THE THIN RED LINE
 

                                                                                                      

                                                   

Dear Alumni Group Members:

 

This dissertation is so applicable to our memories. It's author is listed as W.T. Door. However, it's the judgement of the very knowledgeable Gene Barber , Sunday Log editor its true author is Bern Glasser graduating with the 20th Class. It's also noted the article first surfaced in 1996 when Bern was Secretary. Well friends Bern and his wife Joan will be with us in Springfield so it'll provide the opportunity  to determine if such is the case. 

Sincerely,

Bob

 

                                                       THE THIN RED LINE

"It is a thin red line that divides success from failure."
 
"Why are we going to a reunion when you don't expect to recognize anyone?"
 

When my wife asked me this question I was at a loss to give her a satisfactory answer. It was true. I didn't expect to recognize any of my Midshipmen School classmates. During the following week I thought about her question. The answer involved some soul searching and it might be explained as follows:

It was the assignment of the Midshipmen's School administrators to determine which of the midshipmen were suitable for promotion to officers in the United States Naval Reserve. This task was accomplished by inflicting upon the midshipmen a rigorous academic, disciplinary and physical regime. If a young man could withstand the stress, and still perform, he was good officer material.

For many of us this was our first encounter with the truly competitive adult world. Heretofore, we were students on a college campus having coke dates at the student union. Now we were in the real world in a sink or swim environment. It was my first real life challenge. The choice was either "bilging" (failing the program) and being re-assigned as an enlisted man, or becoming a freshly minted ensign. This choice was made all the more difficult because one had to endure the rigors of an intense program. The objective of the program was to determine the lower twenty-five percent of the class. This bottom quarter would be reassigned without reaching the status of being an officer. The intensive program was designed for the survival of the fittest.

For some, the course of study, discipline and restrictions were not an overwhelming challenge. But for others, like me, it was almost a disaster waiting to happen. I was constantly on the "tree" (the unsatisfactory grade list for a class subject) many times I was on more than one "tree". As an unsatisfactory midshipman I was restricted to quarters for supervised study, while the more worthy midshipmen were free to explore the exciting wonders of New York City. I would somehow get off the "tree" in one subject only to find that I was posted on another. This on-again, off-again confinement for my unsatisfactory grade point averages continued unabated. Our ninety-day term was nearing an end. I kept track of the days like a prisoner ticking off his confinement. The time had arrived. Our late afternoon study was interrupted by loud excited voices reverberating in the hallway. The word was out, the grade point average for each midshipman was posted in the lobby . The waiting was over. We would now know which of us would be in the lower twenty-five percentile of the class and therefore "Bilged". Everyone made flank speed down the gangway to the lobby to see their grades and determine who made it and who didn't. I hesitated, I wanted to enjoy these last few remaining minutes as a midshipman.

The grade list was surrounded by midshipmen, jumping, turning, awaiting their turn to learn their fate. I held back and waited. I was not in a hurry to learn my fate. One by one the midshipmen turned from the list. Some overjoyed, others obviously saddened and disappointed. Eventually the.crowd dispersed. From where I was standing I could see the red cut-off line on the list. Everyone above the line passed and would be ensigns. Those below would be re-assigned, enlisted men. There was no sense in starting at the top. I started at the bottom, proceeding slowly ... putting my index finger carefully on each name. Some of the names were familiar ,we shared the restricted roll-call. My finger traveled upward the looming red line came into view. So far my name did not appear. My finger was approaching the red line. Perspiration was forming on my upper lip. I examined each name slowly, carefully. My finger was now on the red line. My name did not appear below the line. I was sure of that fact. My breathing increased, my pulse rate quickened. The prospect of passing had not been on my agenda. My finger was now on the fourth name above the red line. Where was my name? Perhaps there was an error. Seven names above the red line, there it was ... those familiar letters spelling my name. A sigh of relief, I made it. The impossible dream. No need to read any more names, I didn't care who was above me. I made it.

Midshipmen's School was my first and greatest personal victory. I proved to myself that I could, with effort, succeed. What a lesson for a nineteen year old.

That was more than fifty years ago. My experience at Columbia Midshipmen's School is still vividly& etched in my memory.

As I told this story to my wife a tear formed in the corner of her eye. She said, "I now understand dear."

W.T. Door