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View a eulogy for John Alexander Hottell, USMA '64, who passed away on July 7, 1970.

John Alexander Hottell

West Point, 1964

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by George Domas on June 10, 2016:

Dear Alex,
It has been a long time since we last talked - more than 50 years. I apologize for taking so long to write this. It is not because I haven't thought of you often. I tried many times to write but was overcome by sadness each time and failed to complete my remarks. I know that you, had you been writing to your friend, would not have stopped, but would have continued despite your sadness. But I am not you and I had to stop.

My youngest son, my 5 year old granddaughter, and I visited your grave site and the grave sites of other classmates on Memorial Day. I have a picture of my granddaughter standing beside your grave marker with Bob Serio's marker in the background. I am saddened by your and other deceased classmates' never having the opportunity to enjoy your children and grandchildren. We, the survivors of that terrible war, are very fortunate. In any case, this visit prompted me to try again.

Before writing this I reread all the submissions on your eulogy page, including the fine and eloquent chapter on you in Fallen Warriors, your moving self-written obituary, and the heartfelt eulogies of friends and fellow soldiers. There is little more that I could add to these except to join my personal belief that you were destined for great achievements in the Army and to recount personal anecdotes that reflect your personality and character.

Our lives at West Point became intertwined almost from the start. We were squad mates in Fourth New Cadet Company and endured the ordeal of Beast Barracks together. We remained friends even though you were posted to E-2 and I to F-2. We were in the same PE section all of Plebe year and, because we were about the same size, were more often than not paired together in boxing and wrestling class. I have no doubt that we pummeled each other more than any two other plebes in our class. One incident during boxing class stands out in my memory. You and I were paired up again to practice left jabs. We were told to use our right only to block the left jab of our opponent. During this drill you suddenly hit me hard on the side of my head with a right cross. This first stunned and then angered me. I, of course, retaliated and a real fight ensued. Coach Palone broke us up and no real harm was done. Later, after I had cooled off, I asked you why you had hit me with your right. Your answer was classic Alex: "George, I couldn't help myself; you were so open." It did not affect our friendship, but it made me very wary on all future drills and I never forgot it.

We played rugby together and I remember you as a fierce competitor. One of my enduring images of you was at Fordham after you had separated your shoulder during the B squad match. Your jersey was torn, your arm was in a sling, your lip was busted, you had a cleat gash on your leg. You were looking for someone to drive you back to West Point in your MG Midget that you kept illegally somewhere in Highland Falls. You couldn't shift with the separated shoulder. It was obvious that you had given your all in that match.

We both chose Infantry as a branch and chose airborne units as first assignments - you the 101st and I the 82nd. We attended Airborne School together and then roomed together during that long period between Airborne School and Ranger School when we taught classes to units of the 2nd Division about Africa South of the Sahara.

I was very fortunate to have you as my Ranger buddy. You excelled in that environment. You were smart, athletic, committed and well-prepared. If you had not insulted all the ranger cadre who were not airborne qualified and had not done such brash and defiant acts such as doing a flip from the 40 foot rope on the confidence course, you would have been one of the honor graduates. You deserved to be one.

I recall one thing that we did that was typical of your brash and irreverent attitude to poor training techniques. Having endured Major Fier's Recondo hand-to-hand combat training, we both found the Ranger School hand-to-hand combat rather tame. During one of the sessions you suggested that we liven things up by faking a real fight in which we would use many of the moves being taught. I was reluctant at first because I was wary. I recalled your not being able to help yourself and hitting me with your right because I was so open. I did not want you to kick me in the ribs to make it look more realistic. I acquiesced only after you said that it would end with your letting me take you down and pretending to kick you in the ribs by kicking the ground just before your ribs. We pulled it off so well that our own classmates were fooled and jumped in to break up the fight. I must admit that you looked very angry when they were holding us apart. The cadre rewarded us for our aggressiveness. We later had to explain to our classmates that it had been faked.

Despite these little episodes you excelled in Ranger training. You were an excellent map reader and could "read" terrain better than anyone I have ever known. You were almost always selected to be the point man by the patrol leader. I recall our moving so fast on some patrols that we surprised the aggressors in their sleeping bags as we barreled through. On other occasions the lane grader would halt the patrol to radio the aggressors that we would be arriving at key points prior to the time predicted. And, because you were an excellent swimmer, you swam the rope across on all our river crossings. I was thankful that I had you to rely on. You were the perfect Ranger buddy.

The last time we spoke was at the Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning. I do not remember what we said. I did not think that that would be the last time I would see you. I knew that you were awarded the Rhodes Scholarship. I was happy for you and proud of you. I knew that you would do well. You excelled at everything.

Alex, I am not the only one of your classmates who thinks of you and bemoans your loss. Shortly before our 50th Reunion Steve Perryman, our old rugby teammate, called me to talk about you. It was great to talk to him but you were the topic. We shared anecdotes about you. More recently, Barry McCaffery commiserated with me on the loss of some of our finest so early in that war, first KB Kindleberger, then Bob Serio, and then you. We all knew that you were destined for great things.

God be with you.

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