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Thursday, November 14, 2013

For Veteran's Day: the Legend at 7-Seat, and WWII Veteran who is Still Rowing

This is a reprint of an article I did which was published in the Sentinel and the Hudson Valley Insider last year.  In the photo, Mr. McCormick is at 7-seat.  For non-rowers, that means is is second in from the right.  All the way to the right at stroke is Kingston's Head Coach, Scott Johnson.  One of my favorite pieces:

"Newburgh, NY - When NRC Programs Director Coach Ed Kennedy decided to name the Newburgh Rowing Club’s last crew shell meet of the year for one of his rowers who was killed in Iraq, he had no idea he would bring one of the adult rowers, a WWII Command Gunner on a B-29, back in time to the Battle of Iwo Jima, once again thanking the 6,981 U.S. Marines who gave their lives to clear the tiny island for the Air Force to create a U.S. stronghold.

Immediately prior to the NRC’s Legend of the 48 Regatta on October 21, Coach Kennedy had Luke Sendelbach, a rower for NRC, Boy Scout and Eagle Scout candidate, raise the U.S. Flag on the Cpl. Joseph Tremblay Memorial Flagpole, and Coach Kennedy called for a Moment of Silence for the 48 Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, who gave their lives during the Surge in Iraq in 2005, among them Cpl. Joseph Tremblay.  “Joey rowed for me at NFA and also the Rowing club from 7th to 12th grades,” said Coach Kennedy, “Mr. Scholl built this flagpole  for him and has a brass plaque dedicated to his memory.  But after his dad, Larry Tremblay, told me about the 48 Marines, I wanted to do something where they could all be remembered together, which is when we founded the Legend of the 48 Regatta.”

One of the adult rowers, who medaled in two races, was 87-year-old Richard McCormick, of Kingston, NY, who had been a rower for Syracuse University, attending on the GI Bill, and who had been an Air Force gunner commander during World War II.  “That flag raising ceremony and remembrance of the 48 Marines really meant a lot to me, because I am personally very grateful to the U.S. Marines who went into Iwo Jima and sacrificed themselves so that the U.S. Air Force could establish an Emergency Landing Field for B-29 Fighters and B-51 fighter escorts.”

“We (the U.S. Air Force) had tried to clear the tiny island of Iwo Jima but hadn’t been all that successful, so the U.S. Marines had to go in there on foot and clear it for us.  When I landed, there was still fighting going on, and  I saw the conditions that they had been through, it was nightmarish, how they had fought and died to preserve it for us.  You see, if we had lost Iwo Jima, that could have been very bad for the U.S.  The surf on the island was like roller bearings, you couldn’t stand, and the Marines had 65-lb. packs on their backs and were being shot at from enemies who were hidden well.  If the Marines fell, they would drown before they could be shot.  We, in the Air Force, always appreciated that the Marines gave their lives to clear Iwo Jima for us.  And to come down here and hear the Coach thank the 48 Marines of the same Battalion that was at Iwo Jima, was really moving.  Those boys, the Marines, really are the first in battle.”

McCormick flew 25 missions during World War II, including the very last air mission of World War II, from August 14 overnight to August 15, 1945.  “The target was just north of Tokyo,” said McCormick.  Over 500 B-29’s were in the air.  That night, when we landed, we were told the war was over.”  Asked how he felt, McCormick said, “Tired.  It was a 15-hour mission.  Then happy.”

McCormick was discharged in 1946, and went on to Syracuse University where he attended under the GI Bill.  He joined the Crew Team, and was at the very last Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship (the equivalent of Football’s BCS in the rowing world) to be held in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1949.  “I was on the J.V. Team at the time but we were the ‘Hope of the East.’  While we were all young as far as college rowers go, we were also all WWII combat veterans, so I guess you could say we were pretty tough.”

McCormick went on to coach varsity golf (1968 – 1988), swimming (1978-1988), football, and JV soccer for Kingston High School, retiring in 1988.  He has an extensive family and lives in Kingston, NY, where he is a member of the Roundout (Kingston) Rowing Club.  Rich McCormack rowed in two races during the Legend of the 48, the Men’s 8+ and the Men’s 4+, taking second place in both and, in the local rowing world, creating his own legend.

For more information on the Newburgh Rowing Club, contact Coach Ed Kennedy at (845) 541-2313 or Team Mom Juliana LoBiondo and'