Officer class reunion hosted by Oahu military bases
By Lance Cpl. M. Trent Lowry
| Marine Corps Base Hawaii | October 05, 2000
MCB Hawaii --
Alumni of the U.S. Marine Corps Special Officer Candidates School Class of September 1944 reunited aboard MCB Hawaii and other Oahu locations Sept. 26 ? 29.
Fifty-six years after receiving their commissions the alumni met to revisit friendships with their peers, learn about current military capabilities and memorialize the classmates that were lost while serving in America?s foreign wars.
?We?ve enjoyed the trip. It?s been a very interesting day,? said retired LtCol. Louis Lapore, who served with 5th Marines at Iwo Jima. ?I feel the loss of the classmates who were close to me.?
What made this OCS class ?Special? is that they were the first and only officers trained at Camp Lejeune, N.C., rather than at Quantico, Va., because of a shortage in training facilities. The candidates were perhaps the best trained second lieutenants to enter combat during World War II, though, thanks to instruction from battle-hardened veterans of the Battle at Guadalcanal, according a SOCS press release.
Many of the graduates of the SOCS class served and fought in World War II and Korea, while a few even continued their service through the Vietnam War. For many of the veteran officers, the Hawaiian Islands served as a training base during their service in the Marine Corps. The 4th and 5th Marines trained at Camp Tarawa on the Big Island, in preparation for combat at Iwo Jima, and the 3rd Marines trained on Maui for the Okinawa invasion.
Out of 375 graduates of the SOCS class, 27 died in combat at Iwo Jima and 21 died at Okinawa. Another 149 were wounded in action.
More than two generations later the reunion members visited MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay Sept. 27, and despite downpours the veterans were able to view a Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter, a Navy P-3 Orion patrol airplane and crash, fire and rescue vehicles and equipment. Marines and Sailors gave the former officers tours of the military aircraft and demonstrated the rescue equipment for an enraptured crowd.
After a windshield tour of the base and a noon meal at Anderson Hall dining facility, the guests gathered at the base theater for a presentation and memorial service, complimented by the performances of the Marine Forces Pacific band and bagpiper Maj. James R. Kennedy.
The reunion was the fifth such official event held by the SOCS alums.
?We try to get together every two years. I look forward primarily to seeing my comrades. You have a certain spirit after having been in the Marine Corps that makes you want to keep in touch,? said Lapore, a San Diego resident who still visits the Marine Corps Recruit Depot there regularly, frequently taking in a graduation ceremony.
The remainder of the reunion took the retired officers to Pearl Harbor for static displays and to the USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and USS Arizona memorial museums.
The veteran alumni of the SOCS class brought with them more than fifty years of memories, and were able to respectfully memorialize their fallen peers.
?For those who were present here, they got the feeling of pride that we have of being Marines,? Lapore said.
Dr. George Durham, a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima and a member of Marine bands for 22 years, speaks at the SOCS memorial service while alumni and Marine Forces Pacific band members listen.
Special Officer Candidate School alumni and their guests listen intently to the music of the Marine Forces Pacific band Sept. 27 at the Base Theater.
Colonel Mike Olson, base deputy commander, welcomes the SOCS alumni to the memorial service Sept. 27.
Corporal D.C. McCarthy demonstrates the capabilities of the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting P-19 rescue vehicle and its flame-dousing hose to SOCS members.
Retired Col. Jack Lauck and his wife get an up-close glimpse of a P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft.
Retired Maj. Mark Clement listens to information about the CH-53D helicopter at a static display presentation at West Field Sept. 27.
Members of the SOCS graduating class of September 1944 learn about the CH-53D helicopter.