THE AIR ATTACK ON
The winds of wars were swirling in Europe. Germany
had overrun Poland. The Soviet Union had just invaded Finland.
The Great Depression was in full force, and the U.S. national
unemployment rate was 17.2%. The year was 1939, the month
late November. Arlington was a small rural town surrounded
by cotton farms. Just south of the town, was the North Texas
Agricultural College (NTAC, forerunner of UTA), a part of
the Texas A & M System. On the NTAC campus, the students
(all male students were cadets) were at fever pitch, preparing
for the coming battle, not the war in Europe, but the big
football game with John Tarleton State College (JTAC), a sister
institution in the Texas A & M System (now Tarleton State
University in Stephenville).
The rivalry between the two schools was intense, partly because
of history and tradition, partly because the cadets had few
other diversions. Most of the students were desperately poor
and could not afford off-campus entertainment of any type.
BY 1926, the rivalry between the two schools had become so
"spirited" that the two schools cancelled all scheduled
football games from 1927 to 1933. The football rivalry resumed
in 1934, apparently without any loss of mutual antagonism
for the opposing college. Each year, cadets at both schools
built a huge pile of logs, scrap lumber, and wooden boxes
for a great pre-game bonfire and homecoming celebration to
inspire their respective football teams. Students made frequent
attempts to raid the other campus and set fire to its "pile"
ahead of schedule. According to the Tarleton Student Handbook
(which counts this story as one of it's major traditions),
the students were driven by "the desire to cause premature
conflagration to the accumulated rubbish."
On Monday, November 27, 1939, a raiding party from Tarleton
burned NTAC's bonfire "pile" and then burned Tarleton's
initials into the NTAC football field as an added insult.
The students at NTAC were greatly agitated by these hostile
actions, and after some "inspirational potions"
a large group of NTAC students retaliated. A freshman cadet
from Caddo Mills, Chester Phillips Jr., took the lead. Chester
happened to be a student pilot. The plan of attack involved
both air and land operations, with a coordinated assault.
Selecting cadet James E. Smith from San Antonio as his co-pilot
and bombardier, Chester rented a small Taylorcraft airplane
(single engine, two-seater), loaded it with a sackful of phosphorous
"bombs," and took off for the Stephenville campus.
Simultaneously, three truckloads of NTAC cadets departed by
ground. Meanwhile, word of the impending attack had reached
Dean Edward E. Davis at NTAC. Alarmed, he telephoned a warning
to Tarleton, and dispatched Major Max Oliver, the NTAC Commandant,
to bring the errant raiders home.
Tarleton students were lying in ambush to repel the attack.
The small plane flew low over the bonfire pile and James attempted
to drop the phosphorous bombs on the target. According to
some reports, one of the bombs set fire to the Tarleton "pile,"
but the defenders quickly extinguished the fire. While most
of the bombs missed the wood pile, the sticks and boards hurled
up at the airplane did not. One of the Tarleton defenders,
L.V. Risinger, hurled a 2X4 into the air. It struck the propeller
and brought the small plane down. Chester managed to fly the
"wounded" plane over what is now the Hall of Presidents,
barely clear a rock fence, and crash-land into a clump of
trees. (Or some say, come to a stop three feet away from crashing
into the rock wall). Chester and James survived the crash,
only to be captured by the Tarleton defenders. Meanwhile,
the three truckloads of cadets likewise fell into ambush,
and most of the attackers were captured. Each of the captured
cadets had a block-T cut into his hair, according to Col.
Charles McDowell (a JTAC defender and later the Professor
of Military Science at UTA). Several of the JTAC students
climbed atop the bonfire pile to make speeches about the "spirit"
between the two schools, and to tell their defeated rivals
to "take your plane and go back home." The NTAC
boys were treated to hot coffee and doughnuts and set loose
to return to Arlington. A picture of the crashed airplane
appeared in the next issue of Life Magazine, according to
some accounts (but we have not been able to find any issue
with the photo).
According to the Fort Worth Telegram, discipline and quiet
reigned on both campuses the next day. Chester and his bombardier,
James, had to appear before the Federal Civil Aeronautics
Authority for a routine investigation into the incident. Dean
Davis of NTAC told the Dallas Morning News that, "There
is no ill will between the student bodies, but the enthusiasm
gets out of hand, interferes with normal school work and might
result in an unfortunate accident. It is all in fun now, and
no one has been hurt, but such raids as were made by Tarleton
boys and the one made at Stephenville Tuesday night by our
students could very well result seriously." He added,
"There is a possibility that the athletic contests will
be suspended between NTAC and Tarleton."
The much anticipated football game was held as planned in
Arlington, Thursday, November 30, 1939. Arlington's great
opportunity for redemption and revenge reverberated in the
stadium, but this was not the year. The Tarleton "Plowboys"
beat the NTAC "Hornets" 7 to 0. Afterwards, officials
of the two schools held a meeting in Stephenville to discuss
disciplinary actions and future relationships between the
two schools. Faculty committees of both schools agreed to
eliminate the traditional bonfire preliminaries to the annual
football game. They also agreed that the 1939 football game
would be the last Texas Conference contest for each school.
However, athletic relations of the two schools would continue,
with faculty supervision of pre-game activity. The matter
of disciplinary action toward the student raiders from both
schools was left to the individual schools.
NTAC executives ratified the actions of the Stephenville
conference and instructed the discipline committee of North
Texas Agricultural College to confer with the 30 or so students
who were known to have participated in the raid. The discipline
committee, which included Dean Davis and Major Oliver, decided
to expel James Smith for the remainder of the semester, and
to recommend the suspension of Chester Phillip's flying license
for six months to the FCAA for violating flying rules of safety.
For the other students there would be a discussion on behavior
and a warning against similar activities in the future. At
John Tarleton, Dean J. Thomas Davis (the brother of NTAC's
Dean Davis) said that he was not certain that any severe discipline
would be meted out.
Chester Phillips, Jr. did not let this incident daunt his
flying career. With U.S. involvement in World War II fast
approaching, Chester joined the Army Air Corps, as did many
of the young cadets at both schools. He trained military pilots,
and when the war began in earnest he was shipped out to Shipdam,
England. According to a Blackie Sherrod column in the Dallas
Morning News, Chester was assigned to a B-24 Liberator, called
the "Little Beaver." German submarines at the time
were causing havoc to Allied shipping, and Chester's mission
in May of 1943 was to destroy the submarine pens at Kiel.
He and his crew encountered German fighter planes and heavy
anti-aircraft flak. Chester and several of his crew were killed
instantly. Others bailed out and were held as POWs for the
rest of the war. Chester is buried somewhere in Belgium.
Many of the other bonfire raiders and defenders also served
their country well and still remember the incident. Col. Charles
McDowell, now in the UTA Foreign Language Dept. (Soviet Studies)
was one of the JTAC bonfire defenders who helped to bring
the plane down. He remembers his group of defenders throwing
everything that they could get their hands on up at the plane
as it came over. L.V. Risinger, the young man reportedly responsible
for the successful 2X4, became a hero at Tarleton. The present
day Homecoming Bonfire is dedicated to him. He died in 1994.
James Smith left UTA and almost assuredly fought in World
War II, although his trail has been lost.
Aaron Williams, a native of Greenville and a relative of
Chester Phillips, told Blackie Sherrod that "If Chester
were here, he probably would get a good chuckle to know that
people are still talking about his airplane antics."
Chester and all the others who participated in the abrupt
ending of the flight would also be amazed at the variety and
the disparity in the details remembered and recounted over
WE WERE JUST CADETS
Joel H. Ward
Colonel, US Army, Retired
In the late '50s, as Arlington State College (ASC) transitioned
to a four-year college, the two-year ROTC program also changed
to a four-year curriculum. With that change, the ROTC program
was to send its first class to Summer Camp at Fort Hood in
1960. Those cadets would be the first to attend Summer Camp
from ASC between their junior and senior year and then go
on to graduate as military officers, U. S. Army second lieutenants.
I was one of those cadets. We were unbelievably fortunate
to be at the right place, at the right time with the right
people. Colonel Kirk P. Brock the Professor of Military Science
and Tactics (PMS&T) along with his staff of officers and
sergeants were concerned about instilling leadership qualities
in their cadets. They wanted to teach their cadets how to
excel. They realized that they needed something for the cadets
to focus on, a challenge, something nobody else had done.
The Right Place: No one that I knew expected
this institution and this ROTC program in the middle of the
Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to become what it is today. During
the change from a junior college to a four year college, ASC
remained a branch of Texas A&M for several years before
coming a permanent branch of the University of Texas. Today,
it has grown to be an important branch of the University of
Texas system and has the finest ROTC program in Texas. This
growth began when 'we were just cadets'.
The Right Time: As cadets we were the lucky
ones who were there to receive the benefits of these academic
and military program changes. I don't think any of us realized
until later, how fortunate we were.
The Right People: Few, if any, of us cadets
were aware of the quality of the military instructors headed
by Colonel Brock, a highly decorated surviving POW from the
Korean War. He was supported by assistant PMSs Majors Oliver
A. Hord and Charles T. McDowell, and Captain Willard Latham.
Captain Latham was the newest addition to the ROTC staff.
He too was a veteran of the Korean War, handsome and highly
decorated. At 32 years of age he turned the heads of many
coeds. He was also an alumnus of ASC and its Corps of Cadets.
While a cadet he had risen to the rank of Cadet Colonel as
commander of the Corps of Cadets and he also had commanded
the Sam Houston Rifles. Now assigned as an Assistant PMS&T,
he immediately became the tactics and physical fitness instructor.
He conducted physical training and also field training in
the hilly area on the north side of Arlington, challenging
the cadets' tactical and physical ability by running us hard
over the rough terrain. Frankly, I did not understand why
he was so tough and dismissed it that he was just that way.
I would learn later that he had a good reason.
We were the cadets that comprised the transition class from
the junior to senior ROTC program and the first to go to Summer
Camp in 1960. We were the cadet leaders of the corps of cadets
when we were sophomores. As juniors we again were the cadet
leaders. After Summer camp we would return to continue to
lead the corps. Later I began to understand how important
that was for us when we went on active duty. Little did we
know that three years of cadet leadership experience placed
us well ahead of our contemporaries from other schools. When
confronted with real leadership issues, we could handle them
without hesitation, because we had done it before.
The instructor team under Colonel Brock's guidance devised
a plan to make the cadets believe that they thought of the
march to Fort Hood themselves. The instructors thought it
worked. The cadets had a different point of view. I expected
that we would ride a bus to Fort Hood like we did when we
went on trips to performances like the two Junior Rose Bowls
with the Sam Houston Rifles. Some how the word came out that
Captain Latham was going to lead some cadets on a forced march
to Fort Hood. "March to Fort Hood?" we exclaimed,
"That must be over a hundred miles." In fact it
was 160 miles. As I remember, Captain Latham expected us to
volunteer. Like a military professional that I hoped someday
to be, I guess I did. But I did not think for a minute that
I thought of the idea myself. Neither did fifteen other cadets.
Sixteen out of twenty-eight camp bound cadets "volunteered"
to march 160 miles to Fort Hood, near Killeen. The next thing
I knew, we were spending weekends on twenty-five mile 'practice
marches' and running to and from the physical training site
at a farm north of town to toughen us. Captain Latham often
would arrange a brief church service before the march on Sunday.
As the academic year neared its end, our physical fitness
improved, despite our private objections. We would never complain
about it in Captain Latham's presence. Doing that might result
in pushups, running laps, or worse. Toward the end of the
spring semester of 1960, the junior class, called MS (Military
Science) IIIs, was very fit and preparing to go to Summer
ROTC Camp. Then came the day. On June 11, after families and
girl friends said goodbye, Captain Latham, as march commander,
with sixteen of us, in military fatiques, web harnesses and
pistol belts, canteens, ponchos, and combat boots, marched
south on Cooper Street continuing along State Highway 157.
Little did we know that we were doing something never done
before. None of us considered that this would become a piece
of university lore. We certainly did not know what was in
store for us during the next five days because we were just
Day One - Saturday, June 11th: We marched
on the shoulders of the road most of the time. The reflection
of the sun's heat, off of the pavement, made it hotter. With
Captain Latham setting the pace, we jogged down and walked
up hills. We would take 10 minute breaks every two hours,
but soon none of us wanted the breaks because our muscles
would cramp up on us. With 33 miles completed, the cadets
camped the night in Joshua, rolled up in ponchos on a school
Day Two - Sunday, June 12th: The team continued
the march at 5 AM after policing (cleaning) the school ground
in Joshua, trekking 6 miles to Cleburne, and having breakfast
at a local café. Shortly after we resumed the trek,
Billy Clark had to drop out of the march due to blistered
feet. He had not been able to join the toughening preparation
marches. Major Hord was our support. He ran supply and support
runs for the team and carried our bedrolls in a carryall.
In this case he served as the ambulance to evacuate Billy
back to Arlington. That day was extremely hot, and we made
it worse by listening to a radio commercial about refreshing
ice tea. We stopped more often to rest because of the sweltering
heat. Zack Prince later learned that a very unusual heat inversion,
a column of heat that flows to the ground blistering grass,
crops, and any vegetation beneath it, occurred near the little
town of Rio Vista as we marched through it. It was a good
thing we did not know about it at the time. We continued down
highway 174 toward Lake Whitney where we planned to camp that
night. About ten miles out of our camp sight we encountered
a rainstorm drenching all of us to the skin. We camped at
night near Kimball Bridge. A couple of cadets cooked veal
cutlets and a few innocent by standing grasshoppers for the
team. I remember how good it tasted. That night we tried to
dry our clothes and equipment by building fires and hanging
our damp fatigues on limbs over the fires. Mike Marsh awoke
the next morning to find that his shirt had fallen into the
Day Three - Monday, June 13th: The team
was up early and continued to Lake Whitney where Captain Latham
permitted us to take a swim. It felt so good. Despite this
relaxation, we were sore and it was very hard to get up and
hit the road again. Our feet were blistered from walking the
gravel shoulders of the highway. Mike Marsh wore his poncho
over his shoulders to avoid sunburn until Major Hord could
bring a new shirt from Arlington. We breakfasted at a restaurant
near Meridian. Gene Weidemeyer was the next casualty. He pulled
a tendon and was unable to continue. We jogged down a hill
to lunch at a roadside café. Captain Latham had reminded
us that we must act like officers and gentlemen when we went
inside. Bob Darrah was so hot and thirsty that when the waitress
did not offer any water, he proceeded to the counter, picked
up a frosty pitcher filled with ice and water and proceeded
to gulp from it while the ice and water streamed down his
fatigues. All the cadets broke into hysterics as the good
captain scowled, but did not say a word. Needless to say,
Captain Latham was not elated. Later, we completed 21 miles
to Meridian. Before we jumped into our bedrolls, we chopped
up six watermelons and made them disappear in record time.
That night, there was a heavy dew making all of our gear wet
Day Four - Tuesday, June 14th: The team
breakfasted at a restaurant near Meridian. Major Hord informed
us that we were being reported in all of the metroplex newspapers.
Someone bought a newspaper and passed it around. We felt good
that the folks from home were following our progress. As we
passed though Meridian, several old timers, sitting in the
shade in front of a little country store, were asked by Robert
Roten what the temperature was. One of them replied that it
was 103 where they were in the shade, but most likely hotter
than that on the road where we were. Now we had to make it
to Fort Hood. We also learned that the good people of Gatesville
were planning a reception for us. My boots were becoming extremely
uncomfortable. During a break Captain Latham, in his role
as leader and medic, asked me how I was doing and inspected
my feet. My big toes were badly blistered and hurt to the
bone when I took any steps. He asked me if I wanted to quit.
I considered it, but I just couldn't. "I'm OK, sir."
I said. I was determined to gut it out. Later, during Summer
Camp, my two big toenails would fall off and new ones would
grow back. I was not aware the Captain Latham was also suffering
from severe blisters. Art Cleveland was caring for him and
several other cadets. Many years later, Dr. Art Cleveland
in talks on leadership would comment, "Even future generals
are not immune to blisters." Ed MacConnell was quoted
that day in the news saying, as he looked at his blistered
and tired feet, "It seems to me that the human body was
designed to operate on four instead of two." The Star-Telegram
city editor had suggested that one of the reporters, Ed Johnson,
join our march for eight miles that afternoon. We asked Ed
if his boss liked him. We continued and covered 25 miles nearing
Turnersville. Camping in the open close to the road, another
storm unleashed its wrath on us just before midnight making
us move under a bridge. We were just barely asleep again when
a strobe of light broke our slumber. It was a farmer with
a flashlight and a shotgun. He suspected us to be escapees
from the reformatory at Gatesville. As luck would have it,
Major Hord had stayed with us that night, carryall and all.
I believe if Major Hord had not assured the farmer that we
were not escapees, that he would have held us hostage until
the highway patrol came to get us. Major Hord convinced him
to let us continue. As he left, the farmer said that he had,
in his time, turned in six escapees. He must have felt he
had hit the escapee jackpot when he found us. With all these
interruptions, our night was blown.
Day Five - Wednesday, June 15th: We were
up and moving at 4 AM enroute to Turnersville. We stopped
at the town's only café for breakfast. It was so small
that all of us could not get inside. The owner, Mrs. Wallace,
took us to her home where she prepared a feast including the
best biscuits I have ever tasted. Someone made a school's
shower facilities available which was an unexpected treat.
Back on the road, we covered only 17 miles that day, arriving
in Gatesville to a huge and warm reception. We were greeted
by Alfred H. Hopkins, the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce manager,
who personally served us a tub of cold lemonade. County judge,
Norman Stone placed the city's facilities including its park
and swimming pool at the cadet's disposal. As we settled our
camp in the park, local teenagers had their own reception
planned. In several cars, they repeatedly drove through the
park yelling obscenities and driving onto the grass. We were
road weary and not in a good mood. Finally, led by Roger Kannady,
the cadets armed themselves with empty Coke bottles found
by Gerald Osburn. They deployed at strategic ambush locations
ready for the "enemy's" next pass. When the cars
came, they were clobbered. The cars disappeared into the town
never to be seen by us again. The harassment stopped. We guessed
that the body shops would be doing a good business. We bedded
down for the last night on the march. We were only eight miles
from our destination.
Day Six - Thursday, June 16th: We marched out of Gatesville
at daybreak penetrating deep into Fort Hood. On this final
day, the temperature was cooler, but the dirt trails were
dusty and hilly. With shoulders back, we marched proudly down
that last hill loudly singing jody chants. Most of us were
numb as we completed the 160 mile journey arriving at the
designated crossroads. We were met by Fort Hood Commander,
Major General (two stars) Edward G. Farand, who arrived by
helicopter, a welcoming party, and the press. Even Captain
Latham was smiling with pride. "I am very pleased. I
feel there is nothing that these boys can't do," he proudly
said. Yes, he was proud of us and we were proud of ourselves.
Of the sixteen cadets who started the march 14 completed the
160-mile saga. Not bad for 'just cadets' who were lucky enough
to be at the right place, at the right time, and were taught,
mentored, and, yes, even loved by the right people.
After the roadside celebration and photos, we were bused to
our different company barracks. Arriving two days before camp
formally began, we showered, rested, ate, and became familiar
with our new home for the next six weeks. The Fort Worth and
Dallas newspapers reported, "General Greets Tired A.S.C.
Men" and "Snappy Cadets Complete Long Trek".
One statement in the Star Telegram was, "Reliable sources
say that some money changed hands in Arlington Thursday, the
lucky ones are those who knew that these cadets are winners."
I now realize that we were lean, gaunt, had dark tans, and,
I am told, looked pretty tough. Twenty-three years later when
I had returned to UTA as the Professor of Military Science,
Dr. Walt Mullendore, then Dean of the School of Business,
mentioned that he remembered us at camp. He was a cadet from
another school in the mid-west. He commented that the word
was out among the 3000 other cadets at camp, "Don't mess
with the ASC boys, they are tough." I don't know about
tough, but Captain Willard Latham and all of the military
instructors had done a great job with a bunch of guys from
"that little junior college in Arlington."
Willard Latham distinguished himself and UTA in his military
career by eventually rising to the rank of Major General.
Of the total 28 cadets from ASC attending Summer Camp, 19
returned home as Distinguished Military Students with recommendations
from the camp commander for Distinguished Military Graduate
(DMG). Being a DMG opens the door for a cadet to become a
Regular Army Officer with strong career potential. The ROTC
program concluded its Cinderella year in grand fashion.
On a personal note, this experience gave me the confidence
to draw upon in combat when under hostile fire in Vietnam.
When my radioman was hit while we were hip deep in rice paddy
water, I had the confidence to know that I could carry him
and his radio to safety. Without that experience of the march
which made one push beyond his known limits, we both might
not be here today. I can never repay those officers and sergeants
who molded us into what each of us became. I will be eternally
grateful. I am sure the others feel the same.
Here is a list of the marchers:
1. Billy Clark
2. Arthur G. Cleveland
3. Bob Darrah
4. James Hunter
5. Allan E. Jenson
6. Roger Kannady
7. Ronald W. King
8. Ed MacConnell
9. Michael Marsh
10. Gerald G. Osburn
11. Billy Bob Pinkerton
12. Zack Prince
13. Ronald Rendleman
14. Robert Roten
15. Joel H. Ward
16. Gene Weidemeyer