Harvey M. Kelsey Jr. ’41

Kelsey, Jr. '41

Harvey M. Kelsey Jr. '31

(1923–    )
Army, Captain

In 1938 my family was living in Barbados, BWI, where some British military and civil servants had retired. News of Britain and Europe was a constant topic of conversation. My mother in July 1938 said, in very positive terms to my father—to the effect—that madman Hitler is going to start a war, and he certainly will cut off the Caribbean because of the oil in Trinidad and Venezuela. “I want to go home now!”

Dad replied he had already made reservations on the Lady Nelson. Ships were the only way from Barbados. We sailed in July, and I was enrolled in Andover in September. The Lady Nelson was loaded with ballast and sunk off Omaha Beach to make a harbor in 1944.

The war did start the next year, and I recall two exchange students—Heli Thies ’37 [name researched by Andover] and John Cunningham ’41—were recalled to their home countries, the former to Germany and the latter to Britain. A story was circulated that Cunningham shot down Thies in the Battle of Britain.

In 1940 I met with Dr. Claude Fuess to suggest an ROTC program be started at PA as was done in WWI. He suggested such would not be appropriate at that time.

I left Andover as a non-returning upper in June 1941 and went to Princeton, where I enrolled in the Army ROTC program. Pearl Harbor came in December. Soon those in the ROTC were put in a dorm—then called barracks—by the Army. Next we were assigned to Ft. Bragg for Basic Training in the artillery. After that I went to Ft. Sill for commissioning in the artillery. I had the fortune to be an executive officer in the batteries of 105 mm, 155 mm, and eight-inch howitzers. Finally I went overseas to the ETO [European Theater of Operations] and was assigned to the 32nd Field Artillery Battalion, 1st U.S. Infantry Division (Big Red One). I saw a lot of Europe and most vividly recall the bomb-leveled towns of Germany. The recovery of same, which I visited in 1958, was remarkable. Before coming home I sat in on some sessions of the Nuremburg Trials. When I visited Nuremburg in 2007, the younger people did not even know where the courthouse was that housed the trial.

Frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed my years in the Army in WWII—both as an enlisted man and as an officer. The training I received, including OCS (Officer Candidate School), was primarily technical—how to make the guns work. Where the ability came to train and lead soldiers at my age (20–21) had to be from my family and my three years at Andover. Since I left Andover as a non-returning upper I did not get a high school diploma. I wanted to “get on” because I felt our involvement in the war was eminent. After the war I graduated from Princeton and earned an MBA from Harvard, but Andover doesn’t “give” diplomas; one has to pass the courses and earn it. I was so advised when I asked.

I passed up a diploma to get into the service sooner—I am rewarded by that participation with my generation.

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Filed under In Uniform, Western Front

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