The Battle Standard
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is privileged among the nation’s five federal academies to be the only institution authorized to carry a battle standard as part of its color guard. The proud and colorful battle standard perpetuates the memory of the 142 Academy Cadet-Midshipmen who died during World War II.
The number “142″ is enshrined at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Every plebe learns within days of reporting to Kings Point that 142 Cadet-Midshipmen died during World War II. Their names along with the names of graduates who died are cast in bronze on the Memorial facing Long Island Sound. Yet a review of the following pages will find that hallowed number is hard to pin down regarding the circumstances of their death. Several of the “142″ died while in training by accident or illness in the United States, far from the enemy’s torpedoes or bombs. Others, even while overseas in combat areas, died of disease, shipboard accidents or one a traffic accident while ashore seeing the sights of exotic foreign lands. The same is also true for the Academy’s alumni who died during the war.
There is some confusion about how the number 142 came about. A New York Times article on March 16, 1946 mentions “. . . war memorial services for the 132 cadet-midshipmen who lost their lives in training at sea with the Cadet Corps.” Other accounts indicate that Gordon McLintock, the Academy’s longest serving Superintendent, simply decreed that 142 was the number and ordered his staff to make the number work.
Research into the Academy’s historical documents both at the Academy and in the National Archives shows that the end of World War II was a chaotic period in many ways. One of the methods of determining which of the thousands of war time U.S. Maritime Commission Cadets, Cadet Officers, Cadet-Midshipmen and Academy’s graduates had died was by sending letters to their last known address on the assumption that the Post Office would forward the letters and the recipient would respond. This method worked very well, but not perfectly. Thus, the name of one alumnus who did not actually die until the 1990’s is on the War Memorial, the names of one Cadet-Midshipman and a graduate are missing, and a Cadet who died in 1940 probably should not be there. Nothing is perfect, especially when dealing with human beings.
After the book Braving the Wartime Seas was published in 2014, we learned that Guy Anderson Carter, a brother of Cadet-Midshipman John McCormick Carter who died in June 1943, was also a Cadet Midshipman who died on board the SS John Harvey in Bari, Italy in December 1943 while he was serving as a Third Assistant Engineer. Somehow there was no record of Guy A. Anderson in the Academy archives. We now have records from his family that substantiate that he was a Cadet-Midshipman.
However, the importance of “142″ to Kings Point and Kings Pointers is not whether the number is factually correct. The actual number is irrelevant; 142 is the symbol that defines Kings Point as a unique institution, the only Federal Academy that routinely sends its students into combat. Only Kings Point has the honor of having a Regimental Battle Standard. Yet, the Academy would still have its Regimental Battle Standard if only 14 Cadet-Midshipmen had died in World War II combat.
Should the War Memorial be “corrected” or “142″ changed? No. The name of the one Kings Pointer on the memorial who didn’t die in World War II represents all of the thousands of Kings Pointers who volunteered to go into combat, came back, graduated and moved on with their lives.
The names on the War Memorial include the “142”, Maritime Commission Cadet Officers and Kings Point graduates; every one of them, whoever they might be, represent the ultimate expression of the Academy’s motto “Acta non Verba – Deeds not Words”.
Every Kings Pointer is a volunteer, just like the “142″. No one can force a person to go to Kings Point, let alone graduate; just like no one could force the “142″ to go where they would ultimately die. This is the real message of the “142″ to the generations of Kings Pointers who made the Academy what it is today and for those that will shape its future.