Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with John H. Holdridge
HOLDRIDGE: We were in the war. I was in Dartmouth when I heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio. That made it possible for me to get into West Point. My father, still in the Adjutant Generals Department, was able to get a waiver—I have a perforated eardrum, which normally would have kept me out, physically speaking, but he got me a waiver. So I went into West Point with the class of 1945 in July 1942 and graduated with it, subsequently, in June 1945.
Q: Obviously everyone was following the war, particularly at West Point, but what sort of picture, were you getting much in the way the world view that would stand you in good stead in your little world of diplomacy?
HOLDRIDGE: Absolutely. One of the nice things about West Point was that while the emphasis was more on military art and engineering, and that is the degree that I got, MS in Military Art and Engineering, they also did not neglect the social studies. So I studied modern European history, economics, political science, also military instructor training, which was making speeches, getting up on my hind legs and talking to people, trying to get ideas across. I thought the education atop what I picked up at Dartmouth, where I studied Aristotle, philosophy, French, and I had to study Spanish at West Point, but always in the back of my mind was the idea I would like to go back to China, which I told you I had fallen in love with in Peking as a twelve-year old. So, I kept my eyes open for an opportunity, but the closest I got to it—the war being over in Europe when I graduated—there was still war with Japan going on. I picked field artillery as my branch, was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was out firing 35 pounds of TNT in 105 millimeter shells off into the distance at Fort Sill, when somebody came up and said, “Hey, I just heard on the radio that we dropped a bomb that is the equivalent of 10,000 tons of TNT on a place in Japan called Hiroshima.” And we looked at each other and we looked at this 35 pound shell we had been lobbing off and we kind of packed up our effects and went home.
Q: You left the army after your commitment, is that it?