West Point grads recall their Army careers, time spent at academy

By Iuliana Petre

Fort Hood Herald

About two months ago, retired Maj. Gen. Stewart Meyer and retired Col. Gene Wentworth attended a reunion at the United States Military Academy.

For Meyer — a January 1943 graduate of the academy — this was his 65th reunion.

For Wentworth — a 1958 graduate of the academy — this was his 50th reunion.

Combined, the men spent 66 years in the Army — Meyer retired after 36 years, Wentworth retired after 30.

Both men are war veterans.

Both retired at Fort Hood and continued to add to the list of their accomplishments — Meyer was the mayor of Harker Heights for four years; Wentworth served as the director of advancement at Tarleton State University and patient relations coordinator at Metroplex Hospital.

Jokingly, both will tell you that the best part of West Point was leaving.

“All I remember about West Point are the good memories,” Meyer said.

“The bad memories seem to go away,” Wentworth added.

And about the reunion they will tell you that they enjoyed seeing their classmates and telling them they haven’t changed, “which is a damn lie,” Meyer said laughing.

And although they can look back at their lives now and joke, there was a time when things were more serious.

Retired Maj. Gen. Stewart Canfield Meyer

A native of El Paso, Meyer entered the United States Military Academy during a time when the world was in turmoil.

In January of 1943, about two years after the Japanese attack on U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Meyer graduated among a group of 409 new officers, which the academy pushed out early to support the war efforts overseas.

Six months later — in June — the academy graduated 514 more officers.

After an abbreviated field artillery basic course, Meyer set out for England in September of 1943.

He spent nearly nine months in Normandy and joined his division as they organized to head east into Europe.

In September 1944, he entered Germany and a month later was wounded when a shell fragment penetrated his right foot.

He was evacuated to a hospital in London where he shared a room with the movie actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., of whom Meyer says “had a great sense of humor.” The two were able to laugh during such a serious time.

After the war Meyer held a number of positions, including executive officer of the ROTC detachment at the University of William & Mary. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Michigan, attended the War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., served in Korea, Vietnam and several rotations at the Pentagon, among other jobs.

Although all wars take casualties, World War II took most of them.

“We lost 14 percent of my class in World War II,” Meyer said of those with whom he graduated from West Point in January 1943.

Meyer retired in 1979 as the commander of the Operational Test Command on West Fort Hood and was later elected as the mayor of Harker Heights.

“I stuffed envelopes for his election,” Wentworth said of the support he provided Meyer during this time.

Col. (Ret.) Eugene Gibson Wentworth Jr.

Wentworth’s time at West Point was not cut short by a war, but he, too, saw his share of conflict.

After graduating in 1958 Wentworth was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry.

At Fort Benning, Ga., he received a multitude of training and qualifications as Airborne, Ranger and Pathfinder.

He was reassigned to Panama where he would remain for four years, leaving his wife of two weeks, whom he married in December of 1958.

He returned to the U.S. and accepted a position as an instructor at the Quartermaster Center and School at Fort Lee, Va.

It was then that he voluntarily requested a reassignment to the Quartermaster Branch.

In 1964, Wentworth shipped off to Vietnam. He served two tours — the first in 1964 and the second in 1970.

“We didn’t get devastated by Vietnam,” Wentworth said, speaking for his graduating class at West Point and referring to the fact that the class of 1958 lost 23 classmates — a small number by comparison.

After Vietnam he earned his master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and “did that for almost the rest of my life,” Wentworth said, referring to positions he held in the Army, which predominantly involved building pipelines.

He also commanded several times, once in the 1st Cavalry Division and once in the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany. Command was Wentworth’s favorite part of the Army.

“You don’t get to do it enough, but it makes you feel comfortable knowing that you’re doing something valuable for soldiers,” Wentworth said about serving as a commander.

After command, Wentworth spent some time at the Defense Fuel Supply Center in D.C. and served on the Department of the Army staff before retiring at Fort Hood in 1988.

Remembering West Point

Besides their selfless sacrifice to their nation, Meyer and Wentworth share a common experience — their time at West Point.

Although both were great officers, they weren’t always the best behaved cadets.

They completed their academic requirements sufficiently and have no regrets about attending the academy. In fact, they will tell you the experience at West Point was neither difficult nor unpleasant, but they do agree that West Point wasn’t a walk in the park.

They boast receiving large numbers of demerits.

“I was in confinement a lot for getting a lot of demerits,” Wentworth said.

“I was one of the few cadets busted for too many demerits,” Meyer added.

“I could tell you the number of steps from my room to the chapel,” Wentworth said laughing, adding “because I went often to pray that I would make it through.”

These days, they are enjoying their retirement by volunteering with various organizations such as the Military Order of the World Wars, Rotary International, Kiwanis, the Heart of Texas West Point Society or simply taking it easy.

Visiting with old friends at West Point is among their priorities as is keeping a light-hearted attitude.

During their recent reunion visit in New York, the alumni marched in formation onto the parade field before the corps of cadets passed in review.

“You know that when the alumni marched across that field, (Meyer) and I were the only ones in step,” Wentworth joked.

Contact Iuliana Petre ipetre@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7469.

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