West Point '41
The Class That Went to War and Shaped America
West Point ’41 follows the lives of a close-knit group of officers that graduate from West Point together in 1941 and are then catapulted from one conflict into another — World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and for some, Vietnam. The officers struggle with the tumult of wars and early command, with godforsaken places and forgotten comrades. At times they rely on rigid training to survive, but in other instances it is their unorthodox approaches and experimentation that prove the critical difference between life and death — and in their successes in war and peace. In eras of unheralded military latitude, they are permitted to be entrepreneurs, “gazing unfettered into the future,” able to make indelible marks on America. All the while, they cling tightly to moral courage that is often tested and hold firm to the bonds that are so paramount to those of the “Long Gray Line.”
West Point ’41 is driven by first-person recollections of about a dozen key officers still alive today, many who reveal never-before-disclosed incidents of historic importance. Highlights include:
- Class of ’41 officers command in the Battle of the Bulge, drink Hitler’s confiscated champagne in triumph, and carry the atomic weapons to Japan for detonation. They also lose 10 percent of their class to the war.
- They plan the tour de force of the Inchon invasion into Korea and lead under MacArthur, but then fail to rescue one of their own who is confined to a 55-gallon drum beaten 24/7 by the North Koreans.
- In a space race against the Soviets, they succeed in secret missile programs that launch America’s first satellites, yet they must tackle Senator McCarthy as he tries to “out” many in uniform as Communists.
- Some stand armed and ready on the west side of Germany for a possible third world war, while others are outrunning Soviet spies on the east side in sophisticated games of Cold War cat and mouse.
- ’41 officers are vocal in wanting to experiment with armed helicopters, bringing the world’s first combat air-cavalry units to Vietnam.
Over the decades, setbacks among the class are many, but the successes are greater still. They create the first computer command center, help develop nuclear energy, experiment with drones, and parlay military advancements into civilian life. Those that remain, now all in their 90s, come together once more to share their tales of “Duty, Honor, Country,” the West Point creed by which they have tried to live their lives. Through the saga of this group of military friends, readers are carried through the transformation of America as it struggles over more than half a century for its identity and for peace.
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