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The Citadel Oral History Program

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1.
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Stefan Kosovych, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 15 April 2010
Stefan Kosovych, Interview by Kerry Taylor, 15 April 2010 Stefan Kosovych was born on October 5, 1979 in Washington, DC. He graduated from The College of William and Mary with a B.S. in Chemistry in 2002 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army through ROTC. Contracting with the Army in 2000 during a time of peace, he found himself going to war following his initial training at the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course. In this interview, Kosovych recounts his experience as a platoon leader in Iraq from August 2003 to July 2004. Lieutenant Kosovych and his unit performed diverse missions, sometimes with little or no training. They hauled Iraqi munitions to be destroyed, conducted infantry patrols in downtown Baghdad, and participated in large-scale raids. Kosovych stresses the difficulties of being a leader including the tensions between him and his Noncommissioned Officers, as well as the strain of both completing the mission and taking care of his soldiers. His account contains situations that highlight the confusion of combat and the moral ambiguities of modern warfare. He also reflects on failures of leadership—those of his superiors as well as his own. Kosovych is a graduate from and holds a M.A. in History from The Citadel/College of Charleston.
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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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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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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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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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John Allison, Interview by Jack Bass, 6 October 2008
John Allison, Interview by Jack Bass, 6 October 2008 Colonel John Allison was born September 19, 1921 in Albany, Georgia. He entered the Citadel in September of 1939 and left at the end of his Junior year in 1942 to enter the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet. During World War II he received three Distinguished Flying Crosses as a bomber pilot. He flew 59 combat missions as a B-24 pilot and five as a B-25 pilot during almost two years in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. After returning to the Citadel after the war, he graduated in 1947 and then rejoined what was then the Air Force, becoming a squadron commander in Vietnam. He currently lives in Charleston and is an avid golfer. Allison reflects on his decision to attend The Citadel and his combat experiences in both WWII and Vietnam. He discusses his training as an Army Air Corps pilot and subsequent World War II military experience as a bomber pilot in the Pacific theater. He also alludes to his post-WWII career during the Cold War, including flights to gather intelligence over Russia and Cuba. Audio with transcript.
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Robert S. Adden, Interview by Jack Bass, 15 October 2008
Robert S. Adden, Interview by Jack Bass, 15 October 2008 Robert S. Adden was born 1 January 1923 in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1940. He went on active duty with his class of 1944 classmates at the end of their 1943 spring semester, first to basic training at Fort McClellan, AL, and then to 18 weeks of Infantry Officer Candidates School at Fort Benning, GA. His regiment was shipped overseas to England for a month and then to Germany, where they were attached to the British Second Army and became engaged in combat in an attack on the Siegfried line a month before the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he earned an M.B.A. and Ph.D., and returned to The Citadel as a faculty member and administrator until he retired. He received an honorary degree in 2008 in a ceremony that honored the class of 1944, "the class that never was." Adden describes how his Citadel class (1944) was called to active duty at the end of their spring semester in 1943. He describes basic training in Fort McClellan, AL, and his stint in Officer Candidates School in Fort Benning, GA. Commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1944, he began training with the Eighty-fourth Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana where he became a mortar platoon leader. His regiment was shipped to Europe and was attached to the British Second Army during the Rhineland campaign. Adden discusses his first major combat experiences in November, 1944, when his battalion was assigned to secure the town of Prummern, Germany. Shot 5 times in the streets of Prummern, Adden describes how he played dead for hours as German troops and tanks passed beside him. He recalls stumbling to an American aid station after the streets cleared followed by hospital stays in Europe and the US. He returned to active duty in August 1945. Adden also touches briefly on his life and education after the war. 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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Bernard Warshaw, Interview by Jack Bass, 1 October 2008
Bernard Warshaw, Interview by Jack Bass, 1 October 2008 Warshaw was born on October 27, 1920. From an early age, he wanted to go to college at The Citadel. When his high school record seemed likely to derail his hope, direct appeal to Gen. Summerall got him in. After overcoming some early problems, Warshaw settled down and graduated in 1942. He received orders on graduation day to report on June 10, 1942, for active duty and soon was assigned to the 433rd automatic weapons battalion, an anti-aircraft unit. Shipped to Casablanca, on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, his unit was assigned a training and support mission until the July-August 1943 invasion of Sicily. After the conquest of Sicily, his unit joined the Allied invasion of Italy and advanced to the Cassino front where the attack stalled. Withdrawn from the Cassino front and sent to the Anzio beachhead, he was able to visit Rome after the breakout for one evening. Withdrawn once again, Warshaw’s unit left Italy to join the invasion of southern France, fighting from there into Germany. Warshaw was promoted to first lieutenant and to captain as the war progressed, but when asked he said that he had absolutely no interest in staying in the Army. The morning after the capture of the Dachau concentration camp, Warshaw’s colonel took him to see the camp. There they found the odor was such that “we could hardly stand it . . . piles and piles of bodies.” He opened one of camp’s four ovens where “Bones were still smoldering,” and the colonel handed him a camera and told him to take pictures, some of which are archived at the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston. A retired merchant of men’s clothing, he resides in his home town of Walterboro, SC.
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Philip Minges, Interview by Jack Bass, 10 October 2008
Philip Minges, Interview by Jack Bass, 10 October 2008 Philip S. Minges, Jr. was born on December 1, 1923, in Charleston, SC. He reported for active duty in 1942 during his sophomore year at Clemson University. Although he began training in the Corps of Engineers, combat replacement requirements led to Minges’ assignment as an infantryman to the Eleventh Armored Division. Minges reflects on his combat experience during the Battle of the Bulge when he had to try to dig a foxhole under fire in frozen ground. In his first battle, only three men of a 12-man squad, Minges and two others, came through unharmed. All others were wounded or killed. A few battles later, Minges was wounded: “I heard something hit on the side of the track, about waist high. I knew what it was. [If the shot] had been over about a foot [it would have gotten] me in the back…. I heard another pop and dirt flew up around my feet…. I got shot in the foot.” Following World War II, he enrolled at The Citadel in 1946 and graduated in 1948. After the war, Minges worked fifty years for Dupont in Camden, SC, and retired as an Army Reserve colonel with thirty years of service.
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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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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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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.
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Gerald Meyerson, Interview by Jack Bass, 14 November 2008
Gerald Meyerson, Interview by Jack Bass, 14 November 2008 Gerald Meyerson was born in Spartanburg, SC, on December 19, 1921. After his sophomore year at The Citadel, he transferred to Duke University. While still at Duke as a first-year law school student, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps communications cadet program. He then returned and completed his law school exams while he waited to start the training program. As a communications officer, he later served in London and Paris. From there his unit coordinated communications with various Air Corps units in the European Theater of Operations. After the German surrender, he transferred to the Judge Advocate Generals Corps because he had attended law school. He worked there on minor cases for only a short time before returning to the United States. Meyerson reflects on his decisions both to enroll at and subsequently transfer from The Citadel. He also discusses his postwar career, initially as an attorney and subsequently as a men’s clothing merchant.
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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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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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Henry Berlin, Interview by Jack Bass, 31 October 2008
Henry Berlin, Interview by Jack Bass, 31 October 2008 Henry Berlin was born August 19, 1924, in Charleston and enrolled at The Citadel in 1941. After enlistment and training, Berlin eventually served as a radar operator on an LST during the early Normandy landings. After the war he studied law at the University of South Carolina for two years and returned to work at Berlin's clothing store on the corner of King and Broad Streets in Charleston, SC. Berlin details his brief but rebellious tenure at the Citadel before going on active duty in May 1942. He describes how this rebellious streak ended his naval officer training in Columbia, SC, and how he was shipped to Maryland for boot camp. He discusses how he eventually became a radar operator on an LST ferrying troops and material across the English Channel in the days and months after D-Day. He relates harrowing trips across the channel, being targeted by German artillery during the early landings on Normandy, and the loss of troops as they disembarked from the LST in rough seas. After V-E day he describes his return to the US, his trip through the Panama Canal and his arrival at Pearl Harbor just before V-J day. He also touches upon his immediate post-war life including law school, a brief stint playing semi-pro baseball and return to his father's clothing shop in Charleston. 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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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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Raymond Kessler, Interview by Jack Bass, 21 November 2008
Raymond Kessler, Interview by Jack Bass, 21 November 2008 Raymond Kessler was born November 29, 1922, in Charleston, SC, attended the public schools, and enjoyed his first military experience at Porter Military Academy, now the Porter-Gaud private school. At The Citadel, he majored in civil engineering and served as company commander. After graduation in 1943, he was assigned to an engineering officer candidate school at Fort Belvoir, VA. There he learned the military aspects of civil engineering including training in demolitions. Sent to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, he taught draftee recruits basic engineering skills. In August 1944, he was sent to the 1381st Engineer Air Petroleum Distribution company in Camp Claiborne, LA. Kessler overseas experience began with his departure by ship from California to an unknown destination. After stops in Fiji and Australia, his unit arrived in Bombay [modern Mombai], India, in October 1944 and went from there by train to Assam Province in northern India. From Assam Province, his unit was flown over the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range with a dozen peaks higher than 25,000 feet, to China. This route was known in World War II as “the Hump”; it claimed the lives of many airmen. His unit’s assignment was to build a 1,000-mile pipeline from India across Burma to China to pump high octane gasoline for American airfields being built to support the war against Japan. There he was put in charge of fifty men and assigned to build a fifty-mile stretch of the pipeline. Though otherwise safer than in combat, he lost two men who were inspecting the pipeline. Locals presumably knocked a hole in the pipeline for fuel, and when the leaking gasoline caught fire it flashed back up the mountain and burning the two men to death. Shortly after the arriving in the US, Kessler signed up for the army reserve and was promoted to captain. He retired as a colonel in 1976. In his civilian career, he worked for a time with the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company before taking a teaching appointment at The Citadel. He later worked for DuPont and then the US Navy until retirement.