Bainbridge Band of Brothers Journal Entries

The Day Everything Changed
(Reprinted from the Lititz Record-Express, Lititz, PA)
by Glenn B. Knight
"On Second Thought"
November 2003

I had already written an up-beat Thanksgiving Day column for this space but as last Saturday got closer and closer I became more and more compelled to put into words the day 40 years earlier when everything changed.

As a private first class in the Marine Corps I had been selected for a “fleet appointment” to the U. S. Naval Academy and was at Bainbridge Naval Training Center, Md., overlooking Havre de Grace where my grandfather had often taken us to fish and enjoy the Susquehanna River before he bought a lot at Peach Bottom. Bainbridge was home to the Naval Academy Prep School and I was a midshipman candidate.

NAPS was in a secluded western corner of the sprawling Naval base that boasted, among other things, the only boot camp for WAVES (Women Available for Volunteer Emergency Services). The rectangular campus with its own lacrosse field and football stadium had once been the Tome School—a private boarding school. Old Main, the office of the school commander and the classroom complex was an impressive educational facility with a dome and a commons in front. The other end of the rectangle was anchored by the Center Officer’s Club.

On the edges were the residences for the students, three of them, two Navy and one Marine Company made up the training battalion. It was all very Ivy League and to a kid from nearby Lancaster County, Pa. it was great to be close to home, preparing to receive a free education courtesy of the Navy.

The leaves had already fallen and the only green left on campus were the towering pines in the grove facing Old Main. It was cold that day and the uniform of the day was “service A”—blue jumpers, neckerchiefs and pea coats for the sailors, green blouses and gloves for the Marines. I wore my “battle jacket” (the Marine equivalent of the Ike jacket that the Army wore, and which was about to be phased out of the Marine Corps inventory). It was “salty” and I needed to project that image having just come off sea duty aboard the USS Independence.

The march to breakfast was near frigid and the morning classes in drafty Old Main provided little opportunity to recover warmth. Marching to lunch (about a mile away and up hill) in the sun warmed us and the afternoon classes were giving signs of being actually comfortable.

At around 1:30 p.m. (13:30 hours or 3-bells) Marine Capt. T. M. Stokes, the battalion officer, who was a walking Marine recruiting poster, came into the Rhetoric class of Lt. (jg)  Larry Kessler and quietly ordered us outside into battalion formation. Quiet was not the way things were normally done at NAPS but suddenly there was a palpable silence. We filed out quickly, and wordlessly, finding our spot on the commons under an ominously overcast sky.

We were called to attention. Lieutenant Commander Peter Stark, the school commander, ashen and obviously shaken walked to his position, accepted the salute of Capt. Stokes, put us at ease and announced, “Gentlemen, President John F. Kennedy, our commander-in-chief, has been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. I have no further information at this time.”

Like almost everyone my age I know exactly where I was and what I was doing just after noon on Nov. 22, 1963.

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© 2006, Glenn B. Knight