Class of 1939

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Class of 1939

Graduates: 581

Non-graduates: 220

On Virtual Memorial Hall: 78


From the '39 Class column of the July-August 2019 issue of Shipmate: On 22 October, 1999, the following "Remembrances" was delivered by '39 Classmate, George "Rhythm" Moore at the Memorial Service in St. Andrews Chapel, on the occasion of the 60th Reunion:

In 1838 a rising Midwestern politician coined the phrase, 'the artillery of time' in an address to the Illinois legislature. Lincoln was referring to the passing of the generation that included Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and others that we know. He noted that all leadership was destined for ultimate extinction, and that new problems required new leaders and new approaches. He didn't say, but seemingly inferred, that such new leaders would emerge to meet whatever challenging arose.

That was 160 years ago. And so it has been!

We have played our part in the evolving history of these United States, and it is now time to review and place in and perspective events and deeds that mark our passage. Other classes have gone before, and, surely, many others will follow. The artillery of time thunders on! How have we played a role in this never ending drama called the United States of America?

We are gathered to celebrate the lives and preserve the memory of those classmates who can't be with us today. We honor all in '39— the valorous who fell in direct conflict with the enemy, those who departed in peacetime carrying out the duties that keep our Navy and Marine Corps great, and we survivors who are privileged to represent them here today. Together, we are the answer to the immortal question put to us by Commander Walter Delaney 64 years ago: "What about '39?" As our sponsor, our friend, and our sterling example, I can't but believe that Vice Admiral Delaney isn't with us today—with a slight smile on his face.

"What about '39?" he asked, "How will it stand up? Will it meet the test?"

The challenges he implied, individual and collective, weren't long in coming. Our plebe year trials, academic and physical, truly took their toll, but in doing so, forged a residual unity, through shared experience that is '39 to this day. The raw and individualized rabble that was us in summer 1935 learned to hang together into march together, even as we took on certain skills of self-preservation and survival under stress. We learned promptness and an appreciation for the utilization of time; respect for, if not always a delight in, authority; and some of us learned how to study, and even how to keep our rooms clean. And by the time June '36 finally arrived, we were quite organized and ready for our first, and maybe our biggest promotion: to Youngster Year, and going to Europe on a battleship.

The following year saw a continuing and strengthening of our identity. Life wasn't a snap, but travails weren't quite so severe, and rewards came a little more frequently. Individuals made their ways to recognition in academics, in athletics, and other extracurricular activities. Our studies became more service oriented: nav and ordnance replaced calculus and mechanics. Our foreign cruises not only introduced us to shipboard life, but gave us cultural perspectives and experiences not shared by our contemporaries in other schools. It was good to be a Midshipman, and we were proud of it.

We were the biggest class by far at the Naval Academy during our undergraduate days, and when we threw our 581 hats in the air on June 1, 1939, we were the largest graduating class in the Academy's 99 years. (In that competition, we led the Class of '27 by a very even 2 graduates.) We were soon joined by dependents. While the two-year rule was very much a part of our Ensign experience, we were busy, time pass quickly; and the marriage gear of 1941 arrived right on schedule. Wives came first, but children weren't far behind. '39 was growing! (And faster than our paychecks—or so it seemed.)

But big things we're happening in the military world. Even as we underwent the great indignity of departing the exalted rank of 1/c midshipman at the Academy to become quite something else in the Fleet, a man named Hitler unleash the German war machine on Poland, after stopping briefly at the place we'd never heard of called Sudetenland. And, in our third year following graduation, we were at sea in the greatest war mankind had yet devised.

It is neither necessary nor possible to review here in detail the events of history and technology of the past 65 years as they influenced and were influenced by our Navy. World War II itself, radar, the atom bomb, Korea, jet and nuclear propulsion, spaceflight, Vietnam and on and on to Lebanon, stand off missilery, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, and now Kosovo and maybe, even to East Timor. Who knows what's next! The end is not in sight, nor even definable. But we have lived these events. It has been some 65 years!

Navy and Marine officers, wives, children and parents—the '39 family—have stood together, shoulder to shoulder, through it all. As a group we came to major responsibility quickly—our leadership was tested and proven. We had early, great losses. Enemy action took one of every nine '39 graduates in WWII.

'39s Record in both war and peace is exemplary: the statistics are there. (See the display case in Memorial Hall, right under 'Don't Give Up The Ship'). But rather than count Navy Crosses, Silver and Bronze Stars, Distinguished Service Medals and Purple Hearts, I am simply going to cite the third stanza of America the Beautiful which seems to say at all:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self—
their country loved
And mercy, more than life
America, America
May God thy gold refine?
Till all success be nobleness
and every gain divine.

And noble they are, those we knew so well who did not return, and noble is the quality of grace demonstrated by the wives, parents, children in unstinting support of their loved ones and in the country they fought for.

I particularly want to salute the courageous example of those widows we number among our classmates—theirs has been a difficult, heart-rending experience. Their spirit and determination has inspired all of us. We are proud of you!

We are in our 80's—and the wheel won't go around too many times. Of the 859 members accredited to '39 in September 1935 a close approximation of 350 are alive today. To those I say: Congratulations survivors. Live the good life day by day. You are the custodians of a proud heritage. And to the 500 who are no longer with us: God bless you. You are a major part of that heritage. '39 needs the accomplishments just as it needs the memories of every member as we add the final touches to our '39 Adventure. The Good Lord has sent us this far with seeming acceptance of our performance.

I don't think we'll let Him or Admiral Delaney down in our remaining days. Let the 'artillery of time' thunder on. We have kept the faith! George Moore '39

The last three custodians of this proud heritage passed away in the first months of 2019.


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Pages in category "Class of 1939"

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