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The Korean War Years, 1950-1954

In June 1950, the Korean War called St. Norbert students, graduates and the professor of military science and tactics (PMS&T) to combat. The small size of the regular Army at the time necessitated the activation of many reserve component units. As was and remains the situation, many St. Norbert College students were members of these units. The exact number who served in Korea cannot be determined, but a very conservative estimate from a 1951 graduate states at least 50 percent of the of the graduating classes of 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953 served in Korea. Colonel (Ret.) Steve Donarski states that it was hard to tell how many actually served because they went over, got wounded and were sent home so quickly we couldnt keep count. Several of these graduates served in the 35th Infantry Regiment commanded by then Colonel Autrey J. Maroun, the PMS&T from 1950 to 1951. Colonel Marouns replacement, Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Teeters, was a battalion commander in the 35th Infantry prior to his posting to St. Norbert College. At least one of his fellow officers, Lieutenant Henry J. Vandermause ’49, served with Lieutenant Colonel Teeters in the 35th Infantry. As commander of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Teeters is mentioned several times in the Army historical series volume South to the Naktong, North to the Yalu. The 35th Infantry and the 25th Division fought in some of the most ferocious battles of the Korean War.

The Korean War claimed four St. Norbert College lives including First Lieutenant Robert F. Blohowiak, a popular student and football star. He, too, was serving in the 35th Infantry when killed in combat. His body was returned to De Pere for funeral and burial. The entire cadet battalion participated as well as some local reserve units. The cadets formed an honor guard that ran the distance of two city blocks ending at St. Joseph Church. Pat May and Dick Joyce, both pall bearers, recall the solemnity and lasting impression of the ceremony.

On campus, the ROTC program was mandatory for all physically qualified male students. The cadet battalion during these years consisted of four to five companies of at least 100 cadets each. Teeters proved to be a very popular PMS&T, serving from 1952 to1955. He was described as stern, with the best interest of his cadets in mind. Such an outlook created and enhanced the learning environment. A popular method of instruction included NCO lead and directed competitions in assembly and disassembly of the M-1 rifle, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and .30 caliber machine gun. The same concept was used to teach land navigation. This period also began an extremely dynamic era for the ROTC. The program regained and expanded its role as the leading activity on campus. Cadets were the leaders of virtually all campus organizations and the ROTC was the central theme of countless radio broadcasts, newspaper articles and campus activities. The Military Ball was the premier social event of the spring semester. The Corps of Cadets was routinely tasked to march in parades, provide color guards and assist in a variety of other public events. Between 1950 and 1964, eight cadets began careers that culminated in the rank of general officer.

The cadets of these years participated in a highly disciplined corps that stressed academic achievement, personnel discipline and selfless service. The scrapbooks found in the military science department and the photographs maintained in the college archives document the atmosphere and way of life. In 1954, the college held its first mid-year graduation and 11 officers were commissioned out of that class. Graduates of this era provided the majority of those to first serve and bear the brunt of the Vietnam War. Many other graduates dating back to the classes of 1940 and 1941 continued to serve, making untold contributions to all of the services.

The material on this page is drawn from a St. Norbert College ROTC history book compiled by ROTC alumnus and former military science professor Mike Egan.   

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