Monday, January 28, 2008

Much Of The History We Teach Was Made By People We Taught

So says one of the many recruiting posters put out by West Point, and the saying is true even when war is not the topic under discussion.

Baseball? Invented by a West Pointer.
Whistler's Mother? Painted by a West Pointer.
Chrysler Bonneville, and/or the Bonneville Salt Flats? Named for a West Pointer.
Panama Canal? Construction supervised by a West Pointer.
Two US Presidents, and a few foreign presidents? West Point grads.
Robert's Rules of Order? Written by a West Pointer.

You get the idea. And there are plenty of other examples.

Most people don't think of West Point, though, when they think about astronauts. That's about to change.

The second man to walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, is a West Point graduate.

So are astronauts Frank Borman, Ed White and about 15 other men who have flown in outer space. At least another 20 West Point graduates were involved in the Explorer I and Apollo projects.

To remind the world of what an impact the U.S. Military Academy had on the early days of space exploration, the West Point Association of Graduates has invested heavily in the courtyard of the new building housing the Saturn V at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The association bought bricks - at $100 a pop - and had the names of those noteworthy graduates etched on each.


DOnalbain said...

Hmmmm local pride dictates I must point out that baseball was not invented by anyone from West Point. It is essentially an English game and is mentioned for example, by Jane Austen. It developed from a game played in Sussex and the south east of England called stoolball.

Michael said...

Abner Doubleday didn't invent baseball, although he was certainly a passable general who served honorably for a long time. Whistler flunked out of West Point after three years, which is twice as long as Timothy Leary (yes, that one) lasted there.

BTW, the class ring was a West Point innovation.

Darren said...

Tell it to the history books! :-)

I didn't know Leary attended West Point. But I know Edgar Allen Poe did. I'm sure we could find some other notable temporary attendees.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure we could find some other notable temporary attendees."

Benedict Arnold??? I suppose it all comes down to how you want to define "attendee." :-)

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

In this case I think we'll just stick with the Military Academy :-)

David said...

Whistler, explaining why he flunked out of West Point: "If silicon had been a gas, I would have been a Major General."

Anonymous said...

@Mark Roulo

Benedict Arnold did not attend West Point. The Acsdemy was not established until 1802, well after the Revolutionary War. During the Revolutionary War, the area we now know as West Point was a series of small forts and redoubts that protected a massive chain stretched across the Hudson River. The Colonial Army placed the chain there, at a bend in the river called "West Point", to prevent the flow of British warships from New York City northward.

Arnold was a general in the Continental Army who felt he was not given enough credit for his earlier accomplishments. He attempted to sell the secrets of the design and staffing of the forts and redoubts to the British in exchange for a better position in the British Army. A British Major carried the secret message from Arnold, but he was captured and hanged by Continental Army forces in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Arnold then escaped to British lines, and subsequently became a Major General with them as the war ended.