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The Citadel Oral History Program

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Joseph Perry Goodson, Interview by Larry A. Grant, 4 May 2010
Joseph Perry Goodson, Interview by Larry A. Grant, 4 May 2010 Joseph Goodson was born on January 23, 1930, in McBee, South Carolina, and grew up in nearby Darlington. The only son of a widowed mother, enrolled in The Citadel following a campus visit to a friend who was a member of the Corps of Cadets. After graduation (1951), he joined the US Marine Corps with three classmates and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He completed the Officers’ Basic Course at Quantico, VA, and was assigned to an anti-aircraft artillery unit, the 2nd 90mm Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion at Camp Lejune, NC, in early 1952. Goodson planned to apply for flight training, but on the recommendation of his commanding officer was assigned to command an artillery battery in Korea. He reflects on his experience in Korea during the time just after the Armistice was signed in 1953. He also discusses his Marine career during the 1950s and a tour in Vietnam in 1968 during the Tet Offensive and the defense of Khe Sahn. Goodson also offers observations on life at The Citadel during the period between WWII and the Korean War and contemplates the impact attending The Citadel had on his life and career. Goodson returned to The Citadel in 1972 and spent the next three years as Commanding Officer of the NROTC Unit. He discusses the question of hazing in some cadet organizations during this period. After his retirement from the Marines in 1975, he stayed on in various administrative positions at The Citadel until 1990. He lives in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.
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John Vafides, Interview by Larry A. Grant, August 4, 2011
John Vafides, Interview by Larry A. Grant, August 4, 2011 Vafides was born in 1921 in Hull, MA. He was a member of The Citadel class of 1943. He attended The Citadel at the beginning of World War II, leaving in 1943 to serve in the US Army as a paratrooper. He returned to complete his studies after the war ended. He was assigned to duty as part of a bazooka team in the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Co. H, and deployed with his unit in the 17th Airborne Division to England in late 1944. The Division was alerted for Operation Market Garden but did not participate. When the German attack against Allied forces began in mid-December 1944 in the Ardennes in what is known as the Battle of the Bulge, Vafides was in England undergoing training. His entire division was ordered to France and moved by air and then by truck into Belgium near Bastogne where it joined the fighting as part of Gen. Patton's Third Army. While engaged near Flamierge, Belgium, Vafides was wounded and taken captive by the Germans and sent to a POW camp in Germany. He returned to Allied control when his camp was liberated in early 1945 and returned home. After college Vafides worked as a teacher until his retirement.
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G. Edward Haynsworth, 13 October 2008
G. Edward Haynsworth, 13 October 2008 Bishop G. Edward Haynsworth explains his strong family connections to The Citadel. His father and two brothers were Citadel graduates, and he said his grandfather was credited with firing the first shot at the Star of the West in 1861. His decision to apply, he said, was “relatively simple.” He was called with his entire class of 1944 to active duty in 1943 at the end of his junior year. Within a year he had been commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and shipped to the European theater with the 84th Infantry Division. He describes his combat duty in WWII, including being wounded on November 29, 1944 during an action against the Germans near Aachen. He and his platoon came under attack while advancing, and he was shot through the arm and returned to England for medical care. After returning to The Citadel to complete his English degree, Haynsworth attended the School of Theology at the University of the South. Haynsworth asserts that his wartime experiences confirmed his desire to go to divinity school. Since then, Haynsworth, has traveled the world as a Christian missionary, helping to establish churches in Central and South America as well as in Asia.
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George Orvin, Interview by Jack Bass, 9 December 2008
George Orvin, Interview by Jack Bass, 9 December 2008 Orvin was born and raised near The Citadel in Charleston, SC. He decided to go to The Citadel and entered in September 1939. In his senior year at The Citadel he began medical school at the Medical College of Charleston as part of a government program to increase the number of doctors in the Medical Corps during WWII. After graduating from medical school in May 1946 he went straight into the Army Air Corps as a flight surgeon trainee but was discharged due to a hearing impairment after a physical examination revealed scars on his ear drums. After his discharge Orvin interned in New York City before returning home to Charleston and opening a general practice in 1948, which he ran for ten years. During this time he realized he enjoyed listening to patients and helping them with their problems. He trained in psychiatry, founded two hospitals specializing in the treatment of adolescents, and joined the Medical University faculty in Charleston. Orvin discusses his time at The Citadel and his fond memories of the years he spent there. His love for his alma mater inspired him to create the Brigadier Club in 1948, which continues to raise money for Citadel Athletics.
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Deuward G. F. Bultman, Interview by Larry A. Grant, 14 January 2011
Deuward G. F. Bultman, Interview by Larry A. Grant, 14 January 2011 Deuward Bultman was born in 1925 in Sumter, SC. In this interview, he discusses his family roots in Germany, their business in Sumter, and longstanding connections to The Citadel. He enrolled in the fall of 1942, and enlisted a few months later before going on active duty in June of 1943. His WWII flying career consisted primarily of flight training for B-17 and B-29 aircraft. He was released from active duty in December 1945 before attending the University of North Carolina where he graduated with a degree in commerce in 1948. He was in the US Air Force reserve before returning to active service during the Korean War. Bultman also discusses the Cold War and recalls a near accident he had at Langley Airbase in Virginia. He has worked as an accountant for more than fifty years.
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Leroy H. Baker, Jr., Interview by Larry A. Grant, 15 September 2010
Leroy H. Baker, Jr., Interview by Larry A. Grant, 15 September 2010 Baker was born November 2, 1924, in Tuckahannock Township, Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Citadel class of 1948. He served in WWII in the European Theater and remained in Europe after the surrender to serve on the US Strategic Bombing Survey team. When that duty concluded, he was sent to Charleston for release from active duty. There he decided to attend The Citadel as a veteran student. While at school, he remained in the Navy Reserve, and when the Korean War began, he was recalled to active duty. He was assigned to the destroyer, USS Porter (DD-800), where he served as gunnery officer. After Korea, he continued in the Navy Reserve and completed twenty years of service. Baker discusses his naval service in Europe, in destroyers, in Korea and his civilian career. After his release from active duty after Korea, Baker settled in Charleston, where he worked for the Westvaco Company until retirement in 1987. He lives in Charleston, SC, West of the Ashley.
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Reamer L. Cockfield, Interview by Jack Bass, 15 September 2008
Reamer L. Cockfield, Interview by Jack Bass, 15 September 2008 Reamer Lorenzo Cockfield was born on December 2, 1924, in Johnsonville, SC and moved to Lake City shortly thereafter. He was a pre-med student in The Citadel class of 1945 and therefore was exempted from the draft. Nevertheless, Cockfield voluntarily enlisted in the Marine Corps in December of 1943. As a private first class, he served in combat operations in the Pacific Theater. After the war Cockfield led a highly successful life serving as a public school teacher, principal, superintendent and one term as mayor of Lake City. Cockfield reflects on his experience as a stretcher bearer for 30 days of continuous combat during The Battle of Iwo Jima. The stretcher bearers hauled ammunition, food, and medical supplies from battalion headquarters to company headquarters and often returned with a wounded marine on the stretcher. Cockfield was the only member of his original eight-man team to survive. "It was at that time that they replaced me and assigned me to the K Company of the Ninth Marines which was on the front lines and I was delighted to get on the front lines because it was a lot safer up there in a foxhole than where I had been moving around all of the time." Audio with transcript.
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Henry Rittenberg, Interview by Jack Bass, 28 November 2008
Henry Rittenberg, Interview by Jack Bass, 28 November 2008 Henry Rittenberg was born and raised in Charleston, SC, only a few blocks away from the Citadel campus. In 1934 after winning the City of Charleston Scholarship, he had the means to attend The Citadel and entered that fall semester. After repeatedly failing to pass the physical examination for various commissioning programs, he was accepted for the OCS Limited Service but found there were no vacancies. Afterwards, he was assigned to the coast artillery near Boston as an enlisted soldier. When coast artillery troops were taken for field artillery assignments in 1943, Rittenberg volunteered and was deployed to England, later serving as a forward observer. He took part in the crossing of the Rhine and the battle of the Ruhr pocket in which thousands of Germans were taken as prisoners of war. He was present at the Elbe River on VE Day, May 8, 1945, and returned home in February 1946. After working as a pharmacist, Rittenberg went to medical school, which he completed in 1955. He worked as a general practitioner until he retired. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus and received an honorary degree from the Citadel. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the AOA Medical Honor Society, and the Hebrew Orphan Society.
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James A. Grimsley, Interview by Jack Bass, 2 October 2008
James A. Grimsley, Interview by Jack Bass, 2 October 2008 Major General James Alexander Grimsley was born in 1921 in Florence, South Carolina. After graduating from The Citadel in 1942 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. He served for thirty-three years and finished his Army career as the Director of Security Assistance Plans and Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Among his thirty-five major decorations are Two Silver Star medals for gallantry in Action; four Bronze Star medals for Valor; four Legion of Merit awards; and three Purple Heart medals. In September 1975, Grimsley accepted the position of Vice President of Administration and Finance at The Citadel and five years later was named the 16th President of the military college. Upon retiring in 1989, the Board of Visitors named him President Emeritus, a position held only by Generals Charles P. Summerall and Mark W. Clark. Grimsley, reflects on his decision to attend The Citadel and his combat experiences in Vietnam. He also discusses several of his major achievements as Citadel President. On transitioning from the Army to The Citadel, Grimsley observes that “it was made easier for me coming to The Citadel because it was a military college so there was a structure here that I understood. They just wore cadet uniforms and not army uniforms.” In an April 4-6, 2000 interview, a transcript of which is at the Citadel Archives and Museum, Grimsley detailed his active duty service during WWII.
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Ernest F. Hollings, Interview by Jack Bass, 18 September 2008
Ernest F. Hollings, Interview by Jack Bass, 18 September 2008 Ernest F. Hollings was born on January 1, 1922. A Charleston native and World War II veteran, Hollings graduated from The Citadel in 1942. He served as Governor of South Carolina (1959-1963) and represented the state in the United States Senate (1966-2005). He is credited with enhancing the state’s system of public education and expanding its industrial base through the establishment a network of technical education centers and the State Development Board. During his tenure in the Senate, he was instrumental in envisioning and developing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In this interview, Hollings credits The Citadel for preparing him for WWII and life as a politician. He recounts the state’s “embarrassing” treatment of returning African-American veterans after WWII. Hollings also asserts that the establishment of the state sales tax improved public schools. Drawing upon his life in public service, Hollings reflects on contemporary political problems, including the economy, the war in Iraq, the current state of politics, and the press. For a full account of his experiences in WWII, see Hollings’s interview with H.W. White, a transcript of which is located in The Citadel Archives.
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John Burrows, Interview by Jack Bass, 10 December 2008
John Burrows, Interview by Jack Bass, 10 December 2008 John Burrows was born in Saginaw, Michigan. An excellent student and athlete he graduated high school and received a full scholarship to go The Citadel. He entered in September of 1936 as a civil engineer major, and quickly became number one in his class academically. He also excelled in football, basketball and track, making all-state for basketball three years in a row, and remains in the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame. Upon graduation from The Citadel in 1940 he received a regular army commission and joined the 61st Coast Artillery Regiment. From there he was eventually assigned to the air defense division of the Supreme Headquarters under General Eisenhower in London, and oversaw the then top-secret plan codenamed Operation Overlord. Burrows recalls his decision to enter The Citadel and his active duty in WWII. Although never in direct combat, his time on the Supreme Headquarters staff allowed him an insider's perspective on the planning for Operation Overlord and the European Theater. He discusses the US Army's ingenuity when it came to advances in weaponry, which were occurring in front of his eyes. He also discusses in detail the German surrender at Reims and how the US Army so effectively handled the multitude of issues surrounding the details of such an event. Upon returning from his service in the army, Burrows worked for a book publishing company before returning to Charleston take a job as Assistant Commandant at The Citadel. Audio with transcript.
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Arthur M. Swanson, Interview by Jack Bass, 14 October 2008
Arthur M. Swanson, Interview by Jack Bass, 14 October 2008 Arthur Swanson entered The Citadel in 1941 at the urging of his father whose friend had assured him it was a school that would instill discipline. After two years pursuing an English degree, he went on active duty in July 1943. Assigned to an anti-aircraft unit, he applied for pilot training but was selected to become a navigator. Before he could complete the course, he was reassigned to an infantry unit because of a shortage of young officers. He recalls this abrupt change of plans. “I ended up in Northern California from the comforts of the Air Force to the rigors of the infantry in the Eighty Ninth Division.” In December 1944, he embarked for Europe, landed at Le Havre, and entered the fighting in Luxembourg, moving from there into Germany. He received the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star for his efforts in Germany with his regiment—the 355th Infantry. He returned from the war in 1946, but visited Europe again before graduating from The Citadel in 1948. Shortly after graduation he began his accidental career in banking, eventually retiring as President of the South Carolina National Bank in 1985. He continues to hold an office at the South Carolina Bank and Trust Company and plays golf regularly.
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William F. Ladson, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 13 May 2009
William F. Ladson, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 13 May 2009 William Ladson was born in Moultrie, GA, on October 10, 1915. He chose to enter The Citadel in 1932 but returned home after two years to help his father run the family business, which was strained due to the Depression. He eventually returned to school and graduated in 1938 with a degree in engineering. He entered the Army Reserve in 1940 as part of the Coast Artillery and, due to his background and degree in engineering, worked stateside as part of the engineer corps during WWII. Ladson recalls his decision to attend The Citadel and his experiences during WWII and the Korean War. Anxious to go overseas, he eventually went to Korea after the Korean War broke out. There he was executive officer and commanding officer of combat engineers in direct support of the frontline troops. He retired from the army in 1965, and his engineering background led him to take a job as city manager of Cocoa Beach, FL. He maintains strong ties to his alma mater, recently attending his class reunion and speaking to a class of Citadel Cadets.
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Timothy S. Street, Interview by Jack Bass, 27 October 2008
Timothy S. Street, Interview by Jack Bass, 27 October 2008 Timothy Street was born on December 9, 1923, in downtown Charleston, SC. As his father had done before him, he decided to attend The Citadel, entering in September of 1940. A member of the class of 1944, Street and all his classmates were called together to active duty in May 1943, prior to graduation. Prior to attending The Citadel, Street worked in his father’s steamship agency and stevedoring business, an experience that influenced his later decision to join the Navy. After months waiting to attend officer candidate school to receive an Army commission, he learned that the Seabees were looking for people with his background. He applied for and soon received a commission as a Navy ensign. Shortly after the Japanese surrender, Street’s unit was sent to support the First Marine Division in China during the repatriation of Japanese soldiers. He said of his service that “I want to stress the fact that I don't consider what I did amounted to much more than a hill of beans compared to my friends that were combat veterans.” After the war, Street returned to Charleston, completed his business degree at The Citadel, joined Street Brothers Shipping in the summer of 1947, and stayed until he retired 37 years later.
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Robert Kirksey, Interview by Jack Bass, 8 May 2009
Robert Kirksey, Interview by Jack Bass, 8 May 2009 Robert Kirksey was born in Aliceville, AL, in 1922. Although his family wanted him to attend school closer to home, Kirksey chose to attend The Citadel. He entered in the fall of 1940 without knowing a single person. Kirksey recalls his choice of The Citadel over Virginia Military Institute and his experiences during WWII. As a member of the class of 1944, he served in combat as an infantry lieutenant in Europe during WWII. He was wounded in action during an attack of the Siegfried Line in the fall on 1944, just inside the German border. For his actions he received the Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He notes that although it took a long time for training and preparation, his actual time in combat was very short. After the war, Kirksey returned to The Citadel to complete his final year and graduated in 1947 with a degree in political science. Afterwards, he returned home to Alabama where he became a lawyer and served for many years as probate judge of Pickens County. He later spent a year in Washington, DC, and one in Orangeburg, SC, as secretary to U.S. Rep. Hugo Sims.
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Thomas J. Thorne, Interview by Jack Bass, 18 December 2008
Thomas J. Thorne, Interview by Jack Bass, 18 December 2008 Thomas Thorne was born in Savannah, GA, on July 17, 1918. He acquired his love of the military through his father, who was a major in the Georgia National Guard. He entered The Citadel in 1935, and a year after graduating, received a commission in November 1940 as a second lieutenant in the 76th Coast Artillery, a black unit with white officers. While on active duty he served for a time as the anti-aircraft officer for 16th Corps during the Battle of the Bulge when his commanding officer was relieved. For his service in WWII, he received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. Thorne recalls his decision to attend The Citadel and his thirty-five years in the Army Reserve. He discusses some memorable events of his service in WWII, including chance meetings with General Patton and with two armed SS men alone in the woods. After retiring from the Army Reserve in 1974, Thorne remained active in the Charleston, SC, community, serving as president of the Greater Charleston Chamber of Commerce and vice chairman of the Charleston Development Board.
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George K. Webb, Interview by Jack Bass, 13 November 2008
George K. Webb, Interview by Jack Bass, 13 November 2008 Webb was born November 30, 1919, and grew up in Portsmouth, OH. After high school, he attended Kentucky Military Institute to prepare for enrollment at Virginia Military Institute, but after reading an article about The Citadel in National Geographic magazine he applied for admission in 1939 and was accepted. He became battalion commander for Padgett Thomas Barracks and lettered on The Citadel rifle team. With the rest of his class, he missed final summer ROTC camp in 1942 because the camps were filled with Army recruits. After graduation in 1943, Webb was assigned to officer candidate school at Fort Benning, GA, graduating first in his class. In November 1943 he was commission and assigned to the infantry school cadre, remaining there nine months until sent to the 174th Infantry regiment at Camp Chafee, AR. Two months later he was shipped to Europe as an individual replacement officer and was assigned as a platoon leader in C Company, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division, in charge of roughly 40 men. Immediately sent into combat, he became acting company commander six days after joining the unit, because he was the only remaining officer. After a month in combat, he received a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant and was awarded a Silver Star medal for valor and later received a Purple Heart. Webb said that a first hand account of a war scene cannot be conveyed verbally. “If you could smell it, if you could feel it, if you could taste the food, if you could hear the noises—it’s a very all-encompassing experience.” He continued, “The most horrendous smell I ever smelt was later in the Bulge when I opened the door to a house, and a German soldier had been laying there for two or three days, and the stench was such that your stomach involuntarily vomited.” After being wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, he was treated at a hospital in Paris. Six weeks later he was back in action as a platoon leader, often sleeping in a foxhole in the snow. After the war, Webb returned to Ohio and ran a lumber company for a while, but in 1951 he returned to military service, including a tour in Korea near the end of the war there and two tours in Vietnam. He also served two tours at The Citadel, as tactical officer for several years in the 1950s and as commandant of cadets for six months. After retiring from the Army in 1973, he returned to Charleston, where his wife had grown up, operated an charter fishing business for fifteen years.
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Gregory Crocker, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 9 December, 2008
Gregory Crocker, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 9 December, 2008 Gregory Crocker was born in Smithfield, Virginia. In this interview, Crocker talks about his family’s tradition of military service, its influence on his decision to attend The Citadel in 2004, and an unanticipated tour of duty in Afghanistan. During his first year, Crocker enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, believing that the experience would make him a better officer. In August 2006, the Army notified Crocker that he would be ordered to Afghanistan in 2007. He chronicles his surprise at the news, his preparation, and duties during his time there. Some of his duties were routine, some unsavory. The more mundane work of patrolling and training is punctuated by a horrific cleanup following a suicide bombing at a school in Baghlan, Afghanistan. Crocker also reflects on the peculiarity of a visit home midway during his deployment when, in a 24-hour period, he went “from being in a combat zone to walking in Wal-Mart back in Virginia.” After a wearying trip, Crocker returned to the U.S. on May 13, 2008. He comments on the Army’s well-meaning if irksome effort to help soldiers readjust to life at home. “ . . . You just go to all these briefings, basically that says, don't hit your wife, don't commit suicide, don't drink and drive. But by the time you get out of them, you really just want to kill somebody. They're that monotonous. I mean, they try to do that, but you really just, all you want to do is just get home.” Asked if his return to student life at The Citadel was difficult, he says, “most people here are more receptive, just 'cause they know I was a veteran. So they really don't give me any crap.” Crocker admits that his combat experiences in Afghanistan caused him to reconsider his initial decision to attend The Citadel in search of a commission. After his experiences, he has decided to remain an enlisted soldier.
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Sherrill Poulnot, Interview by Jack Bass, 21 October 2008
Sherrill Poulnot, Interview by Jack Bass, 21 October 2008 Poulnot was born on August 2, 1922, and was a member of The Citadel class of 1944. While most of his classmates went into the Army after their junior year, Poulnot decided to join the Navy in the fall of 1942. After his two years at The Citadel, he knew how to march and was appointed commander of his boot camp company. After boot camp in Virginia, he was sent to Quartermaster School in Newport, RI, he served three years in the Navy including combat tours in the Pacific. Poulnot reflects on mine sweeping operations at Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, and Tinian. Afterwards assigned to a destroyer, he took part in the battles for the Philippines and Okinawa. As a quartermaster, Poulnot was in charge of steering the ship to dodge incoming Japanese kamikazes. “You knew these guys were shooting at you and you knew they were trying to light on you like mosquitoes, and the name of the game was ‘stay the hell from under them,’ which we did successfully.” After the war, Poulnot enrolled in the College of Charleston, but he decided to apprentice as a Charleston Harbor pilot instead of getting a degree. He worked as a harbor pilot for forty-two years before retiring in 1987.
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Clarence Renneker, Interview by Jack Bass, 1 December 2008
Clarence Renneker, Interview by Jack Bass, 1 December 2008 Clarence A. Renneker Jr. grew up in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1939. His brother-in-law, a graduate from the school, influenced his decision. He majored in business and graduated from The Citadel in May of 1943. Renneker was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he completed OCS and was commissioned. He was then assigned for a time to the 80th Infantry division. After training in the southwest, he was shipped overseas in June 1944 as an “excess officer.” After arriving in England, he was assigned to the 118th Infantry after speaking with the regiment’s executive officer by chance in a barbershop. The Regimental executive officer was Citadel graduate Colonel Caldwell Barron, Jr. As an officer in the 118th division, Renneker helped run training schools around England, and later in France, he helped train replacement troops from other branches as riflemen by teaching them map reading skills, to shoot and care for their rifles, and other basic infantry skills before they were sent to the front lines. After the surrender was signed in Germany, Renneker helped coordinate the post-war return of soldiers to the United States. In June 1946, he returned home to his wife and eventually took over his father’s clothing store in Orangeburg. He is retired and living in Mt. Pleasant with his wife.