PAW web exclusive column by Wes Tooke '98 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
7 , 2001:
sacrifice by reading Memorials
by Wes Tooke '98
I have recently adopted
the somewhat morbid habit of carefully reading the Memorials in
every issue of the PAW. While regular readers of this column might
suspect that I am eagerly scanning for obnoxious members of the
various Princeton e-mail lists, my interest-for once-serves a nobler
purpose. I have become fascinated by the way Princeton graduates
choose to spend their years.
I am particularly interested
in the men who graduated in the decade surrounding the Second World
War; those who stepped away from the pedestrian progression of a
typical Princeton experience to fight the greatest evil the world
has ever known. For obvious demographic reasons the Memorials these
days are filled with members of the classes of the late thirties
and early forties, and every short tribute to a departed Tiger makes
me want to know more. I sometimes try to imagine what it would be
like to leave campus after my sophomore year to fight with Patton
in Europe. Or to abandon my current "job" and fly with
the Army Air Force in Europe. Or to have served on a tiny escort
surrounded by hostile behemoths in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Somehow I doubt that
I would have served with the distinction evident even in the abridged
text of the Memorials, and somehow I doubt that I would have returned
to civilian life with a similar level of grace. Perhaps they served
a stiffer brand of beer back then in the clubs. No matter what the
reason, every tiny entry is a reminder of lives lived with a degree
of sacrifice virtually unknown today. And what's even more remarkable
is that most of these men went on to live lives that demonstrate
the remarkable range of options that a Princeton education can present
to those whom are brave enough to sample widely. In the last two
issues alone I've read about orchids and mysticism and moon landings
So as my own hopelessly
inadequate tribute to the Princetonians of my grandfathers' generation,
I've selected four Memorials from the last two issues that especially
touched me. Many thanks to the class secretaries who wrote the original
text. Any interesting information contained herein comes from them;
all mistakes are mine.
John M. Smyth '37
Johnny Smyth was on the
boxing squad at Princeton and a member of Tiger Inn. Upon graduating,
he attended Northwestern University School of Law and had just begun
practicing when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Mr. Smyth served
for almost four years in the Navy, starting as the commander of
a gun crew on a Liberty ship before transferring to a destroyer
escort. He won a Presidential Citation in 1944 when his tiny escort
torpedoed a Japanese heavy cruiser during the battle of Leyte Gulf.
After the war, Mr. Smyth gave up the law and returned to his family's
furniture business. His friend Roger Barrett describes him as being
"the most widely-beloved man I have ever known."
Richard Dike Faxon
At Princeton Dick Faxon
majored in geology, won three letters on the hockey team, and was
a member of Cap and Gown. He joined the Army Air Corps upon the
outbreak of war and flew Spitfires and P-51s in the Mediterranean.
Mr. Faxon won the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Star
among other awards en route to becoming the only acknowledged Class
of '42 ace. After the war, Mr. Faxon worked as a geologist for the
Keener Oil Company.
George Richard N.H.
Dick Nash arrived at
Princeton, joined ROTC, and was soon whisked away to serve in the
field artillery. The Army assigned him to the 90th Infantry Division,
and he tore through Europe with General Patton's Third Army. Upon
returning to Princeton after the war, he joined the Triangle Club
and served as Captain of the golf team-once winning a match against
Navy with a hole-in-one on the 18th green. For the last 15 years
of his life, Mr. Nash indulged his great passion, the quest for
spiritual peace, by studying with gurus and mystics in places such
as India and Puerto Rico.
Harris Bates Stewart
years at Princeton were also interrupted by the war. He served as
a First Lieutenant with the Fifth Army Air Force in the Pacific,
fighting the Japanese in the skies over New Guinea and Philippines.
He graduated from Princeton in 1948 with a degree in geology, and,
after a brief stint as an English teacher, he joined the US Coast
and Geodetic Survey and became one of the foremost oceanographers
in the world. Princetonians interested in reading a collection of
Mr. Stewart's essays can seek out "The Unpredictable Mistress,"
which was published last year.
If you are interested
in more of these stories, just browse the Memorials. I know I'm
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