The class where 34 seats remained empty.
Originally written and published in the regional Dutch newspaper, Dagblad de Limburger, Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015.
American Cemetery Eight pre-war students of the Citadel lie buried at Margraten.
The American Cemetery at Margraten holds countless stories of bravery and sacrifice. Relatively unknown is the fact that eight of the men who are buried there were students of the famous Citadel, a military academy.
By Stefan Gillissen
It’s June 1940. The German army overruns the European continent and declares war on Great-Britain. In movie theaters all over the United States the Fox Movie-tone News shows Hilter’s armies marching through Paris.
The future first-year students of The Citadel, a military academy, see the images but don’t take much notice of them. They just finished high-school and are enjoying their summer holiday. In September 565 boys have to report at Charleston. Until then they still can enjoy their freedom.
On the 2nd of September 1940, forms are filled out and bills are paid in Charleston. The annual costs of studying at the Citadel lay between 530 and 670 dollars, a huge amount, but also a firm investment for a bright future. Great chances come to those who graduate from The Citadel. Nothing is known about the dark future of some of the students when General Charles Pelot Summerall, President of The Citadel, addresses them in his welcome speech. Classmates Creswell Garlington Jr., Thomas G. Dicks and Richard H. Kellahan are standing on the parade ground, still shocked by the recent changes in their lives. The Citadel is no playground. The regime is strict. Physical training, military drills and inspections are part of the daily routine. Richard Kellahan remembers; “Several guys fainted and were removed”.
See also: Experience of POW Lt. Richard Kellahan
The war seems far away, but everything suddenly changes on December 7th 1941. Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attack. All students that were going to graduate in 1944, leave for Fort McLellan, Alabama in 1943. There they are scheduled for 17 weeks of training before heading off to the European Theater of Operations. Thomas Dicks is part of the first wave of American troops to land on the mainland of Europe. He loses his life on the 6th of June 1944 on the bloodstained beaches of Normandy. When Kellahan and his friend Creswell Garlington land in Europe in October 1944, they have to be transported to the further advancing frontlines. “The war started for us on the 29th of November, the little town of Lindern, Germany, had to be taken.” Garlington is the first soldier to reach Lindern. And then all hell breaks loose. What looked like haystacks near a railway line turned out to be German tanks. The whole place was crawling with enemy soldiers. Kellahan is stuck in a beet field and isn’t able to call in reinforcements. “I couldn’t find Creswell anywhere”.
The graves of Second Lieutenants Garlington and Hunt at Netherlands American Cemetery.
When the American troops are all out of ammunition and not able to defend themselves anymore, Kellahan and many others are taken prisoner and are deported. Most of the troops are held at Oflag 64, a prisoner of war camp in Poland. Many of them survive the war. Creswell Garlington isn’t that lucky but becomes a shining example for The Citadel. The lieutenant is incredibly brave. He saves the lives of four of his soldiers and refuses transport when he himself becomes wounded on the 1st of December 1944. Enlisted men should have priority. Garlington eventually pays the ultimate price, the young lieutenant dies two days later. He is posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Purple Heart.
See also: Citadel Men and Margraten Boys
This is just one of many stories that can be written about The Citadel-men. They all have made great sacrifices. Giving up their lives and futures. These boys forever will be The Class of ’44. The class that never graduated and where 34 seats remained empty after the war.
On the American Cemetery in Margraten eight men of The Citadel found their final resting place. Two of them are members of the class of ’44: Creswell Garlington, Jr. and Arthur Bradlee Hunt, Jr. Next to them six other students of The Citadel found eternal peace in Margraten being: Wilson Adelbert Wendt, Robert Cowan Rolph, Frederick Davenport Melton, William Milling Royall, Edward Gray Cherry, Jr. and Edwin Karl Newmann. The Citadel Memorial Europe Foundation situated in Limburg, The Netherlands, will make sure the efforts and sacrifices made by the Citadel-men will never be forgotten.
© Copyright 2015 Dagblad De Limburger / Limburgs Dagblad. Copyright, also with regard to Article 15 AW, is expressly reserved. Saturday, May 23, 2015.