Remembering 51 from Mark Berent


Thanks for keeping me on your contact list all these years at my AOL address. This is the current one.

Attached is something I wrote that may or may not be appropriate for the website. 

A Most Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Mark Berent
 '54 Bucket - 1

As of Saturday, 11 December 2021, it will be 71 years since the Brigade marched out on Municipal Field Philadelphia for the 51st Army-Navy game. Army was unbeaten for 28 straight games and Coach Red Blaik had said they could beat any professional team as well. Navy was 2-6 for the season. Eddie Erdelatz was our new coach. As I recall, Tom Bakke and Sporty Bannerman were co-captains and Zug Zastrow was the QB. As you easily recall, it was the biggest upset of the season when we won 14-2.

But we expected to win! We knew beyond doubt we would win! Remember the rally the night before in that huge gym or auditorium? We were all there in our PJs and B-Robes. I don’t remember any details of how it was run but I definitely remember walking out of there totally convinced we would win. And of course, we did. And what a joy that was because we were allowed to carry on. But we were shattered the next day or so when the Baltimore Sun broke the news that Sporty Bannerman was married, which meant expulsion. I remember an evening before he left a classmate walking around to all our rooms with a pillow case ino which we tossed a few bucks could afford for him. I think he went on to a great Air Force career.


I cut this from some Academy publication. That is Chuck Learned and me will in the upper left corner.

And we rang the Enterprise bell.

Speaking of Chuck, how he put up with me and Chris Dana as roommates in room 2319, I will never know. Nonetheless, Chuck went on to a brilliant career and retired as an 06 Two months later both Chris and I bilged out.


Somewhere in the early 90s Mike Nassr got hold of me asking for input into that great Cold War Warriors book he put out. “Maybe never a shipmate,” he said, “but always a classmate,” (Well, we never would’ve been shipmates since we both went into the Air Force.) 


After I bilged in Jan ‘51 I returned equally unmotivated to college, said to hell with it, and enlisted in the USAF in the fall of ‘51. Then to AvCads in ‘52 where at Columbus I would have my flight sing “We Don’t Play Notre Dame” at 0600 each morning as we marched by the student officer’s barracks who were mostly WooPoo ‘52. Wound up in fighters with some interesting side tours and retired in 1974 as an LTC. In ‘65 finally got my BSME from ASU courtesy of the USAF AFIT program. Interesting side note: though I got my wings and commission in Sept ‘53, I  lost nine months date-of-rank when I received my Regular since it could not be prior to my USNA classmates. Took three tours in SEA: F-100s Bien Hoa 65-66, F-4s Ubon 68-69, then Air Attaché in Cambodia 71-73 where I flew things with propellers on them. Have written eight books, five on the Vietnam Air war. (See www.markberent.com or just Google my name. I have digitalized them and my articles, most are free). Never regretted entering USNA nor bilging. Just wasn’t mature enough (at 90, still immature, I hope). Have never forgotten the song “Navy Blue and Gold” and always have the impulse to yell “Beat Army” every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner.

And speaking of the Air Force, during my 23 years I had the distinct pleasure of running into some classmates from the 16th Company in which we served: Bill Boggess and MiG Killer/test pilot Wayne Frye. Also Gene Martinez, a Plebe Summer roommate. Ran into Pete Rappe when I was racing stockcars in Minneapolis.  Later, at my first meal formation as an Aviation Cadet, Class 53E, in August 1952 at Columbus AFB I noticed another guy standing as loose as I. We met, it was John Fanto, another ’54 bilger.

FLASHBACKS: Learning all the opponent college songs during Plebe summer, running a whale boat into the seawall, crewing on the Highland Light and getting stung by a jellyfish the night we anchored off some waterfront mansion, being told that sailors on summer cruise would tell women in port the blue on a Middie’s Dixie cup meant he had a venereal disease (do they still do that?) Brown and Sperling hilariously mimicking Nazi sub captains and Messerschmitt pilots, building a matchbox crystal set (and only people our age know what that means), hiding cocoa and coffee behind a baseboard, Jim Lovell, who lived down the hall, taking a photo of the 3-dimensional display for the Army game.

In 2003 the Washington Post wrote a great summary of that epic game. There are some startling tidbits in the article such as: Army quarterback that year was Bob Blaik , Red’s son, who was one of the 37 football players among the 90 cadets expelled for cheating in August 1951 or that fighter pilot Colonel Robin Olds once served as an assistant coach to Blaik.   https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2003/dec/1/20031201-125532-1512r/

We are all in our early 90s now. When I bragged to a Walgreen’s checkout guy that I was an octogenarian, he looked at me with raised eyebrows and said: “Is that in Africa? You really speak good English.”

By for now,

Mark Berent ’54 Bucket - 1

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