Jul 19

Story Time with ’72: USNA Class of 1972 Remembers I-Day from 50 Years Ago

Thursday, July 19, 2018 12:01 AM

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Thursday June 28th the U.S. Naval Academy inducted the newest class of midshipmen. On I-Day, just as it is every year, the yard was busy with parents trying to catch a glimpse of their child as they exited Alumni Hall’s loading docks where newly minted 2nd Lieutenant taught them how to salute and walked to their new home in Bancroft Hall. Just across the footbridge over College Creek vendors held an event to distract parents from the day’s events as well as welcome them to the USNA family.

Mock Up of the "Honor Coin" given from the "ol link" to the "new" when they meet near the end of plebe summer. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Mock Up of this year’s “Honor Coin” given from the “old link” to the “new” when they formally meet near the end of plebe summer. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

 

Link In The Chain Banner at the Parents Tent on I-Day. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Link In The Chain Banner at the Parents Tent on I-Day. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Walking around the Parents tent, taking in the sight of excited and nervous parents, I came across the Class of 1972’s corner. The Class of 1972, who took their oath nearly 50 years ago to the day, is the Link in the Chain for the class of 2022. The program started to keep the legacy of the Naval Academy alive. To do so each graduating class is linked to the class that graduated 50 years prior. As I introduced myself to the gentlemen the “sea stories” started flying in rapid succession.

Bill Moffatt shares I-Day stories with MIDN 2/C Sparks. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Bill Moffatt shares I-Day stories with MIDN 2/C Sparks. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Leib)

When the Class of ’72 entered the Academy the U.S. was in the height of the Vietnam War. The Tet Offensive was just a few months prior. In the pre-9/11 U.S. public opinion toward the military was less than warm. According to Andy Wehrle, Class of 1972, “only 4 guys were left on the bench” referring to 4 applicants that did not get in as opposed to the over 14000 applicants left out for the class of 2022. Other members of the class recall similar feelings toward them from friends and even family back home when they returned for leave claiming they stuck out like sore thumbs with short haircuts. Things were a bit different then with the war and no clear aversion to hazing but the more I listened to the gentlemen talk the more I realized some things never change.

Then MIDN Bob Leib arrives for I-Day. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Then MIDN Bob Leib arrives for I-Day. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Induction Day is, as its name suggests, the day the plebe class is inducted into the U. S. Naval Academy. On “I-Day” plebes are processed in, issued their new gear, and turned over to their detailers. For the Class of 1972’s I-Day, June 26th, 1968, was a warm summer day typical to Annapolis’s notoriously humid climate. Most midshipman remember the winding path through Alumni Hall to Bancroft Hall as a blur. Rob Hardy, however, recalls his I-Day vividly:

“We did paperwork in the brigade library, a building which no longer stands but it was where Mitscher Hall is now. I stepped out of the building and started getting yelled at. From the eighth wings came music; some upperclassmen had rigged big speakers and pointed them out of the window, playing “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which was a sort of middie anthem at the time. I got a lot of shouting directed at me, and I can remember smiling at how absurd it all was. “Wipe that smile off, Mister!” came the command, and I did so, but I pride myself that I kept a sense of humor during that stressful summer…” (sic).

Members of the Class of 72 waiting between 6th and 8th Wing of Bancroft hall. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Leib)

Members of the Class of 72 waiting between 6th and 8th Wing of Bancroft hall. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Leib)

One of Rob’s classmates, Saul Klein, remembers an easy start to his I-Day as he and a family friend stopped for a Coke on the way to what he calls his “date with destiny.” The comfort of the Coke did not last long after checking in to the library. Once the paperwork was done he was told to stand out in the sun, memorize everything on a card, and wait for further instructions. On this card was a midshipman’s platoon, company, battalion, regiment, and a small number, called an alpha code, which is used to mark everything (literally everything) from a midshipman’s skivvies to their email. At first glance he thought, “Why bother to memorize numbers? They couldn’t be important!” However, Saul’s mindset was rapidly corrected when he told one of the detailers he memorized the card and the first thing they asked for was his “alpha.” It was then that he “received [his] first taste of the temper of the Class of 1970.” Saul, who still knows his own alpha, takes comfort in the fact that a midshipman’s alpha remains the first thing memorized on I-Day.

Summer of 68 WWA

MIDN 4/C Saul Klein in White Works Alpha. (Photo Courtesy of Saul Klein)

The first time the class of ’72 plebes got their fist taste of the wrath of the detail is upon arriving on “Red Beach” at Bancroft Hall. Much like Saul remembers his first time getting yelled at, classmate Bill Gali, recalls learning very quickly to keep a low profile:

“First day when we were collecting our gear and being introduced to Bancroft Hall,the 2nd class, who ran Plebe summer, were all over us. In our face shouting and generally trying to intimidate us while getting us to follow orders in the manner they wanted. It became apparent, that the best course of action was to keep my mouth shut and do my best to comply with their every command while keeping a blank expression on my face. Just run under the radar. I noted several of my classmates, usually self-assured, somewhat cocky ones, had 2 or 3 of the upper class around them shouting and glaring. They were arguing, some smirking, some not at attention and trying to act cool. Real bad idea. Many of those classmates quit before the end of Plebe summer.” (sic)

The Class of '72's swearing in ceremony in T Court on June 26th, 1968. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Musselman).

The Class of ’72’s swearing in ceremony in T Court on June 26th, 1968. (Photo: Courtesy of Bob Musselman).

 

After swearing in and a few minutes with their families to celebrate the day the newly minted midshipmen are marched through the center doors of Bancroft Hall. The first night for many after that moment is a blur of yelling, pushups, and good old fashioned culture shock as they move from civilians to members of the military. Plebes can be known to be very “pleaby” from the very start: adding extra “Sir’s”, turning into robots who do what they need to to get the noise to stop, and having an over-all “dear in the headlights” feel to them. However, the first night Dion F. Clancy, LCdr. USNR ( Ret.) spent in “Mother B” he hadn’t yet gotten the memo.

“It had been a crazy day, (June 26, 1968), as I’m sure all Indoctrination Days go. There were haircuts, swearing in, saying “goodbye” to family, filling sea bags with uniforms and a lot of yelling going on. So “Lights Out!” was a welcome relief. On our first night in Bancroft Hall, rooms were assigned alphabetically. In my room, it was Clancy, DeVore and Dunne. Pat Dunne was ICOR. As things got quiet, I felt the urge to feed my nicotine habit, so I “burned one” sitting on the windowsill. Fortunately, I didn’t get caught. (That would have been a good day to quit.) The next day, all the roommates got shuffled around.

After four years, my friend Pat Dunne, graduated with distinction, had never been put on report, and was the Brigade Commander. I’m not sure Pat could have forgiven me had I messed up his zero-demerit record that first night in Mother “B”.

Me? Well, I did get “fried” a few times for minor infractions, was only a two-striper but I did graduate on time.

After more than 30 years of distinguished service, Pat retired as a Rear Admiral.

Me? After 7 years on active duty I was a full fleet lieutenant and managed to finally quit smoking.” (sic)

Though some things have changed since the summer of ’68 the Class of 2022 will face their own challenges and earn their own stories just as every class has before them. As the class of 2022 gets busy with this challenge we will continue to look back on some other stories from half a century ago so stay tuned!

 
 
 
  • Jim in Va Beach

    In the summer of ’68, there was no Alumni Hall or email. Also, it’s “deer” in the headlights, not “dear.” The entire four years provided a lot of memories, but that first day is one that stands out for just about every one of us. Thanks for collecting and publishing them, Taylor.