The Kennedy Inaugural Parade – Republished 20 Jauary 2017

Keenedy inaugural

The VMI Cadet Corps is in the middle ground of this Washington Post photograph, first the staff and then the two battalions with the color party between.

It snowed the day before.  There was sleet in the night, and then the parade.  The parade began in 3rd St. SE near the capitol.  The route of march passed the equestrian statue of Grant, the one in which he is hunched over against the rain in the Wilderness.  Then we came down Pennsylvania Avenue to this point.  There were three inches of icy, salty, slush in the street.  You can see a bare patch of pavement just in front of the regimental staff.  The band in the foreground did not belong to us. 

The street has changed.  The "Occidental" restaurant still exists but it inhabits quarters on the lower floors of a large office building on the same site.  Down the street there are a few familiar landmarks like the spire of the old Post Office and the capitol itself but nearly everything else is gone including the trolley car tracks.

We turned right here into 15th Street and then, a block later left again into Pennsylvania Avenue.  The big reviewing stand was there in front of the White House.  At "Eyes Left" all you could see was Jack Kennedy standing with his hat held over his heart.  His beautiful wife was at his side.

We "fell out" at Washington Circle in the George Washington University campus half a mile away.

The buses waited there for the three hour trip back to school.

The VMI Corps will be in this inaugural parade.  pl

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52 Responses to The Kennedy Inaugural Parade – Republished 20 Jauary 2017

  1. Again the Institute will be at its best tomorrow. I donated a book signed by George and Katherine Marshall entitled “A Soldiers Wife” several years ago and hand delivered to the Librarian of the Marshall Library. I notice a informal formation developing and stopped and watched for a moment. Field dress, no Shakos. A Keydet came over and asked if I wanted a tour or anything else and had to decline. But I did ask how many VETS were now in the Institute. He said quite a few veterans of both Afghanistan and Iraq were now in attendance. Perhaps some were commissioned and returned to the front. Invaluable for any army to have competent “Mustangs” as some services call the up from the ranks commissioned officers. I wonder at the percentage of the Army and Marines today. Would be an interesting statistic. Reading David Halberstram’s final book “The Coldest Winter” to refresh my knowledge of Korean War events. Battlefied commissions strongly in evidence in that one.

  2. Maureen Lang says:

    What a wonderful photo & article. I’ve found out since 1st reading this post some additional info from brother Pat regarding that day:
    “It was incredibly cold and the slush scoured your shoes white and devoid of
    We were given an award as the best marching unit in the parade, ahead
    of the Old Guard and WP. ”
    I learned the lyrics of the VMI Fight Song Pat’s freshman year when I was 9. Funny how some things really stick with you- can still sing along to this link:

  3. frank durkee says:

    Col. I was there on Penn. Ave watching in the office of a friend of mine in the Justice Dept Building. I was at the time 8 years out of College, with military service behind me and near the end of my Seminary training. I’d done some local neighbourhood work fot Kennedy. I remember being glad we were indoors. My former wife had a cousin, John White, from Waynesboro, virginia, who might still have been at VmI at the time. { this is a personal note, with no push to publish. Your choice. and thanks for your blog, it helps me cope with the craziness in our public media and world. }

  4. Was in the 6th grade and we watched the ceremony on TV in our classroom. Interestingly, it was perhaps a moment for a Catholic in somewhat the same flow as so many people of African and other heritage feel about seeing the president-elect become President Obama. I remember my father saying he did not believe our country would find its way to a Catholic being elected president.
    I clearly remember the PT-109 crew going by on a float!

  5. Charles I says:

    What a wonderful country you have.
    I’m trying to decide, as the conspiracy theorists have it, whether President Obama is a beard for the NWO types to implement government ownership of the economy – after bankrupting it of course, to create the need for intervention and paying out hundreds of billions in cash to themselves first, prior to depopulating the earth to marshal the resources needed to create a New Jerusalem in space for the Chosen Few when the planet is finally exhausted, but just for today and tomorrow, God Bless America.
    You really are a beacon among nations.

  6. mike says:

    As far as Mustang officers go, the best was Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller, USMC. Halberstram mentions him several times in “Coldest Winter“. A Virginia boy, he had completed his freshman year at VMI with zero demerits, and passing grades. But he dropped out to enlist along with 33 other cadets in the summer of 1918.
    A Marine’s Marine, he led from the front. On Pelelieu his regiment took high casualties and he took the blame for that from MacArthur fans after the war. But during that battle, he and his Regimental Forward CP were typically only 50 to 100 yards behind the front-line rifle companies. His men adored him. He remains the most decorated U.S. Marine in history. With five Navy Crosses and a Distinguished Service Cross from the Army, Puller received the nation’s second highest military decoration a total of six times.
    He has assumed the status of myth in the Corps. A portrait or photo of him hangs in every barracks, club, HQ building, training classroom, armory, motor pool or supply hut on every base in the Marine Corps. Army folks can argue for hours whether the greatest soldier was Washington, or Grant, or Jackson, or Pershing, or Marshall, or Patton, or whoever. No such disagreement exist in the Corps. Every Marine from private to Commandant knows that Chesty was and remains the greatest Marine that ever served.

  7. jonst says:

    ” The “Occidental” restaurant still exists but it inhabits quarters on the lower floors of a large office building on the same site.”. Do “statesmen”, as in “where statesmen dine” still exist?

  8. r martin says:

    Is the band the Regimental Band of the VIrginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the Highty Tighties by any chance?

  9. ked says:

    EVERYBODY must’ve dined at the Occidental – so cosmo & exotic! After Dad was retired out of the AF, we landed in DC between that Inaugural & the subsequent Assassination. My Mom, brother, & myself imposed on him to take us to dinner. Not enthused, yet he relented – I think the Havana post for Batista’s last dance had soured that Okie on the striped pants set.
    A little celebration of American polity is AOK.
    Today, just as you marched that day, Col,
    E Pluribus Unum.

  10. Jon T. says:

    Col. Lang, Good evening.
    The United States Military Academy will attend 95 soldiers to Mr. Obama’s Inauguration
    As ever, with great respect for your service and others in our Armed Services and service academies. The young men and women I have met and worked briefly with at West Point are inspirational in their dedication, intelligence, clarity, strength, courage and perseverance at the start of their journey.
    Jon Tupper
    Cornwall on Hudson
    p.s. on the photos and Physicians reports about killed little kids: I struggle not to be enraged (I am a school bus driver and take care of little kids) and to find some level way to be with the Israeli aggression. They deserve a place. Yes. So do the Palestinians. Can we encourage the Arab Plan’s adoption before something egregious and regretible goes down?

  11. R. Martin
    That is the VPI Band and they played very well. pl

  12. RE: Mustangers
    My spouse and I toured the U.S.S. New Jersey this past summer and, as we toured, I had a long conversation with a pair of sailors whose frigate was in port for the weekend. They were hull technicians.
    They verified that the Navy was still employing the Warrant Officer in service, a very good thing. When I served, the WOs were what we would call the ‘real sailors’, running the deck crews with Bosun Mates, sometimes repair services and in propulsion.
    We were always a little in awe of them, particularly when we were in blue water.

  13. dilbert dogbert says:

    Some time ago I read an interesting story about how the Navy sent a team of people to study how an aircraft carrier worked and their job was to produce and electronic manual of the regs covering the operations.
    Their findings were that the WO’s ran the ship with little help from the regs.
    That was back before the days of links to the internet. Darn!

  14. patrick says:

    Colonel, was there any outward signs or feelings of disappointment from your classmates due to Kennedy’s religion?

  15. Patrick
    None whatever. pl

  16. Jose says:

    Col., thank you for sharing such a personal experience with the rest of us.
    I bet you remember it like it was yesterday!!!

  17. MJ, very familiar with Chesty Puller. I did see his portrait in every Marine space I was in during my service. I do want to read Halberstam’s book.
    Dilbert D: I believe it. I really mean it when I say we saw them as ‘the real sailors’. If you needed to know anything about the workings of the ship or what to do if it hit the fan, you went to them and no one else.

  18. Cpl. Paul J. Grobski says:

    I marched in the parade down Penn.Ave. and I stiil remember how cold it was that day.As a Marine we were so proud of how we looked in our dress blue uniforms but on that bitter cold day we had to wear our heavy green overcoats. We called them our horseblankets which indicates how heavy they were.(didnt help much)

  19. I remember marching in President Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade, up at 0300 to mount busses, froze my ass off in the parade. I remember Jerry Harbach, commanding officer of Co. “C” counting cadence as we just soldiered on in the cold. I commanded a rifle company in Vietnam seven or eight years later and used to tap into that memory when the heat and sweat got bad.

  20. turcopolier says:

    And now for the second Obama inaugural the VMI corps has been selected from so many applicants to be in the parade but also dead last in the order of march for the second time. Is there a message there? pl

  21. Mongoose says:

    Great stuff. My mother still talks about when her HS marching band (from Blackwell, Oklahoma) had the honor of marching in Ike’s 2nd Inaugural Parade.

  22. Steve says:

    Dear Colonel,
    Thank for this wonderful post. I was a product of the PLC program 30 years ago. When I arrived to the FMF, I was fortunate to have three VMI graduates in my battalion. I will never forget their friendship and guidance for the navigation of military life. They fostered in me a great and enduring respect for VMI. To this day, when ever by chance I meet a VMI man, I consider it an honor. There is no doubt in my mind, that VMI is the finest military school in history. Graduates of VMI such as yourself, are an integral asset in our never ending struggle for liberty and freedom. Long live VMI!
    As far as being last again in this year’s parade, let us say that the best are chosen to be the rear guard for a decisive movement.

  23. “Monarchical claptrap”, eh?

  24. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    Yes. I prefer Jefferson’s approach which was to walk from his boarding house to the capitol to take the oath and then up a muddy Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House followed by a crowd of tradesmen and children. He also declined to address the Congress in person for the state of the Union saying it was too much like a speech from the throne. pl

  25. Charles I says:

    If there is, ignore it, surely for the VMI Corps today is about them rather than some malicious planner.

  26. Charles I says:

    Want to thank all those who acted as primary sources of history for sharing here. For me, this is the thrilling part of SST – my electrons touched a part of histreoy!@

  27. Medicine Man says:

    Maybe they need the VMI corps to keep an eye on all the others to make sure they do it right?

  28. Maureen Lang says:

    The VMI Corps will be first in march order right here on SST: would love to see some dvr/any other videos of them tomorrow, current or otherwise.
    The amazing version of “Shenandoah” the Corps marched to last inaugural parade is fire enough to warm even this coming frigid DC night all by itself.

  29. Lars says:

    The “stars” always close the show.

  30. Tigershark says:

    It brings the Parade to a fitting and stirring close. To often parades just sort of taper off; with the VMI Corps and Band, not so.
    The other alternative is that VMI is leading from the rear.

  31. turcopolier says:

    thanks. do you like the arrangement pf “shenandoah?” pl

  32. The Twisted Genius says:

    The Cadet Corps is already on Youtube.
    “Shennandoah” as a march does stir the blood. I guess I’ve lived in Virginia long enough for it to affect me. Don’t take this the wrong way, Colonel Lang, but the Corp should have used a little more “butt left, butt right, cant left, cant right” as they passed in review. Still, very moving and very impressive.
    Here they are at the 2009 Inauguration.

  33. Tigershark says:

    Great, I can’t play a lick of music, and you are asking me to be a critic. I think I liked the 2009 Parade version better, but that could have been because of the sound recording this year. It sounded to “snare-y” to me.
    The Corp looked a little off as they marched; too many wandering eyes. “Eyes Forward” or “Eyes Right” or “Eyes Left” but not “Eyes Look Around”
    But “Shenandoah” is one heck of a song.

  34. turcopolier says:

    TTG et al
    I agree, not up to standard. pl

  35. Maureen Lang says:

    This interesting march tempo arrangement of “Oh, Shenandoah” incorporates a few notes of “Dixie” into the opening bar. Poignant.

  36. Bobo says:

    While “Oh Shenandoah” is perfect and warms the heart somehow the tune “When Johnnie Comes Marching Home” hits my lips every time I see them march.

  37. B. D. Warbucks says:

    Rah, Virginia Mil!
    The Corps had an accordion effect early in the Pass in Review in front of the reviewing stand, but looked like it recovered nicely.
    I like hearing the massed pipes and band play, but I agree with the thought their version of Shenandoah is rather lame.
    But, wow, the massed Corps looks awesome!
    The Corps marched in front of Presidents Reagan and Mitterand at the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown, when my class ruled Barracks. I can claim President Reagan granted me a pardon for all of my “crimes.”

  38. Medicine Man says:

    Sorry for going off topic, Col., but speaking of elections… does anyone have a good idea what exactly happened with the elections in Israel? It looks like Bibi is just barely clinging to power–a reversal which was unexpected even a month ago. Perhaps jledell could offer up some insight if he is aboot?

  39. turcopolier says:

    Good idea. I invite him to write something for me to post manana. Failing that I will write but am sure that he understands this bettener than I. pl

  40. Medicine Man says:

    Thank you, Col.
    It is tempting to think that Bibi’s manipulations may have backfired on him but I’m not sure how much outcomes in the US affect Israel politics.

  41. Bob Bernard says:

    It was bitter cold. Because we were first in order of march, we got warm a bit sooner. For some reason, the Brigade of Midshipman were wearing rubbers over their low quarters, which did not turn out to be a good idea, as inevitably some stepped on the shoes of the midshipman in front of them, and their route was littered with overshoes.

  42. turcopolier says:

    Bob Bernard
    Yes. I remember the middies black overshoes littering the slush. pl

  43. Trent says:

    Would the class of ’63 have participated?

  44. turcopolier says:

    I was a Second Classman (junior) so ’63 must have been there as 3rd Classmen (sophomores). pl

  45. raven says:

    Great start ya’ll:
    “But are things so far gone that Trump supporters in the crowd thought it appropriate to chant “lock her up!” when Hillary Clinton was announced? Or that they would jeer Schumer’s reading of the poignant letter of Maj. Sullivan Ballou, who said, a week before he fell at Bull Run, that he was “willing to lay down all my joys in this life” for his country?
    Here’s what else they booed:
    “Today, we celebrate one of democracy’s core attributes, the peaceful transfer of power,” Schumer said. “And every day, we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution — the rule of law, equal protection for all under law, the freedom of speech, press, religion.”
    If such ideas earn jeers in Trump’s presidency, the American carnage is only beginning.”

  46. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Not trying to change the subject but I’d be interested in a thread where people discuss what we heard today in the inauguration speech if at all possible.

  47. I didn’t watch the parade, but I found the video of the VMI Corps of Cadets. They looked very good this year. I think it has now become tradition for them to be the last unit in the parade. Maybe it’s not the right of the line, but it appears to be a pretty prestigious place.
    There’s going to be a lot of commentary about Trump’s speech today. The one thing I noticed was what he omitted. He spoke of how the wealth of the middle class was taken by the politicians in Washington and distributed to other countries. He laid no blame on the 1% or Wall Streeters for this transfer of wealth. I was left with the feeling that, in spite of his rhetoric, the rich are his constituency. His first act was to reverse a recent Obama FHA mortgage rate cut by executive order. What an odd way to start off his Presidency. It’s only day one. We’ll see how this shakes out.

  48. Found the video from 2009. They looked good there as well. The 2013 march was nor quite up to standard. Must have been a fluke. It happens to the best of them.

  49. Moot says:

    They played Dixie as we passed the reviewing stand.

  50. turcopolier says:

    I had forgotten that. The VMI Corps is the last surviving continuously existing unit of the Confederate Army. Major General George Thomas, the military governor of occupied Virginia saved the Napoleons of the Cadet Battery and had the corps as a whole re-issued their surrendered cadet model Austrian rifled muskets. That done, he allowed the place to be re-opened with the same people within six months of the surrender at Appomattox. pl

  51. turcopolier says:

    The 2013 parade lines were terrible but flogging continued until morale improved and all seems well now. pl

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