Courtesy of his classmates,
United States Military Academy, Class Of 1946
15848 Pence, Arthur William
July 29, 1924 – May 13, 1974
Arthur William Pence, Jr. No.15848
Class of 1946 Died 13 May 1974 in Washington, DC, aged 49 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery
Art Pence was born and died at Walter Reed. Jack Grady opines that Art was destined to attend USMA. Born to a family of West Pointers–his father, Major General A.W. Pence, was West Point 1918 – Art had many uncles and cousins at West Point and Annapolis. In John Simpson's words, “Art had a handsome family pride, enormous personal discipline and he accepted and adapted to cadet life.”
Jack Grady begins, “Art was the first ‘new cadet' that I met upon entering West Point. He knew what was to take place and had a minimum of problems with the plebe system. His father, a brigadier general In North Africa, was his role model.”
Charlie McCarty adds, “We were lined up in the order of height on the stoops of New North Area so that the upperclassmen could mark us for either E or F Company. Art and I, at a height of 5'10”, were a long way from the head of the line. Bill Glynn moved us to a higher place than our height justified. As a result we were the two shortest men assigned to F-2, but Art received the dubious honor of being known as F-2's ‘runt.'
Grady continues: “Having spent a year at Sully's, Art flirted with stars for the first month of academics and then settled down in the middle of the road. He had no trouble with the Tactical Department and never walked an hour on the area. His personal popularity and high military efficiency made him a yearling corporal and a firstie lieutenant.
“Art won a coveted ‘A' as a member of Billy Cavanaugh's boxing squad. He relished those ‘bloody Tuesdays' by which Billy selected those to represent Army in Saturday's intercollegiate match.”
Grover Asmus and Art were friends as cadets: “Art and I were frequently together in the Corps Squad Room getting our aches and pains tended to. The one thing that always impressed me about Art was that he seemed so much more mature than the rest of us. In a way he was a father figure. A natural leader, he was quiet and studied a situation quickly but completely before taking any action.”
McCarty recalls, “In our first year, Art went to Connecticut to box against the Coast Guard Academy. He returned from that trip in high spirits, not because of what happened in the ring, but because he had met Jane Cope. Copie was the perfect counterpart for him. Art's enthusiasm (higher than most to begin with) soared to a new high.” Copie and Art were married in April 1947 near the Copes' family home in New Jersey. Simpson adds, “He shunned finesse for outright grit and determination. This attitude was his approach to life-push forward, get knocked down once in a while, brush yourself off and keep going.”
The Pences served with the 11th Airborne in Japan, followed by a tour at Fort Campbell and then an unaccompanied tour to Korea. Excerpts from the book, Second to None, portray Art's actions as company commander of A Company which resulted in his receiving the Silver Star. During the attack, A Company made the main effort and was the key to the attack's success.”
“Hill 266, or Old Baldy, in the left part of the zone, was an outpost recently captured by the 45th and seemed to be the enemy's principal target … A platoon from F Company of the 23rd made a successful relief there on the night of 16 July, despite a goodly number of incoming rounds. … On 17 July the shelling on Old Baldy steadily increased. By 2200 it reached a rate higher than anything the communists had used in many months…E Company [attacked] shortly after midnight…[and] pushed back the Chinese in the early morning hours. [A second enemy counterattack] was able to wrest control from the hard-hit E and F companies … A non-illuminated night attack without preparatory fire was decided upon to achieve the greatest possible surprise. A and C Companies [made] a two pronged attack on 2200 hours on 31 July. Contact was made almost immediately, but the companies advanced up the slopes . . . As dawn came on the first day of August, the companies had reached the crest and joined forces … A counterattack hit the hill shortly thereafter but was driven off, and the outpost was once again declared secure.
Art returned from Korea to rotation between schools and troop duty. These included a master's in international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and two Vietnam tours sandwiching the Army War College.
In 1960 the Pences were in Naples, Italy. Art and Copie had four children by then: Christine, Constance, Catherine and Arthur W. III. Copie described Art as stubborn, determined, organized, fearless, tenacious. Therein we can read all the accuracy and love of a wife and mother.
In 1971 when Art and McCarty saw each other again in the Pentagon, “Art was as optimistic and enthusiastic as ever-even though he was suffering from the cancer which would cut short his military career.”
Grady recognized that, “early in our association, Art had a unique ability to accept adversity and treat it in a humorous manner. When he washed out of the Air Corps at Brady Field in May 1945, he accepted it and realigned his ambition toward the Infantry. In 1971 he reversed the decision of the Army Air Corps and won his wings as a rotary pilot. In March 1973 he sent me a lengthy letter joking about his medical treatment at Walter Reed.”
[In Art's own words] “Don't know what Copie told you about the demise of the Pence military career, but suffice to say that I started having trouble with my plumbing in Vietnam in October of 1972. I attributed this state of affairs to the wholesome Vietnamese diet and lousy whiskey of the General's Mess in IV Corps … The surgeons sliced me open on 26 April. They felt that they had removed most of the cancer, but also advised me that it was already in the liver. I am now on about four different medicines, chemotherapy, one or more of which hopefully will
assault the cancer.
“At any rate, who wants an old, dilapidated, cancerous, and cantankerous colonel in an Army overstuffed with old colonels, so they retired me with 100% disability. I'm still flying, although I'm in a hassle with the FAA over my medical status, assuring those bumbleheads that I will die slowly and not all of a sudden. As you see, I am not ready to kick the bucket yet, and I find that planning for the future is the best way to procrastinate. Well, kiddies, guess that I had better get back to work and clean up some of this paper that keeps piling up on my desk.”
Four months later Grady saw him for the last time. “It was clear that he was declining, but he was still optimistic. Eight months later he had lost his final battle.”
McCarty suggests this -epitaph, “A lesser man would occasionally be depressed by the suffering and disappointment that accompanied fatal disease but not Art. He was a fighter and an optimist to the very end of his shortened but full career and life. Art Pence died in 1974. His memory is an inspiration to those who knew, loved and respected him.”
Copie has gone now, too, struck by malignancy in July 1989. We trust the two of them have been brought together, and that their children will always remember them.
NOTE: His brother William Fuller Pence, Colonel, United States Army, also graduated with the USMA class of 1946 and is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard