Alexander Kratz Rupp
West Point, 1955
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by -w for: Dr Charles Rupp, Alex's Father on November 23, 2007:
Alexander Kratz Rupp was born in Bellefonte, PA on 2 July 1930. His first ten years were spent in State College where his father taught mathematics at Penn State University. Al had a paper route as a small boy and served it very faithfully, earning and saving his money so he could buy clothes and toys of his own choosing. One day he amazed his parents by coming home with a tuba that was almost as big as he was. It was his school band instrument. He had to practice in the cellar.
From the tuba Al went on to play a cornet in the local drum and bugle corps, a group which won a national championship one year. His band uniform at that time was patterned after the West Point cadet's dress uniform.
Even at that early age Al's friends were beginning to notice his aggressive initiative. There were times when his parents had to intervene to slow him down, for he was always trying new things, and often beyond his capabilities. Once, while he was still only 11 years old, he wanted to bicycle across the country with a couple of older boys.
When World War II began, Al's father was commissioned a captain in the Signal Corps and was stationed in Washington, D C., where the family joined him after a few months. Al went to Central High School in Washington and did well, not only academically, but rose to become captain of the cadet corps in his senior year. Upon graduation the Navy awarded him a Holloway scholarship for study at Harvard. After two years he had some doubts that the system would ever lead him any higher than lieutenant commander, so he left college and took a job running a bulldozer and later, a gasoline-powered shovel. Meanwhile, he attended National Guard drills at summer camp, always keeping in mind the competitive exams for the service academies. He came out high on the 1951 list and entered West Point with the Class of 1955.
His experiences with the Navy, at college, and on the construction job had given him a background which now helped him in many ways. He found academics at the Point reasonably easy and had ample time for other activities, particularly cheer leading, for which he earned a minor "A". He was one of the four cheerleaders who one year managed to capture the Navy goat and bring it back to West Point in triumph.
Al graduated 63rd in his Class and chose a career in the Air Force. He was unusually keen in his job and in addition to his regular flight training in Texas and Mississippi, worked, on his own time, on both airplane and automobile engines at the local base shops. In Texas his other free time activities included teaching Sunday school classes, studying photography and hunting.
He was one of the first in his Class to be assigned to a fighter squadron in Germany. For four years he was stationed near Bitburg. He learned to speak German fluently and was often chosen to address the German crowds that flocked to see the Air Force exhibitions. During this period he fell in love with, courted, and married a German girl, Ruth Michels, a fine woman who bore him two children, a son while they were in Germany and later a daughter, in the States.
The young couple traveled widely in Europe during Al's leave time. They skied at St. Thomas in the Tyrol; they climbed the Finsteraarhorn in Switzerland (Ruth was the only woman in a period of some twenty years to make it to the top); and together they learned a good deal about art in Florence.
The Air Force Academy proposed to send Al to school at the University of Mayence with a view to his teaching German at the Air Force Academy, but Al aspired to a space career. He did succeed in drawing a stateside assignment at Wright-Patterson AFB and there earned a master's degree in astronautics in 1962. From here he went to Edwards AFB in California, for duty in the Aerospace Research Pilot Program, graduating in 1963.
In two transcontinental automobile trips, Al's family enjoyed with him the roadside camping. They pulled a small trailer behind their 1955 car, and it was truly amazing to see how much comfort and pleasure they found in the limited capacity of the little box on wheels.
Al was unusually thoughtful of his relatives and friends. He wrote to his parents faithfully every week; he helped his youngest sister through the University of Chicago with a modest allotment, and he gave his mother a miniature of his West Point ring and his insignia as a senior pilot. Friends sometimes remarked that Al lived two lives: his own, and another for his twin brother who drowned in early childhood.
From Edwards, the young Rupps returned to Wright-Patterson, where Al worked with the test mission program of the Aeronautical Systems Division. He was scheduled to attend the Staff School in Norfolk in August 1965. He had planned to take a leisurely camping trip with his family after completing Staff School--through Nova Scotia and northeastern Canada--and before leaving for an assignment in Vietnam. But that was not to be.
On Friday, 11 June 1965, he crashed and burned to death on a routine flight out of Wright-Patterson. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Al was a hard-working, conscientious officer. His promotions to captain and to major were both "below the primary zone of consideration," so that his parents, his family and his friends had every reason to be proud of him, and to feel that "the stars in his eyes" was no idle dream.
Al was awarded a commendation ribbon for a paper he prepared on traffic control in Germany and a recommended posthumous award was still to be made as this article was being written.
--Dr Charles A Rupp, Lt. Col. USAR Father
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