Naval officers from the ‘greatest generation’ come home to Tulane

November 6, 2012 10:30 AM

Fran Simon

“What type of ship were you on?” “What was your rank?” “When did you get out of the Navy?” The room buzzed as the Naval ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) hosted a tribute to Tulane graduates in the classes from 1942 through 1945 at a Homecoming luncheon on Nov. 1.

John McCarthy and Thomas Wicker

John L. McCarthy, left, and Thomas C. Wicker Jr., both of the class of 1944, enjoy reminiscing about serving on ships during World War II. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Those veterans gathered at the table reserved for 1944 graduates agreed that their NROTC training was invaluable as they grew up fast and prepared for deployment in World War II. They entered the accelerated officer-training program in 1943, graduating in February 1944 and receiving their commissions. The NROTC juniors were commissioned three days after the seniors.

John L. McCarthy cited “education, discipline and respect” as the takeaways from his NROTC training. “It was a great experience — I got to visit Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore after the war. I’m proud to be a veteran, and I’m proud I was in the Navy.”

Edward H. Keiler and Thomas C. Wicker Jr. are 89 years old “and happy to be here,” they said. “I will walk hand in hand into 90 with you,” Keiler told Wicker. Both received law degrees from Tulane on the GI Bill after they returned from the war.

“Where did all these old men come from? It seems like they were all young boys just days ago,” mused Wilson F. “Bill” Minor (class of 1943), who led the program of speakers. He expressed regret that no members of the class of 1942 were able to make the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Tulane NROTC

He also expressed surprise when he noticed a young woman in the audience. “Is that a lady midshipman? That would have been unthinkable back then.”

Minor concluded his reminiscences, “Being part of the Navy was a memorable experience, and it changed my life.”

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