West Point Graduation - D-Day 1944

Cadet Hiram Baldwin Ely Jr

June 6, 1944, was graduation day for the Class of ’44 cadets at West Point. It also turned out to be D-Day. Among the 474 graduates was Hiram B. Ely Jr. There were also 20 sons of general officers, one of whom was John Eisenhower, the son of General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces who was in charge of the D-Day landing.

News of the Normandy landing had already reached the cadets. American radio stations first heard of the invasion hours earlier when German stations announced that it had begun. This was later confirmed by Allied commanders. But confirmation of invasion during the graduation ceremony was well received. Major General Brehon Somervell, the principal speaker, said:

Today, our forces began that grim, tough, and bloody march from the shores of the Atlantic to Berlin. Many of you will join in that march. Many of you will become a part of the sweep in the Pacific which will lead eventually to the destruction of Japan. How much it will take to achieve victory, no one can predict. A one fact and one only may we be sure: we are going to win.

Hi was ranked, according to general merit, 130 out of his graduating class of 474. He was awarded Minor Sports Manager's Insigne - Gymnastics for the Winter athletic season, 1944.

The entry for Hi Ely in the 1944 Howitzer, the USMA West Point year book states:

A 'brat' who has the answers, who's been around (being able during plebe year to answer, "sir, I'm from there," consistently); a managerial type; a draggoid whose dragging proficiency was something of much renown, a K-det with a distinctive walk - that's Hi. Not much of a personal indulgent, he was always on hand, though, to help and support the "Big Rabble". A Kayes product with plenty of determination, Hi should go far.

According to the USMA 1946 Bugle Note handbook, under the heading A Glossary of Cadet Sland, to 'drag' means to escort a lady. And for the non-military readers of this story, an army 'brat' is the offspring of serving or retired military personnel.

The year book also listed Hi's involvement in the following:
Company E-2
Corporal (3)
Football Manager (4,3)
Gym Manager (3,1) [gymnastics]
Choir (4,3,1)
Glee Club (4)
Pointer (4,3,1) [the Corps' bi-monthly magazine]
Academic Coach (3,1)
Kayco May Day Show

Zelie, Hi Sr, Aunt Marge
Hi's proud parents, Zelie & Hi Sr, and Hi's Aunt at the graduation

Image of newspaper article which reads in part: Rutherford: Hiram B. Ely, Jr. was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army at graduation exercises at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, on June 6. He is the son of Col. Hiram B. Ely who graduated from West Point in 1918 [sic] and is now stationed in Philadelphia at Frankfort Arsenal and a grandson of Mrs. Addison Ely, 230 State Highway, and the late Capt. Addison Ely of Rutherford. Lt. Ely has been assigned to the Ordnance Branch, U.S. Army, Aberdeen, Md., for further instruction….A family party was held in his honor after graduation on Tuesday at Elycroft, the home of his paternal grandmother in Rutherford….

Published: 16 July 2023

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