The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 1996 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award. This annual award has been bestowed upon those West Point graduates whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” The 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:
MG (R) Kenneth D. Nichols ’29
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1907, General Nichols graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1929. He was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, and reported to Fort Humphreys (now Fort Belvoir) Virginia as a second lieutenant in September 1929. Lieutenant Nichols was immediately assigned to the Army Engineer battalion in Nicaragua for survey work on the proposed Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal. For his efforts during and after the Managua earthquake in March 1931, he was awarded the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit.
From 1931 until 1933, General (then Lieutenant) Nichols attended Cornell University where he received the degree of Civil Engineer and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. From 1933 until the summer of 1934 he was Assistant Director of the Waterways Experiment Station at Vicksburg, Mississippi. A year later, the War Department sent General Nichols to the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, Germany under a fellowship from the Institute of International Education for the purpose of studying European hydraulic research.
In the fall of 1937, Lieutenant Nichols was assigned to the Military Academy at West Point, where he served four years as an instructor in the Department of Civil and Military Engineering. During this tour he was promoted to Captain.
In July 1942, Colonel Nichols was selected for assignment to a new and highly secret organization established to develop and produce the atomic bomb — the Manhattan Engineer District. Initially he was assigned as Deputy District Engineer, and a year later, as District Engineer. In this position he reported directly to General Leslie R. Groves, Commanding General of the Manhattan Project.
In his capacity as District Engineer, Colonel Nichols supervised the research and development connected with the design, construction, and operation of all facilities required for the production of weapon-grade plutonium and uranium-235. He was also tasked with the construction — from the ground up — of the towns of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Richland, Washington. His office at Oak Ridge became the administrative headquarters for the wartime atomic energy activities. Colonel Nichols continued to serve with the Manhattan District until the responsibilities for atomic energy were turned over to the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1947.
Appointed Professor of Mechanics at the United States Military Academy in 1947, Colonel Nichols found that his expertise and preeminent reputation in the field of atomic energy required nearly full-time duty as a consultant to the United States Delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and to the Military Liaison Committee to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
Early in 1948, as international tensions mounted, Colonel Nichols was relieved from duty at West Point, promoted to major general, and assigned as Chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Charged with the responsibility for atomic weapons logistics and training, General Nichols commanded this joint Army-Navy-Air Force organization for three years, until 1951.
During the same period, he was Deputy Director of Atomic Energy Matters, Plans and Operations Division of the General Staff U.S. Army and Senior Army Member of the Military Liaison Committee to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In 1950, General Nichols was handed an additional assignment of grave responsibility by President Truman. He was appointed deputy to Mr. K. T. Keller, Department of Defense Director of Guided Missiles. He continued as Mr. Keller’s principal assistant until 1953, advising the Secretary of Defense on the research, development, and production of guided missiles.
In 1953, at the request of President Eisenhower, General Nichols retired from the Army and accepted an appointment as General Manager of the Atomic Energy Commission, with the mandate of improving the relations between the AEC and the Army and speeding the development of commercial Atomic Energy electric power. In both arenas he was successful, and in 1955 General Nichols retired from government service.
General Nichols is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society, and an Honorary Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
In addition to the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit, General Nichols has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Distinguished Service Award, the American Society of Civil Engineers Collinwood Prize, and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Degree of Commander). In 1984, he became only the fifth individual to be awarded the Chief of Engineers Award for Outstanding Public Service.
In 1987, General Nichols published a personal account of the making of America’s nuclear policies, entitled: The Road to Trinity. A glowing review in the New York Times called it “…the best possible book on the subject.”
Throughout a lifetime of service to his country, General Nichols made lasting and invaluable contributions to the national security of the United States during periods of great international tension; his brilliant leadership in the development of atomic weapons and later in President Eisenhower’s Atoms-For-Peace program exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the West Point motto: DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to Kenneth David Nichols, USMA Class of 1929.
GEN (R) William C. Westmoreland ’36
As a military commander, soldier-educator and outstanding combat leader, William Childs Westmoreland has rendered a lifetime of extraordinary service to his country, to the United States Army and to his fellow soldiers. In successive positions of increasing responsibility in the national interest, General Westmoreland has exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy — Duty, Honor, Country.
General Westmoreland’s thirty-six years of military service stand as a matchless example of achievement at every level of military command. Admitted to West Point in 1932, he began an illustrious career soon marked with extraordinary accomplishments. As a cadet he quickly rose to prominence, leading the Corps as its First Captain. Upon his graduation, he was commissioned in the Field Artillery and during the years prior to World War II, he mastered his craft, serving as a battery and battalion staff officer.
In 1941, he was assigned to the 9th Division Artillery at Fort Bragg. Following the outbreak of war, he was chosen to command the 34th Field Artillery Battalion. In late 1942, his battalion deployed to the North African Theater of Operations and soon was committed to combat in the critical battles near Kasserine Pass. In the decisive action at Thala, Tunisia, the direct fires of his battalion were key to the utter defeat and destruction of German armored formations attempting to break out through Kasserine Pass. For its gallantry at Thala, the 34th Field Artillery Battalion was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. Following its success at Thala, the 34th was committed in continuous combat, supporting the 9th Infantry Division in the final operations to destroy the German and Italian forces in North Africa. During the invasion of Sicily, General Westmoreland’s battalion was tasked to support the 82d Airborne Division during the Allied campaign to clear the island of enemy forces. In 1944, General Westmoreland went ashore with the 9th Infantry Division at Normandy. Promoted to Colonel and assigned as Division Chief of Staff, he served with the division during its rapid advance across France and Germany. Following the German surrender in Europe, he assumed command of the 60th Infantry Regiment during the postwar occupation of Germany.
Returning to the United States in 1946, he joined the 82d Airborne Division, commanding the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later serving as Chief of Staff. In 1952, he was selected to command the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team and led his regiment in three campaigns during the Korean hostilities.
Promoted to Brigadier General in 1952, he returned to the United States and joined the Army staff, first as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 and later as Secretary of the Army Staff.
In 1958, he was promoted to Major General and was appointed Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division. Under his dynamic leadership, the 101st Airborne Division, only recently reactivated and filled with recruits, was transformed, becoming one of the elite divisions of the Army.
In 1960, President Eisenhower appointed General Westmoreland 45th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. As Superintendent, he revamped cadet tactical training, to incorporate the study of counter insurgency. Anticipating the future expansion of the Corps of Cadets, he developed plans to increase the faculty, to build new barracks and to expand the Academy’s physical plant.
Following his tour as Superintendent, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed Commanding General of the Eighteenth Airborne Corps, the Army’s strategic rapid reaction force.
In 1964, General Westmoreland was appointed Deputy Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Six months later, he was promoted to General and designated Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and Commanding General, United States Army, Vietnam. In the ensuing four years, General Westmoreland faced a leadership challenge unique in the annals of American wars — the task of commanding a multinational force — in support of a series of unstable South Vietnamese governments — against a foe operating from politically protected sanctuaries — in a war of attrition increasingly opposed by major segments of his country’s people. Despite these obstacles, General Westmoreland led his nation’s forces with boldness, valor and quiet professional skill, thwarting the North Vietnamese military campaign to subjugate South Vietnam.
In 1968, General Westmoreland returned to the United States to assume the Army’s highest post — Chief of Staff. Charged by President Nixon to convert the Army to an all volunteer force, he successfully guided the Army as it transitioned from a Vietnam oriented, conscript supported force to an Army of volunteer professionals, trained, equipped and focused on protecting the vital interests of the nation.
General Westmoreland retired in 1972, having served more than three decades in his country’s uniform. His service to the nation, however, continues. He has served as the leader of the South Carolina Governor’s Task Force for Economic Growth. Additionally, he has lectured extensively in a selfless effort to restore a favorable national perception of our military efforts in defense of the people of South Vietnam.
General Westmoreland’s lifetime of service epitomizes the finest qualities of the American Soldier. Steadfast and fearless in battle, dauntless and high-minded in the face of adversity, he has remained ever mindful of the soldier’s duty faithfully to execute the military directions of the nation’s duly elected leadership and to bear the consequences of that duty with indomitable moral courage and dignity.
His uncommon devotion to his country and its Army clearly reflects the principles and ideals embodied in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to William Childs Westmoreland, Class of 1936.
GEN (R) Alexander M. Haig, Jr. ’47
General Haig’s remarkable career of distinguished service began upon his graduation from West Point in 1947. As a soldier, his military experience and accomplishments included both command and staff responsibility in the field, training combat units and soldiers to deter war, and when war came, commanding these same soldiers with conspicuous gallantry and distinction. In Korea, he was decorated twice with the Silver Star. In Vietnam, he led his infantry battalion in close combat and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism at the Battle of Ap Gu.
General Haig’s military career has been replete with achievement. As he advanced in rank, his assignments increasingly involved service at the highest decision making levels of government. In 1969, he was assigned as the Senior Military Advisor to Dr. Kissinger, then Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. As Senior Military Advisor, General Haig played a leadership role in the military political process which led to the cease-fire agreements in Vietnam. In 1972, he led the advance team that coordinated President Nixon’s historic trip to the People’s Republic of China.
In 1973, the President named General Haig Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, a post he held until summoned to rebuild the White House Staff. He then retired from the Army to accept appointment as President Nixon’s Chief of Staff. In that position, he served both Presidents Nixon and Ford during the grave constitutional crisis that precipitated the President’s resignation and the unprecedented transition of the nation’s highest office which followed.
In 1974, President Ford recalled General Haig to active duty, naming him Commander in Chief, United States European Command. Soon thereafter, General Haig was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. During his five years as military leader of the Atlantic Alliance, NATO military capabilities materially improved and member nation contributions to NATO increased dramatically, notwithstanding the international climate of economic stress, growing terrorism and the relentless threat of the Soviet led Warsaw Pact. General Haig’s dynamic leadership, political acumen and skillful statesmanship were central to NATO’s unmitigated success as a peaceful alliance of strength largely responsible for the ultimate victory of the West in the Cold War.
In 1979, General Haig completed his tour as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and after 32 years in uniform, retired from active military service. Retirement from the Army did not signal retirement from public service. Upon his election in 1980, President Reagan nominated General Haig to be the nation’s 59th Secretary of State. Responding again to his nation’s call, General Haig assumed office in January 1981 and during the ensuing eighteen months, applied his years of experience and leadership at the highest levels of government, guiding the formulation and execution of the nation’s foreign policy, during the turbulent years leading to the collapse of World Communism.
The full measure of General Haig’s contribution to the nation is apparent in his continuing service to his fellow citizens. He has served on three Presidential Commissions. He has unstintingly participated in the education of our nation’s future leaders, lecturing extensively at our nation’s colleges and universities. He is a published author of foreign affairs and diplomatic history of the Cold War era. He is a board member and advisor to both non-profit and commercial corporate enterprises. He founded and chairs his own corporation, Worldwide Associates, Inc.
General Haig is the holder of more than twenty United States military and foreign government decorations and has received honorary degrees and awards from twelve colleges and universities.
A distinguished soldier and renowned statesman, General Haig has left an indelible mark upon our nation’s history. His life of selfless dedication exemplifies the principles and ideals reflected in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Class of 1947.
Col (R) Frank Borman ’50
As a distinguished Air Force officer and dean of American astronauts, as an intrepid space pioneer and goodwill ambassador for two presidents, and as commander of two crucial National Aeronautics and Space Administration missions that vaulted the United States to the forefront of world space achievement, Frank Borman has served his country with distinction, resolute courage, and integrity over a career spanning 46 years.
Born in Gary, Indiana in 1928, Frank Borman grew up in Tucson, Arizona where he learned to fly at age 15. He graduated from the Military Academy in1950, and was commissioned in the Air Force. For the next several years, Colonel Borman was an operational pilot and instructor in various squadrons in the United States.
In 1957, Colonel Borman was awarded the degree of Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and was then assigned to the Department of Mechanics at West Point, where he taught thermodynamics and fluid mechanics as an assistant professor until 1960.
In 1962, Colonel Borman was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for astronaut training.
In 1964, he was assigned to the Gemini 4 mission as backup commander. A year later, he served as the Command Pilot for the Gemini 7 mission. This mission established a number of “firsts.” It was the longest duration space flight on record – fourteen days. It was also the first rendezvous of two manned, maneuverable spacecraft, and it clearly defined man’s capability to endure the effects of zero gravity and close confinement in a hostile environment. Gemini 7 also proved to be a major stepping stone in NASA’s plans to recover the lunar lander after the Apollo program placed man on the moon. The results of the test proved humans could survive these conditions, but it took the steadfast resolution and mental toughness of Colonel Borman to assure the successful completion of his grueling experiment. His display of leadership and courage earned Colonel Borman a leading role as an astronaut and as manager of the visionary Apollo program.
In 1966, President Johnson sent Colonel Borman on a trip through eight Far Eastern nations as a goodwill ambassador. A year later, he was appointed to the committee that investigated the tragic Apollo I fire that claimed the lives of three astronauts.
The Apollo program, and in fact the entire space program, was in jeopardy following the accident. After completion of the investigation, Colonel Borman was made Apollo Program Resident Manager, and he headed the team that reengineered the Apollo spacecraft. He also played a major role in restoring faith in the Apollo program and morale in his fellow astronauts. In the words of Christopher Kraft, Director of Apollo Flight Operations, “…his own willingness to participate in this highly visible position was paramount to the future success of Apollo.”
In December 1968, Colonel Borman became the commander of Apollo 8, the first spacecraft to leave the Earth’s gravitational field and circle the moon. This highly dangerous six-day mission gave us our first close-up look at the lunar surface and of the back side of the moon. It also confirmed the technology which permitted succeeding crews to land on the moon.
In 1970, Colonel Borman joined Eastern Airlines as Senior Vice-President for Operations, a position he held until 1974. In the summer of 1974, President Nixon asked Colonel Borman to undertake a mission to draw attention to the plight of our Prisoners of War in North Vietnam. He traveled to fifteen countries, from the Soviet Union to Sweden, India, and Laos. The result of this trip was better treatment for our POW’s and the Secretary of State commended Colonel Borman for his highly effective presentations to foreign leaders.
Taking charge of an airline with deep financial troubles, Colonel Borman, through brilliant, imaginative, and tireless leadership, was able to make the many improvements that led to the four most profitable years in the company’s history. He left Eastern Airlines in 1986, and in 1988 he joined Patlex Corporation, where he is now Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President.
Earlier, in 1976, Secretary of the Army Martin Hoffman asked Frank Borman to head a “Blue Ribbon” commission to look into all aspects of the honor code at West Point.
Despite tremendous pressure, the Borman Commission created a report that was a testimony to Frank Borman’s patience, leadership, and strong determination to produce an unprejudiced and thoroughly honest document. In the words of Mr. Hoffman, “…with singular integrity and openness, he served the best interests of the Academy, the Army, and the nation.” Of the 22 major recommendations made by the Borman Commission, 19 were implemented by Department of the Army, and the other three were referred for further study.
Colonel Borman was presented with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. The Air Force awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He has also been awarded the Harmon International Aviation Trophy, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal, as well as many other awards, trophies, and honorary degrees.
The Czechoslovakian Academy of Science presented Colonel Borman with their Gold Medal for Achievement, and in 1990, he was inducted into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame; and in 1993 he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Throughout a lifetime of service to his country, Colonel Borman has made invaluable and lasting contributions to the security of the United States. His dauntless courage as an acknowledged leader of America’s astronauts and his unswerving integrity in missions of critical national importance epitomize the words of the West Point motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to Frank Borman, USMA Class of 1950.