Veteran's Day feature: CSU athletes have given last full measure of devotion

General Lewis Walt

General Lewis Walt

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Nov. 10, 2010

By John Hirn
Special to CSURams.com

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Military tradition at Colorado State University dates to the Civil War when the Morrill Act of 1862 was passed by President Abraham Lincoln.

The Morrill Act established land-grant colleges all over the United States and also required these schools to teach military tactics along with regular curriculum.

Since 1884, students at Colorado State have learned some form of military training. The Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was established in 1917 and changed in 1962 to its current format. Many CSU men and women have served our nation in the military and football has been a big part of that military tradition.

Whether the push-ups after every score, or the blast from the cannon - heard at CSU football games since 1920 - there has always been a military presence with CSU football. Even the 1893 football team posed with a Civil War-era cannon. But the men that have served their country in war, and on the gridiron, have another long-standing tradition at Colorado State.

The list of football players that have served in war begins with Charles Shepardson, captain of the 1916 championship team, who went off to France in 1917 and fought in World War I. Some other men from that era include Harry Scott, Harry “Hap” Dotson and William Nye. Even the school’s first mascot, Peanuts the Bulldog, was sent to war with Battery A of the Aggie Battalion in 1918, but forced to return to campus before going overseas.

Former football players like Lyle Stucker, member of the Raisin Bowl team and great uncle of former Rams quarterback Grant Stucker, have fought and died in battle. Stucker was killed in a plane crash during the Korean War. Lewis “Dude” Dent was killed near Troyes, France, in World War II while serving under General George S. Patton as a forward observer.

During WWI the government took many other football players away to await their time to go off to war, or at least train for battle overseas. The 1917 team only had one player that played in 1916; all others had been taken by the government for active duty. In 1918, Harry Hughes had his team taken away by the military three times before the influenza epidemic nearly claimed the rest of the season.

During the Korean War, men like Jerry Callahan, Jerry Zaleski and Bill Day played for the Colorado A&M football team only to be called off to the Army in the middle of their college playing careers. Although they never went overseas, these men did return in 1955 to help win coach Bob Davis’ only conference championship. The dilemma caused by these players that went away to military duty left the team without a quarterback in 1953 and 1954. Davis had to call on other men like Navy vet Gary Glick to move into the QB position despite not having played it before.

However, no war has made as much of an impact on football at Colorado State than WWII.

The Aggies did not play football in 1943 or 1944, but after the war a slew of men came home to the Colorado A&M campus to receive their education and play football between 1945 and 1950. The 1948 media guide listed five war veterans of the Marines, 12 from the Navy and 18 from the Army or Army Air Corps (the Air Force was not yet established).

Men like Dale Dodrill served with the 30th Infantry in Europe, and Don “Tuffy” Mullison served in Japan with the 11th Airborne Division. Some men played for the Aggies before the war and then returned to play for the Green and Gold after the war. Mullison was one of those men, along with Perry Blach and the Painter brothers, LeRoy and Charles. Others that played in 1942, like Hersh McGraw, older brother of Fum McGraw, received war injuries that permanently prevented them from returning to the gridiron.

By 1962, the ROTC program changed dramatically after CSU President William E. Morgan listened to the words written in the Collegian by student John Hyde, son of the Aggies’ 1925 football All-American, Kenny Hyde. Morgan dropped mandatory ROTC training and the number of football players that served in the military, before or after their football days, decreased dramatically.

One of the last men to serve in war before coming to the Rams was legendary wide receiver Willie Miller. Miller earned the Silver Star as a member of the Army Special Forces during two tours of duty in Vietnam. Most recently, Jaime (James) Bennett, a defensive lineman for Sonny Lubick from 1997- 2000 has served in Iraq in the medical corps.

While some football players served in the military, others made a career out of the military.

Most Ram fans are familiar with men like John Mosley, who played football for the Aggies and went on to be a member of the elite Tuskegee Airmen. He flew bombers in Korea and Vietnam, retiring in 1969 as a lieutenant colonel.

However, there are at least two other former Colorado Aggies football players that have gone on to illustrious careers in the United States military and achieved the rank of general.

Marvin C. Patton played football for Davis from 1949-51 before continuing his lifelong career in the military. Patton, who passed away earlier this year, May 16, entered into the Air Force after his graduation from Colorado A&M to become a fighter pilot in Korea. He went on to be a faculty member at the newly established Air Force Academy and after more flight training he continued his career in the Air Force.

In Vietnam, Patton flew with the 5th Special Forces Group from June 1967 to July 1968. In all, he flew 273 combat missions and earned several awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star. He was promoted to major general (two stars) in 1981 and retired in 1982.

While Patton’s military career is impressive, no CSU graduate or former football player can match the career of General Lewis W. Walt.

Walt was a 1932 graduate of Fort Collins High School who played on both offensive and defensive lines on Harry Hughes’ last two championship football teams, in 1933 and 1934. He was not a superstar athlete, but he was a hard-nosed player that earned respect in his three years of varsity football for the Colorado Aggies, a co-captain of the 1935 team.

After graduating with a degree in chemistry in 1936, Walt joined the United States Marines as a second lieutenant. He rose quickly in the Marines and during WWII he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, commanding thousands of men. He earned two Navy Crosses (the second highest award in the U.S. military, behind the Medal of Honor.), the Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He remained in the Pacific during WWII, fighting at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester and Peleliu. 

In Korea he was promoted to colonel, placed in command of the 1st Marine Division and earned a Bronze Star. He continued his training at the National War College and served as the director of Marine Corps Landing Force Development for three years.

In July of 1961, Walt was promoted to brigadier general (one star), then four years later during the early days of the Vietnam war, he was promoted to major general (two stars). He commanded the III Marine Amphibious Force and 3rd Marine Division beginning in June of 1965. He was then promoted to lieutenant general (three stars) after only 10 months and placed in command of the I Corps.

In May of 1967, Life magazine featured Walt on its cover to promote his “Combined Action Company” or CAC program. The CAC program earned him accolades because it integrated what Walt called “popular forces” into the Vietnamese villages to find the local Communist infrastructure and put it out of business. The number of secure villages under Walt’s program rose from 87 in 1965 to 197 in 1967.

Thanks to his CAC program, Walt was designated the assistant commandant of the Marines on Jan. 1, 1968, second in command of the entire Marine Corps. Previously, only the commandant of the Marines could hold the rank of four-star general, but President Richard M. Nixon signed into law that in times of war, the assistant
commandant of the Marines could serve in that rank.

On June 2, 1969, Walt was promoted to four-star general, making him the highest-ranked graduate in CSU history. He retired in February of 1971 and was commended for his ability to help with relations between the U.S. and China. He died at age 76 on March 26, 1989.

The Rams and Aggies can be proud of their military tradition and all of their former football players that served, whether during war or peace. This Veterans Day reminds us that heroes can be the same men on the football field and on the battlefield.

 

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