Tuesday morning, June 6, 1950, the Corps of Cadets, and the families and friends of the graduating class, heard an address by Secretary of the Army Frank Pace. His remarks included a brief insight into Academy history, "...every West Point class except those of 1945 through 1950 has shed its blood for America on the battlefield." The implication was unmistakable. There would be men among those six classes who would eventually be tested on battlefields somewhere in the world.
To many in America's armed forces, Korea would mean going into battle for the third time in their lives. Young soldiers and officers who survived the horrors of World War I trench and aerial warfare - with its advancing technology of machine guns, heavy artillery, tanks, the airplanes, and lethal gas - had become many of the non-commissioned officers and commanders in Army and Air Force combat units of World War II. Others became the senior military leaders, the master strategists and tacticians in the "great crusade," "the good war" of the 20th century.
For West Point's graduates, the graduates of all military academies and officer training courses, and the American G.I.'s who fought in their commands, Korea was once more into the fire. Consistently, throughout the Academy's history, the classes that graduate just before the onset of war suffer disproportionate losses in the battles to follow.
In the Civil War there were two classes from the year 1861. The classes of May and June 1861 totaled 79. Forty-three of their number fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War, near Washington, D.C., on July 21 of the same year. Before Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April of 1865, twelve were killed in action or died of wounds.
In the 20th century the classes of April and August of 1917 into the "war to end all wars", "Black '41" into World War II, and in the summer of this year, the Class of 1950 suffered its baptism by fire in Korea.
Go onto Part 3 'The Lieutenants' Wars'
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