Courtesy of his classmates
United States Military Academy, Class of 1946
Edwin Sanders Van Deusen, Jr.
No 15709 Class of 1946
Died 8 September 1949 at Camp McNair, Yoshida, Japan, aged 25 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery,
EDWIN SANDERS VAN DEUSEN, JR. was born 25 August 1924 at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington, DC. His father was a career Army officer. Known to family and friends as Ed, he spent his childhood at various Army posts where his father was stationed. He knew from early childhood that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. Going to West Point was always his goal from the time he was a boy. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC and immediately entered Staunton Military Academy, Staunton, Virginia. His two years at Staunton were spent in Infantry ROTC. He won an “Honor School” appointment to West Point from Staunton. It was with a great sense of pride that he joined the Class of l946 at West Point on 1 July 1943.
Academics and cadet life presented no major problems for Ed. His stint at Staunton Military Academy had prepared him well. His main interest lay in the swimming team. A classmate and fellow member of the swimming team, Ray Thayer, recalled: “Most of our association was on the swimming team. He became our premier back-stroker by yearling year. Plebe year most of us thought he was too thin and not strong enough to really rise to the top. But Ed was a hard worker and had tremendous inner drive and quickly proved us wrong. Our team in1945 was outstanding, undefeated and the best in the nation. Ed was one of those that made it so. In 1945, Army and Navy were not allowed to go the NCAA's, and a swimmer from Princeton was the backstroke champion that year. Next year, in a dual meet, Ed whipped him in what was the highlight of his career. A few weeks later, Ed suffered bitter disappointment by contracting pneumonia. As a result, he missed the Navy meet, the loss of which was largely attributable to his absence. Also, he was not at all up to snuff a few weeks later when we did go to the NCAA's. Ed was really heartbroken, as we all were for him. It was a bitter ending to a really fine swimming career.” At graduation, Ed pinned on the gold bars of second lieutenant of Infantry.
Following graduation leave, Ed reported to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic schooling at the Infantry School. From Benning, Ed was ordered to Japan for occupation duty with the 1st Cavalry Division. Ray Thayer remembered: “In Japan, during the occupation, I ran into Ed a couple of times again in conjunction with swimming at Far East Command meets. He seemed to be enjoying his tour with the 1st Cavalry Division and doing well. He still loved competitive swimming, and we had some good laughs swimming against each other at one of the meets.”
Another classmate, Stan Blum, also assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, provided the following: “A tall, elegant, almost handsome second lieutenant, Edwin Van Deusen, joined the Occupation of Japan in the Summer of 1947. We were introduced to smells of exotic wood at Camp Zama… ‘Honey' would come soon enough. From Zama to division, to brigade, and then to regiment, Van arrived at the 1st Squadron, 5th Cavalry. Square but dismounted, we had been Infantry since 1942. The horses stayed at Fort Bliss when the 1st Cavalry shipped out to Australia in World War II. We still showed a lot of cavalry – even to the large patch on the smokestack at Camp Drake, the division headquarters. Van went to ‘B' Troop, then commanded by George Major, a Kentucky captain (who told us about moonshine) … We were the headquarters guard but were really used for odd jobs there, in Tokyo and Yokohama. That lasted until 1948, when we rejoined the regiment at Camp McGill on the shores of Sagami Bay … looking across at the magnificent grandeur of Fuji rising over 12,000 feet from the sea. In summer or fall, normally once a year, we went up to Camp McNair to camp out like mountain nomads, to stretch our legs and shoot. There, Van was killed in an accident on the grenade range in September 1948.
“Not much moving around. No TDY, no detached service. At least in this onward stage of the occupation. Van found contact with the Japanese limited. (The occupation was designed that way.) But at McGill, well into 1948, a Jesuit Brother began to drop by on Sunday mornings. He breakfasted in our mess and Van began to draw him out. We questioned him eagerly. How did our Japanese see us? Van was surprised at Japanese emotionalism. It was not direct contact, but it was a beginning. We shared guard mounts with Aussies, and sometimes Kiwis, at the Imperial Palace. Van found it paradoxical that we also refereed ‘beisbol' for Japanese kids there.
“Van enjoyed his troop duty. He found inspiration and motivation in the needs of his men. He was reserved, yet friendly and enthusiastic, not easily discouraged. His parents in Washington, DC followed Van in the “new” Army closely. Van was surrounded by professionals and caring friends. Lee Shea, a tac from our cadet days, commanded the Squadron. Succeeding execs were combat tankers, both pros. There were a half dozen '45ers and as many classmates plus competitive tour candidates a plenty. The makings were there. We were training to make a new professional force from the old pre-war Army … Van was a model for that transition … getting ready for the war we could not yet see. Van made his contribution, and we will remember and honor him for it.”
It was while undergoing the field training referred to by Stan Blum at the 1st Cavalry Division maneuver area at the base of Mount Fuji, Camp McNair, that Edwin S. Van Deusen, Jr. was accidentally killed. Ed was the Range Officer on the grenade range. He was in the process of placing a live grenade beside a dud to explode the dud, when the dud grenade detonated. Ed was fatally wounded as both grenades exploded. He was survived by his parents, Colonel and Mrs. Edwin S. Van Deusen, and a brother, John.
Ray Thayer expressed the views of the Class of 1946 when he said: “In my opinion, Ed would have risen to greatness in the Army. He looked like a soldier; he was steady and not given to emotional outbursts or insincerity … It's always a shame when a life is so short, and we always wish we could have enjoyed many more years of friendship and companionship with him. He was a good man.” The class wishes it could tell Ed how it feels about him. How proud it is of him. For reasons unknown, he left us early but he will always be remembered with warmth and appreciation. Edwin S. Van Deusen, Jr. was a true son of West Point. He was the epitome of what a West Pointer should be. He has joined the “Long Grey Line in the Sky”, but he is not forgotten. Well Done, Ed; Be Thou At Peace!
'46 Memorial Project and his brother John
VAN DEUSEN, EDWIN S JR
1ST LT INF USA WWII
- DATE OF DEATH: 09/08/1949
- BURIED AT: SECTION 11 SITE 67-A
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