Journey Back to West Point 65 Years Later Rekindles Vivid Memories


(Wednesday, June 11, 2008 6:10 AM EDT)

Arlington resident Jim Frankosky and 15 members of his family recently traveled New York. But it wasn't to see the regular, old tourist attractions. The destination was West Point for Frankosky's 65th reunion.

The North Dakota native entered the United States Military Academy at 20 years old in 1939, graduating with 409 classmates as part of a program that was accelerated due to World War II.

Members of his class received flight training much earlier than most other classes.

“About half of our class volunteered for flight training in 1942,” Frankosky said. “Our class was special. We had wings before we were commissioned as second lieutenants.”

Of the 409 in the Class of '43, 98 are alive today, and 25 of those attended the 65th reunion. Members of the classes of 1933, 1938, 1948, 1953 and 1958 also were present, including the oldest living graduate (Class of '33), who will be 100 years old in October.

The three-day reunion, held on the West Point campus, included a memorial service, a class banquet, meal with the current cadets and numerous other events.

Even though the opportunity to visit the academy and his former classmates is not one that Frankosky would give up, the experience was bittersweet.

“It leads to a lot of pleasant memories, but also sad things,” he said. “Both of my roommates were killed in World War II, one in flight training and the other in a P-47 over France.”

(A total of 44 members of the Class of 1943 lost their lives in World War II.)

During the war, Frankosky flew B-17 bombers out of England on bombing missions over Germany. Later assignments included time in Spain from 1954-57 and the Philippines from 1971-73, where he served as deputy commander of the 13th Air Force during the Vietnam War.

Frankoski retired as a major general in the Air Force in 1973, a few days after celebrating 30 years in the military.

Although it's been more than 65 years since Frankosky and his classmates have been in school together, they have kept in touch.

“Of course, there's always telling war stories, but we talk about everything,” he said. “Now we mostly talk about our families.”

After leaving the military, Frankosky worked on foreign-policy issues until he fully retired in 1986. He credits his success in the private sector and in life overall to his time at West Point.

“For most of us [attending West Point] was a life-changing experience,” he said. “You get an education and military training you can't get anywhere else.”

Jim Frankosky of Arlington is a member of the United States Military Academy's Class of 1943. He retired as a major general in the U.S. Air Force.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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