A common blessing says, “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly in one way or another we have all have lived in those times. Some just seem to take more intriguing turns than others.
John “Budge” Blake ‘38 entered Admiral Farragut Academy in September 1935, two years after the school opened. Hailing from a hard-working farming family from Freehold, NJ, he was assigned to 3rd Company upon joining the Corps of Cadets. He remained in the “Thundering Third” throughout his tenure at the school.
Allen “Bottle” Breed ‘39 also entered Admiral Farragut Academy in September of 1935. He hailed from Boston and was a typical New Englander. He lived in Farragut Hall and was in Second Company.
Recently, Budge and Bottle spent the day together reminiscing about their years at the Academy. Joined by fellow alums David Lipsky ‘75N and CAPT Frank Porcellini USN (Ret) ‘80N, they wholeheartedly agreed that those were good years indeed. Although at the time, the two cadets complained about the food and compulsory, long hours of drill, and the two hours of mandatory study each evening, it was balanced by the comradery of small class sizes and a highly dedicated faculty and staff. Budge and Bottle had considerable fun and mischief, often playing pranks on fellow classmates.
It was a unique time in our nation’s history. The country was emerging from the Great Depression and although they didn’t realize it at the time, on the verge of entering a second world war. The times were special, still innocent and full of hope for the future. These men were part of what has been labeled “The Greatest Generation”.
The two longtime alums fondly recalled some of their favorite times and teachers: Mr. C.H. Lewis, LT F.X. Carmody (Ex-Coast Guard), LT H.D. Hill, and LT C.G. Wadbrook. LT Wadbrook was a Marine who coached the Rifle Team. LT Lahn, Commandant of Cadets, was called the “Wolf” by the cadets. He was a hard taskmaster while at the Academy as Commandant. Admiral Robison gave the cadets many fatherly lectures. There seemed to be a special bond between the Admiral and the cadets. Budge commented that, “He was a wonderful man and seemed to have a genuine affection and respect for each cadet.” The corps of cadets spoke with reverence whenever they mentioned Admiral Robison. “You could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes,” Bottle said. The Admiral seemed to go out of his way to give commendations.
During their first year, a memorable incident occurred involving a fire alarm at 0300. The alarm in question brought the entire Corps of Cadets, including officers and resident staff, out onto the parade grounds. All hands were certain that this must have been a real fire as no one could believe that a drill would be scheduled for that ungodly hour. Alas, it was indeed a false alarm and the bleary-eyed cadets returned to their beds none the worse for the interruption of their slumbers. In spite of an exhaustive investigation, the Commandant of Cadets, the “Wolf”, was unable to determine who the perpetrator of the false alarm was. The 1938 yearbook speculated that the blame was to fall on Cadets Bill Colepaugh and Randy Harris. Budge admitted, “It was a dumb thing to do,” as he reflected on the incident. It seems that pranks were a timeless tradition at Farragut. Each and every student can certainly relate to at least one incident of a cadet-led prank during their time at the Academy.
Speaking of Cadet Colepaugh, during the war he defected to Germany and was actually involved in a Nazi plot to attempt to land himself and a Nazi Saboteur (Erich Gimpel) on the Maine Coast near Bar Harbor. After landing in Maine, Colepaugh used the name of a former roommate at Farragut, H.H. Williams. Colepaugh lost his nerve or interest in the whole treasonous endeavor and contacted former classmate, Edmond Francis Mulcahy. Colepaugh asked his old friend for help in turning himself in. All in all, a rather infamous claim to fame. The entire affair is documented in Robert A. Miller’s book, A True Story of an American Nazi Spy: William Curtis Colepaugh.
They both fondly remember Elmer Crock ‘37, who was in the Band. Budge stated he was the best at blowing taps at night. One of their favorite stories is of the Ward brothers. The Ward brothers hailed from Ridgefield Park, NJ. William Ward was in the Class of 1938 and returned for a PG year in the fall of 1938. James Ward was in the Class of 1939. Budge’s mom told him of a story where she was outside Admiral Robison’s office. Mrs. Ward was visiting the Admiral with her two sons –the Admiral often did social visits with parents. Mrs. Ward was a bit impulsive and when addressing the Admiral, she said, “Mr. Farragut.” The Admiral responded to her by saying, “Now Mrs. Ward, do you think I look half as dead as Admiral Farragut?” Both Ward brothers were quite embarrassed.
Budge’s father wanted him to attend the United States Naval Academy, but Budge was nearsighted. He decided to leave Farragut in the second semester of 1939 to see if his eyesight would improve. He took a year off and worked on the family farm. Poor eyesight would keep Budge out of the Naval Academy, so he turned to the Army and received a commission in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He was assigned to the Strategic Air Depot in England. After leaving the Army Air Corps as 1st Lt in 1946, he went to California to marry his girlfriend, Merilyn Morshead. They raised three children and adopted a nephew after Merilyn’s sister died. Budge now lives alone and is cared for by his caretaker, Vanessa.
Bottle remembers that he was on watch in Farragut Hall when Bill Masciangelo arrived at the Academy for the first time. Bottle was assigned to take Bill to the uniform shop, run by Al Bertie. He decided to show Bill around campus before taking him for his uniforms. He caught hell for taking so long. Later in the year, the Second Company would move into the partially finished brand new Dupont Hall. Half was finished before the 1935-36 school year was over. The other half would be finished in the fall of 1936. The Battalion Commander that year was Cy Radford, the General’s son. Bottle had the same roommate the last two years, Leo Corboy ‘40. Leo would later become a Marine Aviator during WWII.
Bottle recalls that one morning before reveille, LT Wadbrook had the band assemble outside the room of the “Wolf” in Dupont Hall. He had them play “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?” When the “Wolf” opened his door, he viewed LT Wadbrook busting out laughing. So the cadets were not the only ones to play practical jokes.
During his senior year, Bottle was CPO for Second Company. The night before the Little Army-Navy game in 1938, some cadets decided to hide the pet mascot, at that time a goat, under Farragut Hall. They added to the prank by making the corps of cadets think the kids from Toms River High stole the goat. The cadets wanted to go and rescue the goat. Rumors spread fast and before you know it the corps was marching into Toms River to retrieve the goat. The football team was left out of this endeavor so they would not get into trouble before the game. They even let the air out of the car of the duty officer and hid the Farragut service truck. They made their way along Riverside Drive and were about a mile from the high school when LT Carmody caught up with them, told them of the prank, and persuaded them to return to the Academy. The Football team would go on to defeat LaSalle Military 15-0 in the 5th game of the Little Army-Navy Series.
Bottle joined the Navy in July of 1940 and was assigned as a yeoman on the destroyer USS Overton (DD-239) sailing between the US East Coast and Iceland. He was later transferred to the cruiser USS Quincy (CA-39). He was on the USS Quincy when it was sunk at the Battle of Savo Island during the Battle for Guadalcanal. He escaped the sinking vessel and was in the water overnight before being rescued. Bottle later attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute after his discharge from the Navy. After college, he worked for General Electric including stints on the Naval Nuclear Reactors Program headed by Admiral Rickover. He was married to his wife, Becky, for 64 years before she passed away. They had three children and three grandchildren. He currently lives with his son and daughter-in-law.
Thanks to our dear brothers for the reminiscence.
Portions of this article were reprinted from the April 2018 Special Edition Capstan — a publication by the Admiral Farragut Academy North Association. Thanks to David Lipsky ‘75N and CAPT Frank Porcellini USN (Ret) ‘80N for their contributions to this story and for Frank’s tireless efforts to stay in touch with The Greatest Generation alumni from the 1930s and 40s.