy] Turkington, ’41, from a prisoner of war camp somewhere inside Germany. Jim reports that he is in good shape but a bit homesick. “I’ll be back to see you all, so have a big get-together planned.”

Lt. J.R. (Johnny) Kellison, ’41, is in the Engineers and was stationed in England. With good luck, Johnny should be repairing bridges or doing something engineerical (?) right now on the highway to Berlin.

Lt. Batholomew G. Tenore, ’36, is the proud possessor of the Air Medal and two bronze Oak Leaf clusters for work with a P-51 Mustang Fighter group. He has flown his ship “Prodigal Son” on 25 missions over enemy territory, destroying a ME 100 on a bomber mission over Bourges, France, and sharing in the destruction of two others, one near Berlin and another near Barritz.

NOVEMBER 1944
Ensign John L. Decker, ’43, convalescing from wounds received in action, writes to tell how it all happened. Writes John: “While attempting to talk to some surrounded [Japanese soldiers] from a cave, I was wounded by a hand grenade and promptly removed from the scene of action. There were 20 of them in the cave and they never did surrender. I found myself in a big hospital in Guadalcanal. During my convalescence I received ye olde Purple Heart which I would happily trade for 24 hours on the campus of U. of R.”

MARCH 1945
A postscript to that survivors note concerning Lt. Ed. Brooks, ’43. Prof. Caylor received a letter from Lt. Bill Fitzhugh, ’41, who told of being present when a very watersoaked and weary Spider was pulled from the briny Pacific. It was Bill’s ship that spotted and rescued the lucky survivors. And according to both Bill and Ed, it was a lucky rescue, for the Pacific is a mighty large pond to go searching for that floating toothpick.

NOVEMBER 1945
Lt. Col. Jesse M. Johnson, ’22, is stationed in Japan as staff judge advocate with General Eichelberger. In a recent letter to friends, he stated, “Some days ago I went to Naha, the largest city and capital of Okinawa. Before the war it had a population of 65,000. Now, not a single household is left standing. It is hard to believe such havoc and ruins can come to a people. Surely Sherman was right when he said, ‘War is hell.’”

[Editor’s note: The November 1945 issue notes that Jim Turkington was released from a POW camp in April 1945.]