FOW Head

From Civil War Battlefields to the Moon


By Joseph P. Byrd III
The following sketches are the third in a series of articles describing individuals who are representative of the strong ties between Georgia Tech and the military.

Leonard Wood

Leonard Wood One hundred years ago, Tech's first football team took the field, but not much else--it lost all three of its games. The next year, 1893, a young Harvard-trained surgeon stationed at Fort McPherson, Ga., enrolled at Tech to, among other things, play football--and Tech's fortunes changed. Army Capt. Leonard Wood also captained and helped coach the team, and was a key player in Tech's first ever football victory--a 28-6 decision over Georgia at Athens.

Following the win, a few sticks and stones greeted the returning Yellow Jacket victors as they made their way to the Athens railroad station. Among the wounded was the intrepid Wood, who suffered a nasty cut above one eye. To make matters worse, the train returning the happy Tech fans to Atlanta rammed into the rear of a freight train at Lawrenceville, temporarily decommissioning the Tech "Football Special," and Wood and his teammates finished the trip riding in the coal car of the errant freight. To wind up the historic fall day. Wood returned to his quarters, stationed himself before a mirror, and stitched up the forehead gash himself. He was to play for Tech two more years, and appear in only one losing game.

It must have been a surprise for Tech students when they learned that their football hero was the same man who, some years before, had helped capture the Apache Geronimo, for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Several years after leaving Tech, Wood, a colonel, and his good friend and second-in-command, Teddy Roosevelt, organized the Rough Riders of Spanish-American War fame, who later charged up San Juan Hill into immortality.

As a major general and one of America's top-ranking officers during the outbreak of World War I, Wood was disappointed to learn that he had not been selected to lead the United States expeditionary forces in France. That command was given to a younger man who, it was thought, could better stand the rigors of war--Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing.

Wood later served as a governer-general of both Cuba and the Phillipines. In 1920, he ran as a Republican for president of the United States--not bad for a young surgeon and patriot who helped start Tech's illustrious football tradition.


John B. Davis

John B. Davis In 1937, John B. Davis, a sophomore form Athens, Ga., dreamed of receiving an appointment to Annapolis and becoming a Navy officer. With war clouds hovering low over Europe, he got his wish, and later graduated with distinction in the class of 1941. Davis was elected class president each of his years at the academy.

After graduation, Davis received a curt and puzzling order, "Davis report Davis." It meant that the newly commissioned ensign was to report to the destroyer U.S.S. Davis as its gunnery officer. Three years later, Davis was transferred to the destroyer U.S.S. English as the gunnery officer, and he later became its executive officer.

In 1948, he was awarded a master of science degree in engineering by Cornell University. He served on the cruiser U.S.S. Helena before being transferred to the Bureau of Ordnance in Washington, D.C., where he headed the Propellant Research section supervising the development of the casting process for solid propellants. This research made possible the Polaris missile.

In 1958, Davis was assigned to special projects, which included setting up the first program to simulate naval warfare on digital computers. Later Davis served as an assistant to the director of the Long-Range Objectives Group in the office of the chief of Naval Operations.

During the Vietnam War, Davis commanded Destroyer Squadron Seven, and also commanded surface forces in operations off the coast of Vietnam. In June 1966, he became an aide and executive assistant to the supreme allied commander Atlantic, commander-in-chief Atlantic, and commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic fleet.

Davis was promoted to rear admiral, and commanded Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla Nine during 1967-68. Two years later, he assumed command of amphibious support for the Vietnam conflict.

While retaining command of amphibious operation support, Davis and his staff were deployed to the Western Pacific to command amphibious forces with the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

In addition to attending the Naval Post-Graduate School at Cornell University and the War College in Washington, D.C., Davis attended George Washington University and received his second master's degree, in international affairs. He was twice awarded the Legion of Merit, and also received several commendations and medals from foreign governments.

He is retired and currently residing in Coronado, Calif.


Homer G. Hutchinson

Homer G. Hutchinson--Hutch to his buddies--came to Tech not particularly because of engineering or athletics, but because of Georgia Tech's prestige in the Depression-ridden job market. The clincher came when he visited Tech before school opened, met Dean George Griffin, and found out that he could get a job to help with his school expenses.

Despite his casual attitude toward engineering, he was later elected president of ODK, and a member of ANAK, Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Phi honoraries. Surprisingly, he was named Tech's most outstanding mechanical engineering student of 1939.

Hutchinson and his good friend, Gay Thrash, each commanded a naval ROTC company in 1939. At mid-year, the Marine Corps sent a recruiter to Georgia Tech to select two students to whom the Corps would offer regular commissions upon graduation. Hutchinson and Thrash were selected.

Because of a regulation that a newly commissioned Marine officer must wait two years before becoming eligible for flight training, Hutchinson opted to forego the commission in order to attend flight school at Pensacola, Fla.

Halfway through flight training, lighting struck a second time for Hutchinson when the Marines showed up to select a pair of cadets to receive regular commissions. This time he accepted their offer.

One of Hutchinson's most dramatic and exciting assignment began in World War II, where he was involved in developing and conducting nighttime air-to-air combat operations and systems for Marine aviation.

In the early '40s, Hutchinson was one of two pilots selected to train and fly with a Royal Air Force night-fighter squadron. The English airmen were defending the British Isles against night attacks by the German air force. The two U.S. Marine officers spent several months training with techniques developed by the British, while using ground- and aircraft-radar systems to intercept hostile aircraft in total darkness. At this time there were no similar systems or equipment in the United States.

The training was followed by several exciting months of on-line flying with an operational RAF night-fighter squadron on the south coast of England.

Hutchinson returned to the United States in mid-1943 and devoted the next ear to training Marine pilots in night-fighter operations. One of the squadrons in which he was the executive officer during its training shot down 36 Japanese aircraft at night while losing but one of its own.

In October 1952, during the Korean War, Hutchinson commanded the first jet night-fighter squadron ever deployed into combat. His primary mission was to provide night-escort cover for U.S. B-29s flying the night-bombing missions close to the Yalu River, along the North Korea/China Border. At that time, Chinese pilots flying MiG-15s out of sanctuaries in China were attacking our aircraft with some success. Hutchinson's squadron was credited with the first enemy jet ever shot down at night in air-to-air combat. Five more MiGs were downed at night over the next few weeks, and the Chinese decided to quit attacking the B-29s.

During his military career, Hutchinson held various command and staff assignments in the U.S., Hawaii and Japan. During the war in Vietnam, he served four years as the director of combat operations for the Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii.

He is a graduate of the Air War College and holds a master's degree from George Washington University. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, two Legion of Merit Awards, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He retired from the Marine Corps with the ranks of brigadier general.

Hutchinson says that he has had some interesting and exciting experiences in night air-combat operations, and it didn't surprise him at all that the Operation Desert Storm air campaign began at midnight. The contributions of Hutchinson and his colleagues in the drama of night air-to-air combat operations played a significant role in the fantastic advantage that America enjoyed in the recent war.


David Sloan Lewis Jr.

Lewis After spending two years in engineering at the University of South Carolina, Lewis, hoping to become an aeronautical engineer, transferred to Georgia Tech because of the Guggenheim School, one of the best of its kind in America.

At that time, all Tech students were required to take woodshop, so Lewis dutifully signed up with the venerable Dr. J.H. "Uncle Heinie" Henika. After taking the final exam, Lewis was shocked to learn that he had flunked the course. Lewis felt that his classwork had been reasonably satisfactory, so he stopped by the old professor's office to find out what tragic blunders he had committed. After searching through a stack of tests, Uncle Heinie found Lewis' "fatal" exam and reviewed its contents.

In a brief section involving basic sixth-grade math, the professor noted that Lewis had made his 4's with a diagonally slanting top line, rather than with only vertical and horizontal lines. Thereupon Uncle Heinie began lecturing upon the tragic and direful results that might occur if Lewis' diagonal fours were ever misinterpreted as nines--planes would crash, buildings might collapse, scores of lives would be lost!

After receiving assurances from Lewis to do better in the future with his numbers, Uncle Heinie relented and changed the grade to a passing mark.

Despite Uncle Heinie's temporary roadblock, Lewis went on to graduate with ease in aeronautical engineering in the class of 1939.

In 1946, following World War II, Lewis joined McDonnell Aircraft Co., which later merged with Douglas Aircraft to become McDonnell Douglas, one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers.

Lewis' career with McDonnell Douglas was little short of spectacular, and after several years there he became president of the giant corporation. Later, he left McDonnell Douglas to become president of General Dynamics, the world's largest supplier of military hardware and equipment.

As president of General Dynamics, Lewis led the company during its development of 11 amazing weapon systems that were ultimately used by America and its Allies to win the Persian Gulf War.

In particular, General Dynamics manufactured two of the world's greatest fighters and fighter-bombers, the F-15 and F-16; the Tomahawk cruise missile; the world's foremost battle tank, the M-1; and finally one of the world's most potent and incredible war machines, the nuclear submarine.

Joseph P. Byrd III graduated from Tech in 1938 with a degree in general engineering. He is a retired lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Byrd is best known as the inventor of the Mark II oilfield pumping machine, which has become the industry standard.