June 6, 1944 is known throughout the world as D-Day, but for the Class of 1944 at the U.S. Military Academy, the day holds a second significance. It was the day they graduated from the academy.
Twenty-one members of the D-Day Class, as they have become known over the years, are still alive. Tuesday, retired Col. Doniphan Carter represented the class on the occasion of its 75th reunion by serving as the wreath layer during the annual ceremony prior to the alumni review parade.
Carter, who turned 96 in February, was the most senior graduate in attendance at the parade.
“I’ve waited 75 years for this to happen, but I didn’t know I was going to be the oldest,” Carter, who is the president of the Class of 1944, said of getting to lay the wreath at the Sylvanus Thayer statue. “I was one of the younger members of my class and that was because I skipped a year in grade school, but nobody else is coming. So here I am, and I get to do it.”
Carter and his classmates originally entered West Point as the Class of 1945, but when America entered World War II the classes were accelerated. The Class of 1943 graduated six months early in January of that year, the original Class of 1944 became the June Class of 1943 and Carter’s class graduated a year early.
After commissioning in the Army, Carter served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. During his career, he also served with the 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War and the 25th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Army in 1974.
“Stay in for 30,” Carter said of what his advice is to the Class of 2019. “It is a wonderful career and a lot of benefits come out of it … They needed me when I came out because World War II was on, and I got into that. They needed me when the Korean War was on, and I went and got involved in that. They needed me when we were in Vietnam, and I went and got involved in that. I’ve got three wars under my belt. I think if they stick around, they will have a very good career.”
The alumni review was attended by more than 700 members of the Long Gray Line representing the classes of 1944, 1949, 1959, 1964, 1969 and more.