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All-America, All the Way
Frank Deford
February 21, 1972
Major Pete Dawkins, a man of his times—of good days past and now of the present
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February 21, 1972

All-america, All The Way

Major Pete Dawkins, a man of his times—of good days past and now of the present

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Dawkins' biggest edge, however, comes from his contemporaries who have stayed in the service and continue to hold him in awe. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas sits in the middle of the country, and, in the insular manner of most Army posts, in the middle of nowhere as well; the denizens refer to "the outside world." Leavenworth is a large post, and it can be an important one, too, a crucial station for rank-conscious young officers.

A lanky career major, Ranger and Airborne and bowl-cut, drew on his cigarette. "Sure, you find it here at Leavenworth, you find it anywhere in the Army," he said. "There is always a certain amount of resentment about Dawkins—you know, the glory boy. It comes especially from guys like myself who didn't go to the Point. Everybody knows he did only one tour of Vietnam, but that he got special attention from the press. He's on the 5% [early promotion] list, but he hasn't had to get all his tickets punched, like everybody else. But you see, every time this comes up, there's always somebody around who was with Dawkins at the Point or somewhere, and they say, 'Hey listen, he's special, he really is, and the Army would be crazy to make him go through the same garbage as everybody else.' "

The major put out his cigarette on his boot and intently field-stripped it. "You know," he said after a while, "that's a helluva thing when you think about it, when you realize that kind of talk comes from his rivals, so to speak."

Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travels: "A soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can."

Dawkins, stuck in rush-hour traffic near the Pentagon: "The military is never so evil as some would have it, nor so gallant as others. If you do believe that we live in a world where we can abdicate forces, then yes, obviously, the Army is a caricature. But if you read the tea leaves of history, one is obliged to believe that we cannot possibly get by without a competent military force, that we cannot achieve decisions other than in consonance with a military reality."

Defense Attorney Barney Greenwald in Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny. "See, while I was studying law 'n' old Keefer here was writing his play for the Theatre Guild, and Willie here was on the playing fields of Princeton, all that time these birds we call regulars—these stuffy, stupid Prussians in the Navy and the Army—were manning guns....Of course, we figured in those days, only fools go into armed service. Bad pay, no millionaire future, and you can't call your mind or body your own. Not for sensitive intellectuals...[but] a lot of them are sharper boys than any of us, don't kid yourself, best men I've ever seen, you can't be good in the Army or Navy unless you're goddamn good."

Dawkins at 33 is a trim 6'2" with large sloping shoulders. He moves with purpose at all times at what may be described as an organized lope. Tennis is his sport now, although he began playing it just two years ago. He took up skiing a while back and was winning slalom races before the snows were gone. If anything, he took longer to master football than any other game. Baseball was his best high school sport. He scored 19 runs in his first cricket game, he made the West Point hockey varsity shortly after he picked up a stick and he earned his Oxford blue in rugby only eight weeks after he first saw a scrum.

In football, though, Dawkins was nothing special in prep school, a weak-passing left-handed plebe quarterback and a fifth-string sophomore halfback. He was a starter as a junior but merely the other halfback; Bob Anderson was the All-America. It was as if they were saving 1958 for Dawkins. He started off with four touchdowns in the opener, Army never lost, and all along Dawkins drew an inordinate amount of publicity because of the Lonely End formation. Colonel Blaik, nobody's fool when it came to destiny, just upped and quit after 25 years of coaching following that season.

West Point makes it especially easy for Dawkins to haunt Saturday afternoons. There is still a ring dance in the fall at the Academy, a formal, no less, with corsages. The lettermen wear dated little malt-shop zipper jackets with those big fuzzy A's on them—no sweat. Pep rallies are fervent large productions, and football players are treated with deference by their classmates. The Academy chaplain, the Rev. James Ford, thinks it's helpful to hire former football stars as preaching assistants.

"It's important to have a winning attitude," says Colonel William Schuder, the director of athletics who was First Captain of the Corps in 1947, a classmate of Davis and Blanchard. "It's one of the things that encourages a young man to try the Army as a career. You can't have an Army with a losing image."

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