William Herbert Bloss, Jr.

NO. 18003  •  18 July 1928 - 12 May 1985

Died 12 May 1985 In San Antonio, Texas, aged 56 years.
Interment: Muncie, Indiana


READING "BE THOU AT PEACE" and "The Last Roll Call" in the ASSEMBLY is very hard, because we remember old friends, in the prime of their youth at West Point and later in the service of their country; finding Bill's name on that role of honor was a little different - heart‑breaking but accompanied with a warm feeling. Though many of us received those late night phone calls starting with, "This is your old buddy, Bill" and knew he was not well, it was hard to believe he was gone. Anyone who knew him, knows how hard he tried to do his best, for his family, for his friends, and for "Duty, Honor, and Country." What more can a man do? Yes, he was gone, but it was ‑ and is ‑ impossible not to smile.

Born on 18 July 1928 in Indiana, he was a baby‑faced, very old 17 on 1 July 1946. If anyone of the entering Class of' 1950 looked less like a future general than William Herbert Bloss, who could it have been? He said his nickname was "Slats," back in West Lafayette, Indiana (“Home of Purdue University, sir," he would quickly add to any firstie who asked where he was from.) At 142 pounds and six‑feet‑one, he was certainly not considered intimidating by the opposing football players of A‑I (nor M‑1 either, for that matter) during intramural football.

Nevertheless, he was called "The General" by all the upperclassmen during Beast Barracks and the rest of plebe year as well; our classmates even picked it up. Ed Reidy thinks our classmate, Leroy Shreve, was the first to use the affectionate term. But many of us can probably still remember Bud Vockel collaring Bill every day after lunch and running him back to First Company's piece of old South Area, all the while yelling, "Faster, General, faster; more yetl"

True, he didn't look like what we thought a budding general should look like (Jack Murphy, Bill Todd, Al Crawford, Bill Aman, George Vlisides, or Bill DeGraf maybe, but "Mr. Bloss" ‑ no way!)  But no one could deny his spirit, sense of humor, persistence, or good, old‑fashioned guts. He just would not give up. How many others remember watching, for what seemed an eternity, while he attacked that 10‑foot high wooden wall on the obstacle course? Bill was convinced that the prime ingredient of success was speed. With those long, thin legs and that unconquerable heart, he sailed into the wall; he was all horizontal with no vertical vector. He tried over and over again. Finally, a firstie took him by the shoulder and forcibly led him around and past the wall; the General was not about to quit.

Bad things seemed to happen to Bill in Beast Barracks; four of us (including Bill) couldn't seem to get him to formations on time and in the right uniform. His troubles didn't end with the plebe hike. Someone came racing by to tell him that inspection for guard duty was right now. He had his M‑1 in pieces on the blanket we used for a floor and was dutifully cleaning everything. We all grabbed parts, passed them to him quickly, while he snatched up others, fitted them all together, and took off running ‑ dragging the edge of the blanket, which he tore away from the chamber as he ran. He arrived at the formation late, but was prepared when his turn came to present his piece for inspection. He snapped the M‑1 up smartly, slammed the hammer back, and looked resolutely into the eyes of the inspecting officer ‑ as pieces of the M‑1's innards began to pop up into the air. The rifle fell apart in Bill's hands.

Plebe year was a little more relaxed for "the General," although at best, he was only an adequate scholar. He did collect more than his fair share of demerits, it's true, but walked the appropriate number of tours, insisting ‑  especially when the demerits were awarded for returning late from dates ‑ that the crime had been worth the punishment.

At intramural athletics, whatever the sport, he was in there working. Softball was probably his favorite, because, though he sometimes looked awkward, he was loose and really quite coordinated. He fielded and hit well. Opponents in intramural football smiled, shook their heads in disbelief at his eager, aggressive style, but came by after each game to shake his hand and compliment him for his efforts.

With graduation came marriage to a lovely young woman – Gretchen ‑ an assignment to the Infantry and Korea. Bill was assigned to the 2nd Infantry, and later awarded the Bronze Star. He went to war willingly, probably

enthusiastically, because he always fought for what he believed. One former roommate still bears a scar attesting to the depth of Bill's feelings, because, in yearling year the classmate failed once to show the proper respect for Bill's hero, Ted Williams, and got a split lip to show for it.

Assignments after Korea included Headquarters, 77th Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, 1954‑56, the Infantry School from 1956-­57, and G‑3, Division Headquarters, Communications Zone (APO NY) in 1957.

In 1960 in San Antonio, Bill was assigned as Assistant Professor, Military Science and Tactics to Texas Military Institute, and he described his Korea combat, particularly the long, late night patrols in the narrow strip of land that separated the United Nations and North Korean forces. He had returned ‑ a 200 pound, no‑nonsense, combat infantry officer­ convinced that he had met the challenge of manhood well. He had volunteered to lead patrols at every opportunity and was confident that lie had "taken care of the troops." Unfortunately, the overseas assignment and separation had been too much for the young marriage. As usual, however, he picked up the pieces, forged ahead with his career, met a fine military nurse, married again and fathered two children‑a boy and a girl ‑ whom he loved very much.

His assignments, thereafter, were probably not unlike those of many of his Army peers. He received the Commendation Medal following a tour with the 1st Special Forces Group (1964), a second award after his 1968‑69 years with I Corps in Korea, and the Legion of Merit while at Headquarters Army Communications Command, Fort Huachuca, AZ 1970‑71.

Bill was retired in 1971 as a lieutenant colonel, with major disabilities, the result of a parachute jump in Vietnam. He had landed in a rice paddy, bordered with a brick wall, and was slammed against the wall when his chute caugh a heavy gust of air, just after he hit the water. His back was damaged severely and Bill's health became a major problem from that point on. For the next several years, he was in and out of hospitals, being near death more than once but always coming back for one more round. While he seemed to be in pain frequently, his greatest regret with the permanent disability was that he was unable to smash a golf ball as far as he could when he was healthy.

After retirement, Bill decided to live in Texas where he returned to school and earned a master of science degree in business administration at Trinity University. He finally settled in San Antonio where he pursued several business ventures, one in the solar energy field. He died at the Veterans Administration Hospital, not able to answer the bell in the last round.

Bill remained as close to his old friends and the Army as his infirmities, the telephone, great distances, and funds would allow. He journeyed to the Washington area frequently and headed west to California to see his old buddies – probably really to see the Dodgers play, because he didn’t miss a game in the 1977 playoffs.

What else can be said? Perhaps that our country and its Armed Forces call on many, that most answer that call with honor and distinction, and only a few reach the top and become generals, the envy of many  who tried and fell short. Bill was one of the many; nevertheless, he spoke often, with pride, of the classmates “who had made it”, of wonderful commanders he had served with and great admiration and respect, and of how much the Army had meant to him. Perhaps, without the dedication and courage of the many unsung heroes like Bill Bloss, “the General”, the path upward would have been much more difficult for those who did succeed.”