Bohdan Andrij Sahan
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Charles F Hoffman on January 21, 2022:
On December 11, 1966, 2LT Bohdan Andrij Sahan was driving from his duty station on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan to visit his family in Buffalo, New York. Near Saint Catharines, Ontario, less than one hour from his destination, he apparently fell asleep at the wheel of his cherished Volkswagen Beetle and drifted off the highway. He died shortly thereafter from his injuries at the age of 22.
Bo had a background like few others who gravitate to West Point. He was born in 1944 in Ukraine and, along with his parents Zenon and Martha Sahan and his older sister Christine, emigrated to the US after World War II. Dr. Sahan had been an educational administrator in Ukraine and had become a sworn enemy of the regime which was in control of the USSR. Unable to return to Ukraine after the war, the Sahan family was forced to live in a displaced persons camp administered by the Allies in Landshut, Germany. After four years in the camp, they were able to obtain a sponsor and move to the United States where they settled first in Harrison, New Jersey, and later in Buffalo, New York, where they joined Mrs. Sahan's sister and her family who had also fled Ukraine under similar circumstances. Although he was a highly educated man, Dr. Sahan initially took a job sweeping floors in a bakery in Harrison. In Buffalo, he worked on the the railroad to support the family. After several years, Dr. Sahan, who already spoke multiple languages, became fluent in English and ultimately returned to academia as a professor of history and political science at Niagara University.
Bo arrived in the United States at the age of five and shortly thereafter entered first grade albeit with a minimal grasp of the English language. As a youth he studied piano and was an excellent classical pianist. He was bright and inquisitive and enjoyed gathering with his cousins for story-telling sessions regularly hosted by his father. Professor Sahan would tell the children exciting stories from classics such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey,The Arabian Nights, and others. Even at a young age he was a natural leader, as evidenced by the time he convinced his friends that it would be a good idea to build a campfire in the basement of his home.
Bo graduated from Buffalo East High School in 1961. He subsequently attended the Michigan College of Mining and Technology in Houghton, Michigan (Michigan Tech) where he studied engineering. He was nominated for appointment to the United States Military Academy by New York Congressman Thaddeus Durski and entered West Point on 2 July 1962 and graduated with the class of 1966.
Bo was truly an enigmatic person, and was not the typical cadet. He was an individualist, possessed of a rebellious spirit, who often made a point of not following the crowd. A perfect example of this was his decision to purchase a Volkswagen Beetle upon graduation when most other unmarried classmates were buying flashy sports cars. Yet he had committed to West Point, where discipline and conformity were necessary. Undoubtedly his devotion to the country that saved his family from communist oppression had a great deal to do with his decision to come to West Point.
He was an excellent student and had no difficulty with the academic requirements of the Academy. He particularly excelled in Russian Language and was the equal of his professors in his facility with the language. His aptitude for engineering subjects also served him well in the classroom.
He was also an excellent athlete and maintained a high level of physical fitness. He participated in Corps Squad squash and tennis, and represented West Point as a handball player at the club sport level.
He had a quick wit and the ability to entertain others with interesting stories and perspectives on life in general and at West Point in particular. He was also known to occasionally participate in extracurricular activities that were not necessarily in accordance with regulations. This did at times cause him to run afoul of the Tactical Department and his journey through West Point was not without occasional disciplinary actions. He was a member of the Century Club as a result.
Upon graduation Bo selected Air Defense Artillery as his branch of service and, after attending ADA officer training in Fort Bliss, Texas, he was assigned to Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 517th Artillery, a Nike Hercules missile unit in the Detroit Defense, where he served until his passing.
Bo was a charismatic person who was liked and admired by everyone who knew him. He was seen as someone who was impervious to the stresses and hardships of West Point. It was almost as though he were above the fray. Bo was not the perfect cadet, but he survived West Point with his individuality intact. As with all of us, he was a better person for having been there. His great potential was obvious and it is truly a tragedy that we never saw what Bo could have accomplished and would have become. We are certain he would have been a success at whatever he decided to do. Even today, classmates talk about him with a kind of reverence. More than five decades after his passing, he is remembered as a totally unique individual. In fact, "unique" is the term most frequently used in describing Bo. Reader's Digest once had a weekly article entitled, "The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met. To many of us, that would have been Bo Sahan.
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