The Class of 1951 Honors Its Own

Photos by Dan Vaillancourt (see a full photo gallery of the dedication at the bottom of this page)

On June 7, members of the Class of 1951 held a ceremony to dedicate a memorial honoring five classmates: Capt. Robert Delaney, USMC; Cpl. Walter Flynn, USMC; Lt.j.g. Edward Murphy, USN; Ens. John Shaughnessy, USN; and 2nd Lt. Joseph Zemaitis, USAF. All five men were killed in the line of duty. One of the memorial’s organizers, Robert E. Riley ’51, spoke to the gathering of about 65 friends and relatives, saying, “We realize that it has been more than half a century since these men left their families and their classmates to die for a just cause. … Nevertheless, we believe it is never too late to honor those who have earned these accolades. In future years, we believe that this memorial will remind the Holy Cross community not only of these five men we remember today, but of all the members of the Class of 1951 who served in the United States armed forces.”

The memorial consists of metal plaques attached to two benches on a terrace on the stone stairway leading from Memorial Plaza up the hill toward Hogan Campus Center. College President Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., Senior Vice President Frank Vellaccio and the new commanding officer of the Holy Cross NROTC unit, Capt. Vernon Kemper, USN, were all in attendance. After the National Anthem and an opening prayer from retired Navy chaplain and current Director of Special Projects in Mission for Holy Cross Rev. Robert Keane, S.J., Father Keane, Riley spoke to the assembly:

 

I am honored to participate in the dedication of this memorial to the five members of our class who gave their lives for our country and for the causes of freedom and world peace.

These men were Captain Robert Emmett Delaney, United States Marine Corps; Corporal Walter Matthew Flynn, United States Marine Corps; Lieutenant Junior Grade Edward Dennis Murphy, Jr., United States Navy; Ensign John Russell Shaughnessy, United States Navy; and Second Lieutenant Joseph Casimir Zemaitis, Jr., United States Air Force.

We are privileged to have with us today members of the families of these men.  Several of these family members traveled considerable distances to be at this dedication.

Because of the number of years that have passed since our five classmates died in the line of duty, many of their family members here today never met our honorees.  However, strong family ties, in some instances personal memories, and the enormity of the sacrifices made by our classmates, make today’s dedication ceremony a meaningful and emotional occasion for their families. 

We are honored by your presence and thank you for coming.

The memorial, which you see on the terrace behind me, evolved from an O’Callahan Society dinner in September of 2012.  This dinner included a tribute to our classmate, Ted Murphy, who is also one of our honorees today.  Ted was a member of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team, later renamed the Navy SEALS.  Also remembered at that dinner was another Navy SEAL, Lieutenant John Connors, a 1987 graduate of Worcester Polytech and of the Holy Cross NROTC program.  Both of these men were killed in the line of duty. 

The O’Callahan Society, which staged that memorial dinner, is an organization comprised mostly of graduates of the Holy Cross Naval Reserve Officer Training Program.  The O’Callahan Society was named for the late Father Joseph T. O’Callahan of the Society of Jesus, a former professor at Holy Cross, a veteran of World War II and the first Navy Chaplain to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  The founder of the O’Callahan Society was the late Father John E. Brooks of the Society of Jesus, President of the College of the Holy Cross for 25 years.  Father Brooks himself was an Army veteran of World War II.

Following that September 2012 dinner, and mindful of the honor given on that occasion to Ted Murphy, members of the Class of 1951 joined together to put in place a permanent visible memorial to all five of our classmates who made the supreme sacrifice for our country.

We realize that it has been more than half a century since these men left their families and their classmates to die for a just cause.  We are only too aware that the majority of our 1951 classmates have followed these five men to their rewards.

Nevertheless, we believe it is never too late to honor those who have earned these accolades.  In future years, we believe that this memorial will remind the Holy Cross community and others not only of these five men we remember today but of all the members of the Class of 1951 who served in the United States armed forces.  Some of these other classmates were cited for bravery and dedication to duty.

Today’s honorees and the other men and women who served in uniform have contributed to the long and proud military tradition of the College of the Holy Cross.

In World War I, nearly 1000 Holy Cross students, alumni and faculty served in the U.S. armed forces; 24 of these men lost their lives in that war.  There were 3900 Holy Cross men who served in the military in World War II; 109 of those were killed in action.  Thirty-three Holy Cross alumni served in Desert Storm.

We do not have the numbers of Holy Cross men and women who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  We do know that at least 155 Holy Cross men gave their lives in all wars from World War I through the present day.

The Holy Cross community includes three men who were awarded the Medal of Honor.  Father O’Callahan received our country’s highest decoration in World War II for his heroism aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Franklin.   Only 50 miles off the coast of Honshu, one of the main islands of Japan, the Franklin was attacked by Japanese dive bombers.   After the ship was set afire, Father O’Callahan continuously ministered to the wounded and dying crewmen on its flight deck.  He was also credited with leading firefighting and damage control activities on the ship.  The commanding officer of the Franklin called Father O’Callahan “the bravest man I ever saw”.

Lieutenant John Power, United States Marine Corps, of the Holy Cross Class of 1941, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his valor on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific in World War II.  Although severely wounded, Lieutenant Power single-handedly charged a Japanese concrete gun emplacement.  After World War II, a statue of Lieutenant Power was placed outside of Worcester City Hall and a Navy ship was commissioned bearing his name.

Captain Thomas Kelley of the United States Navy and the Holy Cross Class of 1960 was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism while serving as the commanding officer of a Navy patrol boat squadron in Vietnam.  Under heavy fire, blinded in one eye and wounded in the head, Captain Kelley continued to direct the activities of his squadron throughout its engagement with the enemy.

In addition to the three Medals of Honor, three Holy Cross men have been awarded the Navy Cross and eighteen have received the Silver Star.  One of the recipients of the Silver Star was our 1951 classmate Kelly Joyce, who was cited for bravery during the Korean War.

The Reserve Officers Training Corps has been a major force at Holy Cross for 73 years.  The Holy Cross Naval ROTC was founded in July 1941, five months before the beginning of World War II.  Since its founding, the College’s NROTC has awarded commissions to 2300 Navy and Marine Corps officers.

In the early 1970s, many colleges, including Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League schools did away with their ROTC units.  In 1971, led by Father Brooks, Holy Cross fought for and succeeded in retaining our NROTC against severe pressure to disband the unit.

In a bit of historic irony, Yale University has recently restarted its NROTC program, which is now under the oversight of the Navy and Marine Corps staff at Holy Cross.

In April 1951, the Air Force ROTC was established at Holy Cross and many years later in 1990 was transferred to Worcester Polytech.  Over 600 Air Force officers have been commissioned through the Holy Cross/Worcester Polytech Air Force program.  Approximately 300 of those were Holy Cross graduates.

In addition to the men and women commissioned through the ROTC programs, a significant number of other members of the Holy Cross community also served as enlisted personnel and officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard.  These included Corporal Flynn, Ensign Shaughnessy and Lieutenant Zemaitis, whom we honor today.  Captain Tom Kelley, one of our Medal of Honor recipients, was commissioned at the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.

The College of the Holy Cross has, over the years, contributed to the ranks of the military services and to the defense of our country, far out of proportion to the size of our enrollment.  This tradition continues today with the Class of 2014.  Following their recent graduation and commissioning, members of the NROTC Class of 2014 will pursue their military careers as Navy and Marine Corps pilots, on submarines, cruisers, destroyers and in Marine Corps training at Quantico.

We are proud of our legacy of military service at Holy Cross.  We are particularly proud of and grateful to our five honorees, who gave all that they had to give to our country and for the values and principles for which this country stands.  We also pay tribute today to the other members of the Class of 1951 who served in the armed forces of the United States.

Our special thanks to those of you who came here today to honor your family members who made the supreme sacrifice for our country.  Thanks to all of you for participating in this dedication ceremony.

Riley then introduced Cdr. Robert Heon ‘51, a retired U.S. Navy officer with 27 years of active service, who also spoke at the dedication. Heon served on aircraft carriers, destroyers and research ships including the U.S.S. Rockville, on which he did a tour as commanding officer. His shore duty assignments were primarily in Naval intelligence.

Before the closing prayer by Rev. Charles Dumphy ’51, Riley thank the Class of 1951 chairman, Gus Concilio, Fr. Dumphy, Cdr. Heon and other classmates who helped create the memorial and organize the dedication ceremony.

“We are also grateful to Jim Delehaunty, chairman of the O'Callahan Society, and Tom Flynn, Kathleen Madaus and Mike DeCristofaro of the Holy Cross staff,” Riley added, “who worked with us every step of the way to make the Holy Cross Class of 1951 Memorial a reality.”

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