Over forty years ago, on 7 July 1959, 1191 of us
together in Annapolis, Maryland for the seminal formation of the Class
of 1963. What are your memories of that time, that day, that
It hit us all a little differently, but it changed all of our lives.
Send in your memories to WebMaster@USNA63.org so we can share them via this page.
Al Breen, Don White, Bob VanNice, and
USNA Class of 1963
Photo taken July 1959
Steve, Amen to all of that - great times we all had and the best part was meeting such super guys.
During plebe summer Joe Bellino was our 2nd class leader. To show how uninformed I was, I didn't even know that he was the star of the Navy football team. So when he asked if anyone thought they could tackle him I spoke up and said YES SIR! He and his buddies had a great laugh out of that one. (actually I'd have loved the chance because as it was when I went out for plebe football, I tried to figure out where a little guy could play - tried out for end and after unsuccessfully trying to block those 200 pound hunks, I was saved from future embarrassment by getting a heat stroke and deciding that maybe that was a signal!) Fortunately, my plebe summer roomy had gotten me interested in playing lacrosse - they needed a 10th man to chase balls!
So many special coincidences make life great!
And here's a couple more
our first few days from Dave Moore and Jerry Huss. First from
Well, here it is again. July 7,
Isn't this where we came in???
Its amazing that two significant days
USNA that are a complete blur to me are Induction Day and
I can vaguely remember filling out lots of forms in the Mess Hall trying to emulate the example of Midn W. T. Door or Midn Gish.
For the ceremony in Tecumseh Court all I can remember is Capt Bringle telling us that it is very important to keep your sense of humor, both in the Academy and in the Fleet.
And I learned a new word: MUSTER. We must have mustered sixty times in the first 24 hours.
I also know we got shots, a haircut (that was not as severe as I had expected), and issued lots of gear including stencils, a gray metal lock box (I still have mine - and I bet most of you still have yours), Reef Points, Pratt's Compact History of the U.S. Navy, Blue Jacket's Manual. But I can't remember if these came on the 7th or 8th.
My plebe summer crew (109) was assigned rooms in the Terrible Tenth Company area of the Fifth WIng. We arrived in our rooms to find most of the mirrors had writing on them with a bar of soap: STANDBY 63 ! No translation from navalese to civilianese was necessary for that salutation.
The ultimate moment of glory for me came at reveille the next morning when we were introduced to the thirteen bells. From the bottom of a double bunk bed I jumped out to begin my great naval career. My room mate in the top bunk did the exact same thing creating a time/space problem. Since he weighed at least 40 more pounds than I did, I was totally squashed. A telling comment on the Plebe Year process. I am glad I stayed for the second reveille.
There was a story making the rounds of Bancroft Hall that someone resigned that first day, either before or just after swearing in, as soon as he completed a promise made to his family. Does anyone know if this is a true story ???
When I look back on that incredible summer of 1959, I often think of the fact it was only 14 years after the A- bombs dropped on Japan and six years after fighting stopped in Korea. We do not normally think of ourselves as "post-war" people, but now we realize that 14 years is only a blink of the eye. We were certainly close enough to the great heroes of WWII to consider them part of our lives as well as our heritage.
Can anyone shed light on what happened on July 7, 1959. ?????
And From Jerry:
Thanks for your detailed memories
first couple of days of Plebe
Summer. Your point regarding the proximity of WWII and Korea to that
fateful day in July of 1959 is interesting; but back then a year seemed like
a long time (especially when it was Plebe Year).
My Plebe Summer Crew was also located in the Fifth Wing. I can't remember
the exact number, but 104 sticks in my mind. My roommates were Andy Tate
and Virgil Markus. Across the hall were the likes of Joe Strasser, Jim
DeFrancia and Dave Nelson. I recall also that the summer of '59 was a warm
and humid one, at least by my standards. I enjoyed Mike Moore's comments
regarding his White Works' woes. For me it was timing, or lack of it. Due
to the heat and humidity, I never seemed to have a dry pair of White Works
to throw on to get to that next muster. Invariably, when the bell went off,
the only clean jumper was the one I had just stenciled five minutes before.
I also recall spending a lot of time in bed with my issued M-1. That was
somewhat related to my first crisis during Plebe Summer. Being a complete
non-swimmer, I quickly found myself on the Sub Squad for failure to get
across the shallow pool for the 100 yard swim without walking on the bottom.
At that stage I would have failed a ten yard swim. A week or two later, I
was assigned the Mate of the Deck Watch while the rest of my squad was
learning the manual of arms. The following drill, when the rest of my
crewmates were smartly handling their M-1's, I was all thumbs and was
immediately assigned to...the dreaded Awkward Squad. Since the "squads"
generally met in the late afternoon, I was faced with the dilemma of which
squad took priority. Someone on the Plebe Summer detail directed me to the
table of priorities in the Midshipmen Regulations, and the Sub Squad won
out. I guess they figured you could drown quicker than you could hurt
yourself with an M-1 with a fixed bayonet. Nearing the end of Plebe Summer,
I finally demonstrated that I could swim 100 yards (thanks to Prof. Higgens'
back stroke lessons), and I extricated myself from the Awkward Squad the
following day, since by that time I had figured out how to maneuver the M-1
without hurting myself.
I think the saddest day of my life was saying goodbye to my parents at the
end of Parents' Weekend, and certainly one of the happiest was the last day
of Plebe Year. You had to be there to understand the highs and lows of the
experiences we shared.
Well, here it is again. July 7, (2001). Isn't this where we came in???
Its amazing that two significant days
USNA that are a complete blur to me are Induction Day and
While we were mustering, a short guy passed between the Batt Office and our "formation" in the direction of McDonough Hall. The classmate mustered next to me whispered the gent was "Joe Bellino." I had heard of the Winchester Rifle and imagined him at least 6-1. But here was a short guy in sweats.
Fast forward to several mornings later: 0530 in Thompson Stadium for morning PT (it may have been been the result of a Form Two). The leader of the PT is Midn 2nd Class Bellino and his height is the same but his now exposed thighs must each be reviling California sequoias in diameter. Much later, we enjoyed the benefit of his performance in Philadelphia as Joe and his teammates destroyed Army. We are additionally told his classmates enjoyed the benefits of the "Bellino Curve." Did we have one of those?
The three of us were sworn in two days later in Mem Hall, with our words echoing around the great room as we pledged our allegiance to God and Country, and not necessarily in that order. Finally we were allowed the privilege of sweating our you know what off in the pleasant humidity of the East Coast with the rest of the class. Welcome to the rest of our life.
One incident that still is a fresh as the day it happened was with Jack Burke, my roommate for four years. We were sitting in our room when Buzz Needham came in and yelled "brace up". I immediately leaped into position, but Jack thought this was a prank by one of our classmates, and told him to do the same. After a few seconds with Buzz flying into a rage, Jack realized maybe it wasn't someone from '63 and he should follow the lead of the rest of us in the room. Needless to say, Jack did his share of come-a rounds, and Buzz exacted his pounds of flesh for the lack of proper respect.
My parents, brothers, sister and my girlfriend at the time drove me to Annapolis on July 6th. Vince Gilroy and his future wife, Robin came with Vince's family to see him off also. Vince graduated a year later than I did from Massapequa (NY) high school. Both families stayed at the Annapolis Terrace Motel on Route 50. We were all out by the pool and met the Reemelin family who came from Ohio to see their son Tom off. I still remember Tom's infectious laugh and his falsetto "Shaaaack" that made me feel great every time I saw him during Plebe Summer and many times from then to now.
I, too remember the terrible heat and humidity. White works were always soaked. I remember on July 7th, dragging a seabag plus armfuls of "stuff" to my fifth wing room. Sitting on the desk, with a big smile and a cheerful, "howdy" was Jary (Lew) Lewis. He was a sailor from the fleet so, as such seemed like a real old salt. Terry O'Brien (now deceased) also was our Plebe Summer roommate. Lew got us both through Plebe Summer. He encouraged us, showed us how to spit shine shoes, stencil and the like. Most of all he kept us pumped up.
I fondly remember some of our Second Class Detail Leaders. They seemed like bronze gods and turned out to be terrific human beings. I particularly remember Jim Traa, Buzz Galbraith, and Jack Prudhomme. I ran into Jack Prudhomme in GTMO in the summer of 1965 while on a Destroyer School cruise. His carrier was on its way to WESTPAC. I was really devastated when I heard that year that he was shot down over North Vietnam.
With my aging memory, these things still stand out. The times and names may have blurred a little but they still seem clear to me. This was a great start to my adult life and I would not change anything. We're a brotherhood.
On July 7, 1959, by chance Ron stood behind me in a long line in the Rotunda to draw stencils. As we waited, we began chatting and I asked his name. When he told me, I asked him if he were any relation to the Washington Senators former second baseman, Wayne Terwilliger (who's still with us, http://www.wayneterwilliger.com/bio.html). I don't remember what Ron said, but I think it was "no."
We continued talking as the line progressed, and, as we got to the head of the line, we saw the numerals "63" on the stencils of the classmate in front of us. I then speculated that I'd be "64" and Ron would be "65." As the cliche has it -- in more ways than one -- "Boy, did I ever get a wrong number!"
I doubt that Ron remembers this, but I haven't forgotten it in fifty years.
In answer to Dave Moore's question above about a mid resigning on 7 July, yes, it's true. I understand the fellow was named Herb H.... who had received the Principal Appointment from Maryland Representative Dewitt S. Hyde after a 2-year selection process that had started with 75 candidates. I was the fifth alternate from Congressman Hyde's list and, since Herb X had accepted the appointment, I was going off to NROTC at Brown. I don't know for sure that he left on 7 July but I do know he was gone by the 8th!
My own eventual membership in'63 came in late April/early May when I was offered, and accepted, appointment as a Qualified Alternate under P.L. 186.
I remember the first homecoming weekend, sometime that fall, hearing all the laughing and riotous noises emanating from the evening alumni meal in the Mess Hall and deciding to walk through Smoke Hall to see what in the world was going on. On my way down I spotted a bunch of alumni with their class of 1934 name tags. They were there for their 25th. I had a nice chat with a few of them and as they left I said to myself "Imagine the Class of 34. My God those guys are old!"
Even though I actually enjoyed Plebe summer, my two summer room mates didn't fare too well. One of them had attended college for several years in Georgia and liked fraternity life and the other one was a Navy enlisted man who enjoyed giving orders to others but not taking them. At 17, I didn't know any better and did what I was told and everything worked out fine for me but my two room mates didn't last the summer. After 40 years of marriage to my wonderful wife Chauni, I still do what I am told and have found it to be just as successful!
For most of plebe year, Joe Bellino lived directly across the hall and I also can confirm that his thighs were in fact HUGH and he received more mail daily than all the rest of us on the floor combined!
March 30, 2009
Pride & Tradition