For my paper, I will be discussing the history of Widener University from its founding days to the present. I will also be focusing on Vietnam soldier, John Geoghegan, KIA.
The Vietnam war and Vietnam Veterans have received much attention over the decades since the ending of that war. But not much is known about the men who fought the good fight to save South Vietnam from Communism. Whether the US involvement was right or wrong is up to debate but one thing that can not be debated is the courageousness of young Americans fighting a very difficult war to the best of their ability despite negative press at home.
These young Americans were men of integrity and honor. Like their predecessors, many put themselves in harm’s way to save or offer comfort to their fellow soldiers as was the case with John Geoghegan.
It was The Pennsylvania Military college that John Geoghegan attended. Today it is known to us as Widener University. While this University enjoys a great academic reputation, it also has a great military school legacy. Over its long history, the University had quite a few name changes.
In 1821, John Bullock established the Bullock School for Boys, to prepare young men
for “entry to college” (widener university/vision & history, http://www.widener . edu/about/vision_history/
In 1846, Samuel Alsop became headmaster and the school’s name was changed to Alsop School for Boys. And, then In 1853, the school’s name was changed once again to Hyatt’s Select School for Boys. Theodore Hyatt ran the school. It was Hyatt who introduced military style discipline so that the boys could “develop the muscles, expand the chest , and impart an erect gentlemanly carriage..” (http://www. oldchesterpa.com/schools-pmc-museum.htm.)
The school was incorporated under the charter of the Wilmington Literary Institute as the Delaware Military Academy (DMA).
Later, the school moved to West Chester, Pa and the name changed again to the Pennsylvania Military Academy (PMA). It was in 1868, that the academy made its last and final move to Chester, Pennsylvania.
General Charles Hyatt, son of Theodore Hyatt, applied for collegiate status which was granted . It was that year that the academy became known as The Pennsylvania Military College (PMC). Modeled after West point, the all male school thought of PMC as the “West Point of Pennsylvania.” (http://www. oldchesterpa.com/schools-pmc-museum.htm.)
Anti war propaganda and demonstrations took its toll on military schools throughout the US. PMC was no exception. To boast enrollment, women and civilians where enrolled at he Penn Morton College which was a counterpart of PMC. The two institutions later combined and became the Penn Morton College and the Pennsylvania Military College.
In 1972, the Pennsylvania Military College became Widener College, after the famous Widener family of Philadelphia. In 1979, it was granted university status. Today, Widener University has campuses in Harrisburg and Exton. It has schools of law and nursing. It has extensive civil, electrical, chemical, biochemical and mechanical disciplines that have their roots extending all the way back to Colonel George Patten, who was the first to establish an engineering program when the Pennsylvania Military Academy was in existence.
Although, Widener continues to expand academically, it has not forgotten its illustrious heritage. On its main campus, the Pennsylvania Military College museum is dedicated to the history and traditions of the men who were trained and educated at PMC.
Widener hosts Army ROTC activities at the Abington and Brandywine campuses of the Pennsylvania State University, Neumann University, Villanova University, and West Chester University, Widener’s Army ROTC program is open to male and females. Its Military Science department offers programs in leadership development through study and practicums, to be taken in conjunction with student’s selected academic major. (http:// www.widener.edu/about/vision-history/)
When the ROTC requirements are fulfilled for a baccalaureate degree, the student may receive a commission as a second lieutenant and can receive an assignment with the Active or Reserve forces of the US Army. (http:// www.widener.edu/about/vision-history/)
There are three ways to participate in the Army ROTC. One way is s a participating student. A student can enroll for Military Science class only. They are not cadets. They do not participate in activities outside the classroom. Another way to participate is to enroll as a cadet. This is the most common mode of participation. As cadets, they fully participate in the ROTC. They take military classes, physical fitness training, leadership labs, and field training. They wear the Army uniform to all ROTC functions and adhere to military customs and standards. Another way of participation is to be a contracted cadet. These cadets are full participants in the ROTC and are obligated to future military service.
Widener University also offers a two year ROTC program for students transferring from junior colleges. Before being accepted into the two year ROTC program, the student must receive credit for the basic ROTC course or attend a four week Army ROTC leader’s training course (LTC), prior to starting junior year. Widener also has an Army ROTC scholarship program available to high school students.
Widener’s Dauntless Battalion is made up of students from Widener University, (headquarters an A company), Villanova University (B company), Penn State University – Abington (C company), West Chester University (D Company), Cheyney University, Penn State University (Brandywine), Neumann University, immaculate University. Students at the above universities take Military Science classes at their institutions and train with Dauntless Battalion. Dauntless Battalion traces its roots back to the Pennsylvania Military College and the Freedom and Pioneer Battalions. You can follow the Dauntless Battalion on Facebook.
Widener University has a distinguished list of men who served their country. On such man was Henry C. Robinett, a graduate of the then Delaware Military Academy led a Union artillery battery. He and his men defended a strategic position at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi. The Widener ROTC, “Battery Robinett” is named in Robinett’s honor. Lieutenant William John Wolfgram died in WW ll. He earned a Bronze star. Widener’s Wolfgam Memorial library is named in his honor. (http:// www.widener.edu/about/vision-history/)
Tens of thousands of Americans sacrificed all for this country. They answered the call of duty while others cowered. One of those men was John Lance Geoghegan.
John, born November 10, 1941 in Pelham, NY, was the only son of John J. and Camille D. Geoghegan, He attended the Pennsylvania Military College and graduated as a U.S. Army second Lieutenant. He then obtained a two year deferment from the Army to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he received a Masters degree in International Relations.
On June 13, 1964, he married Barbara Weathers. Afterwards, he took part in a relief program in Tanganyika, Africa. It was there that he headed a school lunch program that fed over 120, 000 children a day. Jack and his wife, Barbara traveled throughout the country making sure supplies from the United States were getting to their destination. After his two-year commitment was over, the Geoghegans headed back home. Afterwards, Jack was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry after completing the Infantry Officers Basic Course.
The Battle of la Drang, Vietnam was fought November 14-18, 1965. It was the American Army’s first major battle with the Viet Cong and one of its bloodiest. When the 1st squadron, 7th cavalry landed into a clearing in the la Drang Valley, they were quickly surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The Vietnamese wanted to engage the Americans because they were desperate to learn how to deal with American firepower from Helicopters, which were being used for the first time.
During the commissioning ceremony at Widener University, May 14, 2009, the guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, Deputy Chief of the legislative liaison for the office of the secretary of the Army in Washington DC reminded the cadets of the importance of completing the mission and leading their soldiers. Brig. General Hodges personally knew Second Lieutenant, John Lance Geoghegan whom was affectionately known as “Jack.” “My friend, Jack was the top cadet and President of our class. He was a man of integrity and character, one of the most distinguished military students in the entire nation in 1963.” (http://broomstickstobattlefield.blogspot.com/2009/05/commissioning-ceremony-widener.)
According to the Brig. General Hodges, former President and five star General, Dwight D. Eisenhower, reviewed the Pennsylvania Military College Corps before John “Jack” Geoghegan’s commissioning ceremony. In return, “Jack” who was the Brigade Commander presented a ceremonial sabre to the former President “ and we, the Cadet Corps, were saluted and blessed by the Supreme Allied Commander of WWll, and President of the United States. (“http://broomstickstobattlefield.blogspot.com/2009/05/commissioning-ceremony-widener.)
The Brig. General praised John Lance Geoghegan as virtuous and noble man.
John lance Geoghegan who is portrayed in Mel Gibson’s “We were soldiers” was awarded posthumously the Bronze star with “V” and in 1997, through the efforts of General Moore, the Silver star. Jack was buried at St. Mary’s cemetery in Bethel, Connecticut on December 2, 1965. At his funeral, the honor guard from Pennsylvania Military College along with the college president came to pay tribute. (http:// www. Virtualwall.org/dg/GeogheganJLO1a.htm.)
John Geoghegan died when he was only 24 years old. He left behind a wife and a baby girl who was born just 2 months before he died. He was a husband and father but he was also a soldier who believed as most soldiers believed that what he was doing was for the good of his country. And, like so many other soldiers, he took an oath that he meant to keep, “To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same… and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter.”
The story of the Vietnam War is both tragic and heart wrenching, but for those who know its history know that American boys fought courageously in a foreign land against an ardent foe that was not afraid to die. Many American soldiers, most of whom were in their late teens to early 20’s ) suffered from dehydration, hunger, torture by the constant onslaught of insects, M-16’s that did not work properly and puny 5.56 mm cartridges that couldn’t stop a squirrel much less an enemy soldier. (Moore, H., & Galloway, J. L. We were Soldiers once…and young. Random House, 1992.)
Researching about young soldiers like John Geoghegan left me with a sense of pride and awe;.young men who in the gore of battle overcame terrible fear to assist or offer comfort to follow soldiers. It was during an attempt to help a wounded fellow soldier, Willie Godboldt, that John Geoghegan was killed. Willie Godboldt also was killed. (www. Virtualwall.org/dg/GeogheganJLO1a.htm)
At the Washington DC Vietnam War memorial are the names of all 305 soldiers killed at la Drang including John Geoghergan. They can be found on the third panel to the right of the apex, Panel-3 East, of the memorial. Jack’s name is at the Panel 3E, line 56. Godboldt is next to Jack’s. (www. Virtualwall.org/dg/GeogheganJLO1a.htm)
In September 1998, Randall Wallace, a screenwriter for WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE…AND YOUNG wrote a touching letter to Jack’s widow, Barbara. In it, Randall Wallace writes, …Jack Geoghegan’s story is one that I find to be especially important, in that it seems to me to be representative of the finest and best spirit among the young Americans who went to Vietnam- either physically, as the soldier did or spiritually as families back home. Trying to capture that spirit is an almost mystical endeavor. (Wallace, R. letter to Barbara Geoghegan johns. www.Virtualwall.org/dg/GeogheganJLO1a.htm)
As the title of the best selling book by Retired Lt. General Hal Moore and Joe Galloway states, “We were Soldiers once …and young.” John Geoghegan was one of those soldiers who did not come home. He was young… and forever he will remain.
Moore, H., & Galloway, J. L. We were Soldiers once…and young. Random House, 1992.
http:// www. Virtualwall.org/dg/GeogheganJLO1a.htm.