MAJOR OGMRAL J. A. VAN FLEST, USA, TO TIB FACULTY AND STUDENTS, UNIVERSITY
OF FLORIDA, GAINU8VIIA, FLORIDA, ON APRIL 19, 1946.
President Tigert, Miembers of the Board of Control, Faoulty and
students of this great UViversity, and Friends,
I am delighted to be bask at the University of Florida among my
old friends. I know now I am back from the war. When I first returned from
Germany last Summer, under orders then to command the Assault Landing north
of Tokyo, Dr. Tigert welcomed me in Bartow and invited me here today.
I did not anticipate this great honor conferred upon me by the
Faculty and Board of Control. I am overwhelmed. A few weeks ago I was
present when Columbia University conferred the same degree upon Mr. Churchill.
Little did I suspect that I, too, would become a member of the great elite.
One of the greatest ambitions of my-life was to be a graduate of
the University of Florida. I am overjoyed to be considered a member of that
fine body of man who have been awarded degrees from this great and magnificent
University. I wish to thank your great President, the Faculty and Members of
the Board of Control for this high honor. I have a deep love and admiration
for your President, Dr. Tigert, who has developed this institution from its
small beginnings to its present position of national importance. His leader-
ship and example have meant muoh to me and have helped me in my own dealings
with men under my oomaand. My experiences here as head of the Military
Department, and my association with the Football Team and Student Body,
gave am an maderstanding of mn which was etramely valuable to as in this
I -a glad to see so many veterans here. I know that Gaineaville
and this institution will give to you the warmest weloone and the finest
education obtainable anywhere in the United States.
I should like to pay particular tribute to the courage and skill of
VW amn ead woman who wore the uniforms of the Armed Services during the
war. In the years between World War I and World War II, the Uaiversity and
Florida were widely known for the loyalty and devotion of its men in the ROTC,
the National Guard and Organised Reserves. From personal knowledge I have
the highest praise for the keen interest, professional attainments, and oheer-
ful patriotic sacrifices of the civilian oomponents of the Army of the United
Stateare'Si4/, 0/ i" r
Your support of the National Guard and Reserves during those years
between the wars earned real dividends both in battle and in vital administrative
posts. The offioera and men who studied aad trained so faithfully during the
years of peace provided leadership and inspiration to the patriotic youth
drawn for the first time into the Armed Services by the dire necessity of our
These aooomplishments give ample evidence that this community is
consoious of its responsibilities as one member of a great teaa whioh had a
seemingly insurmountable obstacle to overcome in wnintng the war and which now
is faced with the even more difficult task of obtaining a permanent peace. The
first of these jobs we aeooomplished by teamwork.
The beginnings of American teamwork are in the beginnings of the
history of America. Almost from the first landings, the early settlers found
that they had to cooperate to survive. That story is familiar.
Then, as the country began to prosper and grow toward nationhood,
some of the more far-seeing colonists realized another thing. If the hopes
of liberty and freedom were going to be fulfilled, cooperation not only was
desirable, but was an absolute necessity. It had to become part of the
character of the new nation. Andre Maurois, a French writer, in his book THE
MIRACLE OF AMERICA, has described the process in these words Quotes
"Although this continent was colonised principally by Europeans, they
acquired here new charaoteristios. On this extreme fringe of civilization,
the harshness of life, the struggle against many odds, the abundance of land,
and necessity of mutual aid created a new type of man -- the pioneer -- generous,
independent, and rugged, who recognized no inequalities save those of physical
strength and enthusiasm for work. In this setting, men of very different
countries came to resemble one another. All showed a spirit of cooperation
that could hardly be found in Europe." tOquote.
The leaders at this University, I know, have sensed that battles
are won only by a mass manifestation of virtues we most admire in men. Courage,
devotion, drive, sacrifice, discipline, optimism, a desire to fight, mutual
help, loyalty together they mean effective teamwork.
As yet we have not fully solved the problem of employing these virtues
to serve as effectively the cause of peace as the demands of war. We must not
admit that only the compulsion of a common, deadly fear can produce the teamwork
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that is as necessary to the peaceful concert of peoples as it is to the batter
and rush of a stubborn foe. We insist that the demonstrated abilities of a
great Nation and her allies to produce the mightiest force of righteous de-
struction yet seen upon the earth can produce an equal progress toward the
heart's desire of every individual on that earth -- the assurance that he my
pursue his peaceful desires in tranquility and absence of fear.
To obtain this end whioh we all so earnestly seek -- you as you work
in this oommaunty and we who find our work in the Army -- there is, I believe,
but one answer. It is the thing which is stressed so constantly in the training
of an Army officer. It is the thing which we constantly strive to improve. It
I do not refer exclusively to the leadership exercised by those in high
places, although they must be wise, far-seeing, and completely selfless. I mean,
primarily, the day-by-day influence of all who by reason of their qualifications
are entitled to be classed as leaders, regardless of race, creed, profession,
or standing in the social or economic world.
In battle, the highest commander cannot, by himself, provide the
leadership necessary to tactical victory. He must be supported by a great
organization of devoted assistants, the base of which must be the captains, the
lieutenants, the sergeants, and the corporals, -- every man that has a position
of responsibility over another on the field. The issue of victory or defeat lies,
finally, in their hands.
Through days and months of experience where real leadership was essen-
tial to success, this Army learned to distinguish between the true and the false,
between the men who led and the ones who sought by virtue of undeserved author-
ity to escape their own proper share of the costs that must be paid to achieve
any positive and worthwhile purpose. This Army knew that the officer who pre-
tended to a position of human superiority rather than of mere official su-
periority, who dared not test himself to the fullest before the eyes of his
followers, who deliberately thrust upon his men added danger, suffering, or
exhausting work in order that he might himself escape their full impact, was
not, in the eyes of his men, an officer and a leader, regardless of the weight
of the insignia he carried upon his shoulders.
On the other hand, that Army knew likewise that the ooamander who
shared, naturally and unpretentiously, in every problem of the group, whether
in bivouac or on the battlefield, who gained the confidence of his men and
gave to them his own, who shared with them every vicissitude of fortune, who took
no thought of himself until every need of all his men had been aooommodated,
who learned from them as much as he could teach to them, and who expressed in
every word and deed his pride of belonging to that Army, invariably gained for
himself the greatest reward that can ooze to any man.
This reward was the respect, esteem, and love of those with whom he
was privileged to associate. Moreover, his was an elite unit, whether designed
for destruction of the enemy or constructive work in the ordinary prooeases of
peace. Such a man was a stranger to resentment from his men. They aooorded
to his -- they demanded for him -- a position before the world that comes only
to those who have rendered honest service to their fellows.
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I, as a battle commander, personally, and for all the Army, thank the
veterans of this war for the peace we enjoy. These Americans are not only the
greatest fighting soldiers the world has ever known -- they are the finest by
aay test. Please do not be misled by the small number, only one per cent
according to record, who may not measure up. Ninety-nine per cent are thorough-
breds imbued with the highest qualities of Americanism. Their generosity.
independence, ruggedness, sportsmanship, courage, devotion to duty and sacrifice
cannot be matched,
Nay all veterans know that the Army wishes you the very beat. We will
always be your friend. We hope you will remember the happier side of your Army
life, your many new friends, and all those unselfish and oreditable things we
did together to bring glory and victory, and which make all of us bigger and
better men and women.
We of the new peaoe Army wish to be guided by your advice and traditions.
We want the new soldier to have the very best that this country oan give.
As a fellow GI, may I say that when we veterans forget one another
a little more of us is gone. We have together lived perhaps our highest life
following the Stars and Stripes through privation, hardships, danger and
sacrifice to final victory.
We are reminded that our Army had its beginning one year and one day
before the Declaration of Independence when General Washington assumed oomand
of the military units scattered around Boston.
Our Army we:& then, and has been ever since, the people's Army. It has
no political aim and no political ambition. Its Commander-in-Chief is a civilian
holding his office by the will of the people.
The Army of this country has never caused a war. On the contrary, it
has restored peace after the Congress of the People had declared war.
Today millions of the men and women who made up the vast citizens' Army
are returning or have returned to normal civilian pursuits -- to communities
throughout the country to this University and Florida -- men and women who
will bring already-demonstrated qualities of leadership, qualities ripened and
matured both in administrative service and in battle. They take their places
in this community whose war record is second to none, a community whioh can point
to actual aooomplishment in its claim to leadership.
The men and women of this community will serve in many places, and,
eventually, in many varieties of useful activity. But underneath all differences
in daily preoccupations is one common objective toward which all van work effect-
ively. That is a safe and enduring demooratio peace for all the world. Unless
this great country of ours with its almost limitless potential, remains a leader
in this effort, success will elude us. If our country is to do all of which it
is capable in the problems of promoting peaoe, it must be always ready to cooper-
ate in solving the problems which beset us all. One of these is to help protect
the peace, our own peace and that of others who look to us for leadership.
Until the world is ready completely to repudiate force as a means of settling
international difficulty, our country must be strong in those processes by which
force is represented. We must feel secure, else fear will warp our own judgment
and, externally, reduce our influence to futility. Our armies, our navies, our
air forces, in fact our whole citizenry must be always ready to uphold against
any apparent threat, principles which we believe to be right -- almost sacred.
The Army has many mission to fulfill in compliance with the commitments
of this Nation throughout the world, including the important oommitaent oontainA4
Ion the Oharter of the United Nations.
Last Monday I had the pleasure of having dinner with Mr. Trygve Lie,
Secretary General of the United Nations, and Mrs. Liej and previously the pleasure
of meeting zai the members of the Security Council. I was greatly impressed
with the sincerity, frankness and integrity of all, and their ardent desire for
permanent peace. If our colleges, universities, ohurohes and homes work as
ardently to support the United Nations as they did to win the war, we oan have
permanent peaose in the world.
Now in closing, may I again extend my thanks to all of you. This isa
indeed, a memorable event in my life, -. It has given
as keen pleasure to meet again here so many friends and comrades of the days of
*ysf, and to receive from your distinguished President tributes far above my
/n4 /AC Waer'" lveec. o7n'e
deserts. This gathering, as well as the Honorary Degree, institute an oooasion
of which I shall cherish A memory as long as I r. I
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JA.iES A. VAN FLEET, one time Commandant and Head
Football Coach at the University of Florida, profound student
of Military Science and Tactics, distinguished leader in two
world wars, Major General in the Army of the United States,
the University of Florida salutes you and regards it a high
honor and privilege to enroll you among its honorary sons.
You have consistently maintained those ideals of loyalty, in-
dustry and progressive mastery of your chosen field of activity
which the University of Florida ever delights to recognize.
Ae note from the official records that among your awards areas
the Distinguished Service Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the
Distinguished Service liedal, the Silver Star with two Oak Leaf
Clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart with two Oak
Leaf Clusters, the Combat Infantryman's Badge. Such recognition
comes as a fitting tribute to a life of devotion to duty and
meritorious service to your country. By virtue of the authority
vested in me by the Board of Control of the State of Florida,
I have great honor and sincere pleasure in conferring upon you
the Degree of Doctor of Laws, honors causa, together with all
the rights, privileges and emoluments thereunto appertaining
throughout the world*