Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

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32. ASSISTANT COMMANDANT, COAST ARTILLERY SCHOOL, FORT MONROE, VA.

Upon the completion of my three year tour in Hawaii, I was relieved from duty in the Hawaiian Department about March 23, 1935, and ordered to report to the Commandant, Coast Artillery School, for duty as Assistant Commandant. During the three years that I remained on this duty, first under Brigadier General Joseph P. Tracy and later under Brigadier General John W. Gulick, I was given complete freedom of action in the running of the school, and I found the work to be most interesting. I instituted a system of weekly conferences in each of which four or five students were required to give a short talk on an assigned subject, generally the current political, economic and international problems and relationships of the various countries of the world (using references that I had spent much time and labor in preparing), and I was fortunate enough to be able to get Dr. Douglas R. Freeman to come down from Richmond and give a series of talks on current events. I also sought, in the Artillery instruction, to indoctrinate the student officers with some of the lessons that I had learned during my service in Panama and Hawaii.

I had been promoted to Colonel on June 1st, 1935, and we lived in one of the two fine quarters on the water front near the light house, which we enjoyed greatly. I recall particularly that, on the 20th anniversary of our wedding (April 14th, 1937), with the assistance of a number of the ladies of the Post, I staged a big surprise party for your grandmother which was really quite a surprise for her.

I also recall quite distinctly an incident that occurred during this period. We had some 30 or 40 horses assigned to the School (for the exercise of the students) and we had, each year, a Horse Show for officers and their families. Since there was considerable disparity in the qualifications of the horses, they were, for the show, assigned by lot to riders, generally several riders being assigned to each horse. At the time Shirley (then a student at Ashley Hall) was at home during her vacation, and she entered the Horse Show. She drew Homer Case, a fractious horse but an excellent jumper if he wanted to jump. The Show took place in an enclosed ring containing six or eight jumps of various kinds.

When the time came for Homer Case to enter the ring he was being ridden by an officer who prided himself on his horsemanship. As he approached the entrance to the ring Homer Case reared several times, and upon entering the ring he charged directly across it, and, jumping the enclosing fence (and policing his rider), he ran off the field. An enlisted man ran after him and brought him back in a very excited state of mind. Shirley was scheduled to mount him next. She went up to him, spoke to him quietly, patted his neck, mounted him, entered the ring and took every jump perfectly. She won the First Prize -- much to our satisfaction if not to that of the previous rider. This was also much to the satisfaction and edification of the four young M.I.T. ROTC students who were sitting in our box.

I have never seen a more impressive demonstration of horsemanship, and I shall always remember it with pleasure and satisfaction.

General Gulick had been a good friend of mine ever since I was a student officer under him in 1910. He had been Chief of Coast Artillery (and one of the best ones we ever had) as a Major General and had become a very influential officer. In the Fall of 1937 he had been on a board of General Officers convened by the Chief of Staff, Gen. Malin Craig, to make up an Eligible List of colonels for promotion to Brigadier General. On his return to Fort Monroe he came into my office and said "Young man, you have got to get away from here and get command duty as soon as possible. General Craig informed our Board that he regards no colonel as eligible for promotion who has not demonstrated his qualifications as a commander by actual command of troops. If you have not done this you will not be considered for promotion as long as General Craig is Chief of Staff. You must, as soon as possible, get command of a post where the Commander is confronted with the most difficult problems and demonstrate that you can handle them. I think Fort Hancock is such a post, and I believe you should go there as soon as possible. What do you think about it?"

I assured him that I agreed with him. He said, "I thought you would, and I have already arranged for you to be ordered there within a week or so." (This action of General Gulick was a most generous one, as my being relieved from duty as Assistant Commandant necessarily greatly increased the amount of work devolving upon him. I have always remembered it with grateful appreciation.)


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