Oregon State University has had a long tradition of graduating students into the military.
Its Army ROTC battalion was founded in 1873, four years after the official founding of the school. The Navy ROTC unit started just before the end of World War II, with the Air Force beginning in 1949.
Thus it is not surprising that OSU would have had a strong presence at D-Day. This list of OSU graduates, in addition to Steve Besse (see A1 story), is complete to the best of our knowledge. Besse is believed to be the lone Beaver D-Day alum/veteran still alive.
Lt. Edward Alworth: The 1942 graduate, the son of World War I Medal of Honor winner Maj. Edward C. Alworth (OAC, 1916), jumped into Normandy as part of the 501st Parachute Infantry of the 101st Airborne. A 2nd lieutenant when dropped, Alworth earned a battlefield promotion and a Bronze Star for setting up an aid station and helping evacuate wounded despite his own mortar wound. He went on to a distinguished academic career as a historian specializing in Central Asia.
Lt. Till Forman: The 1942 grad was a platoon leader in the 507th PIR of the 82nd Airborne. He spent 46 days in battle in Normandy, returning to England after being wounded. He was a Silver Star winner. One of the four towers at Reser Stadium was dedicated in his honor.
Lt. Patrick Cassidy: The 1937 graduate landed with the 502nd PIR of the 101st Airborne. He led the airborne troops who controlled a vital intersection just west of Utah Beach. Cassidy received the Distinguished Service Cross for his D-Day work. He remained in the Army, retiring in 1973 as a lieutenant general commanding the 5th U.S. Army.
Knut Raudstein: A captain on D-Day and commander of Company C of the 506th PIR, the 1940 graduate received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work on eliminating the Germans’ Holdy battery near St. Marie de Mont.
Dick Mandich: The 1951 grad was a communications officer with the 506th PIR, who repeated his D-Day jump near Sainte-Mere-Eglise along with a group of veterans aged 67 to 83 for the 50th anniversary in 1994.
Wes Ross: The 1943 graduate and 2nd lieutenant was platoon leader of Company B, 146th Engineer Combat Battalion, which landed at 6:33 a.m. with the dangerous job of clearing the beach of obstacles to provide a path for troops and vehicles. Ross was wounded by a mortar fragment. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and a battlefield promotion for his role in the operation. He continued the fight in Belgium and Germany and remained in the Reserves until 1970, retiring with a rank of lieutenant colonel.
Robert Storm: He received his master's from OSU in 1941 and his doctorate in 1948. In between he landed with the initial waves at D-Day with the 37th Engineers Combat Battalion. He continued to serve at Omaha through Nov. 19 before being transferred to Paris.
Tommy Swanson: The Albany high school football coach and former Beavers football star (OSC, 1937) with the 320th Infantry of the 35th Division survived Omaha Beach but was killed six days later in the allied advance on St. Lo in the Cotentin Peninsula. A swimming pool and park in Albany are named in his honor.
Wayne Young: The 1942 graduate was a 2nd lieutenant with the Army’s 29th Field Artillery Battalion. Dispatched from the Utah Beach flagship the USS Bayfield he was a forward observer for M-7s, 105mm cannon mounted on a tank frame. He received a Bronze Star for his service in the campaign to take Cherbourg, which fell June 30. Two of Young’s 1942 ROTC buddies, Ed McAlvage (20th Field Artillery) and John Tolleshaug (42nd Field Artillery) also were engaged at Utah Beach. Editor's note: After this article was originally published we were advised that Tolleshaug died June 7 at the age of 98.
Kent Haley: The Army sergeant and 1940 grad was a radio operator on the transport SS Exchequer.
Harvey Ronne: The 1941 grad was an ensign and commander of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
Hollis Ottoway: A Navy lieutenant (junior grade), the 1942 grad was in charge of an infantry landing craft.
Capt. James Allgood (1940), who won a Distinguished Service Cross later in the European campaign, Capt. Henry Shumaker (1933), who remembers sleeping in a German pillbox, and Capt. Wayne Fisk (1939), whose boat was torpedoed in the landing. Lt. Jack Vermeul (1941), meanwhile, wrote back to Oregon State after Normandy, noting that “things have quieted down somewhat and maybe I will live to a ripe old age after all.”
Sources: "Carry Me Back: A History of Oregon State University (1856-1999)," reporting by George Edmonston Jr. and Tom Bennett for the OSU Alumni Association; "Utah Beach: The Amphibious and Airborne Operations on D-Day" by Joseph Balkoski; "Doing the Jump One More Time" by Rebecca Landis, The Oregon Stater, September 1995.; The Worlds Military History website; "Omaha Beach" by Joseph Balkoski
Research assistance: Larry Landis, director of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center at OSU’s Valley Library; and Kevin Miller (OSU 1978) of the OSU Alumni Association.