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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

URI’s ROTC Alumni Assoc. selects three for its Hall of Fame

KINGSTON, R.I. –April 17, 2003-- The University of Rhode Island’s Reserve Officers Training Program (ROTC) Alumni Association has selected three men with distinguished military careers to be posthumously inducted into URI’s ROTC Hall of Fame. The men are the late Brig. Gen. Elliott Thorpe, URI Honorary 1951, Col. Kenneth Potter, URI class of 1933, and Capt. Conrad LaGueux, URI class of 1943. The alumni association elects new members to its Hall of Fame every three years. Lt. Col. Cheryl Poppe ‘78 chaired this year’s selection committee. Formal induction ceremonies will be held Sept. 20, 2003.

For more information about the induction ceremony, contact Paul Helweg URI class of 1970, president of the URI ROTC Alumni Association at 401-789-2554 or dblue@erols.com.

Following is information about each of the ROTC Hall of Fame inductees:

Brig. Gen. Elliott Thorpe. A native of Westerly, Brig. Gen. Elliott R. Thorpe's (1897-1989) military career encompassed two world wars, the reconstruction of Japan, and a tour of duty in post-war Thailand. Thorpe stood guard in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles when the World War I treaty was signed in 1919. In 1945, he was aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered to Gen. Douglas MacArthur (shown at right with Gen. Thorpe).

Thorpe's unheeded warning about the Pearl Harbor attack of Dec. 7, 1941 was arguably his most memorable moment. Serving as a military attaché in Dutch-controlled Java (Netherlands Indies) in 1941 when the Dutch broke a Japanese diplomatic code, Thorpe was informed that intercepted messages referred to planned Japanese attacks on Hawaii, the Philippines and Thailand. He immediately cabled the information to Washington, but the warning was ignored. A week later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

In 1943, Thorpe was knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for his work as American liaison in the Netherlands Indies. Promoted to Brigadier General in 1945, Thorpe was honored in 1949 with the title of Knight Commander in the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand for his work as military attaché of the American Embassy in Bangkok. He retired in 1949 after serving 32 years in the U.S. Army.

Thorpe attended Rhode Island State College (now URI) for one year as a mechanical engineering student before entering the Army in 1916. Even though he did not graduate from the College, he always considered himself an alumnus and supported fund-raising efforts to construct a War Memorial Student Union by donating his veteran’s bonus check. The War Memorial Student Union was built in 1950, largely through fund-raising efforts spearheaded by Thorpe and other alumni.

Thorpe gave URI a ceremonial sword surrendered to him by Maj. Gen. Yoshio Nasu of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Japanese surrender. In 1969, he also presented an autographed copy of his memoir East Wind Rain to the University. Both the sword and the book are kept in the Special Collections Reading Room of the University Library in Kingston.

In 1951, Thorpe received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during the institution's first commencement as the University of Rhode Island. Retiring to Sarasota, Fla., Thorpe continued to be in demand as a speaker and was sought for interviews by historians and journalists for his first-hand account of post-war Japan. Shortly before his death in 1989, Thorpe was interviewed for the BBC production of Sacrifice at Pearl Harbour. Thorpe was quoted in John W. Dower’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning book Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. Thorpe is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Col. Kenneth Bowen Potter. Kenneth B. Potter was born in Providence in 1909 and was raised in Cranston. He graduated from Rhode Island State College with a degree in chemical engineering in 1933. While at RISC, which later became URI, he was captain of the football and baseball teams and a member of Theta Chi social fraternity. He also was elected into URI’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

After commencement, he immediately entered into active duty and attended the U.S. Army’s Infantry Officer basic school at Fort Benning, Ga. followed by the Infantry advance course. He graduated from the Army War College in June 1956.

Potter’s army career is highlighted by his service as an infantry officer in the European Theater during World War II. He served as company and battalion commander with the 3d Infantry Division. He was awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Presidential Unit Citation, among other decorations. As an infantry battalion commander, he was the recipient of the Silver Star with four oak leaf clusters and was twice awarded the French Croix de Guerre – once personally from Gen. Charles De Gaulle.

In 1949, Potter was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while leading his unit in action at Heroldsberg, Germany on April 14, 1945 at which time he captured 124 Germans and killed nine more with an enemy weapon he had picked off the ground. Though wounded twice, he was never out of action during the German campaign and commanded the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Division, 7th Army-Europe.

Potter commanded Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated soldier of WWII, as an infantryman under his leadership in the 3d Division. He was in part responsible for recommending Lt. Murphy for his battlefield commission and the Congressional Medal of Honor. Potter and Lt. Murphy were lasting friends and he gave the eulogy at Murphy’s funeral following his death in an airplane crash.

Following the war, Potter returned to Washington D.C. where he commanded the Army’s separation center at Fort Myer, Va. Subsequently, he worked with Military Intelligence at the Pentagon. He also taught math and science at Flint Hill Academy, Fort Hunt and West Springfield High Schools in Fairfax County, Va.

Potter married the former Dorothy Kasper of Jamestown, R.I. and raised three children: Kenneth Freeman Potter of Davie, Fla., Nikki D. Cothran and Richard B. Potter of Virgina. Potter died in 1995 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

Capt. Conrad LaGueux. Conrad LaGueux was born in Pawtucket, R.I., in 1922 and graduated from Rhode Island State College with a degree in chemical engineering in 1943. While attending the College, which later became URI, he participated in the Army ROTC program, receiving a commission as a second lieutenant at graduation.

Ordered to active duty in 1943, LaGueux was assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. After graduation, he was immediately assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Washington and assigned to a "station outside the continental limits of the United States" according to his orders. LaGueux arrived in Casablanca, French Morocco, on Nov. 28, 1943. During January and February 1944, he was assigned to the 2677th Headquarters Company Experimental (Provisional), later to be known as the 2677th Regiment, OSS. While in France, he completed the airborne qualification course.

In August and September of 1944, LaGueux parachuted with his small Army team into southern France where his team’s mission was to harass and attach German forces. He was awarded a Bronze Arrowhead for his EAME Campaign Medal for airborne operations in southern France in August 1944. While in France, he worked with the Maquis (French Resistance) in the area of south France known as Tarn. Later in the war, he worked in China training commandos.

Following release from active duty in 1946, LaGueux worked for American Cyanamid for three years prior to joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1949. He went on to serve with the agency’s Far East Division until retiring in 1977. Over the years he served as station chief in such posts as Taiwan, Burma and spent much of his later CIA career in Cambodia and Vietnam doing work that led to his receiving two Intelligence Medals of Merit. His first award was for his actions in March of 1975 when he made a hazardous personal reconnaissance of the heavy fighting between North and South Vietnamese military forces that ended in North Vietnamese victory.

LaGueux was credited with obtaining the first authoritative intelligence on the extent of the military deterioration. He then planned and led the evacuation of key Vietnamese leaders, an operation "executed with thoroughness and sophistication." After retiring from the CIA, he served on the executive committee of the Heritage Foundation president’s club.

LaGueux and his wife raised three daughters: Claudia Shainman of Bethesda, Md., Damaris Booth of California, and Anne Johns of Gaithersburg, Md. His wife, Norma LaGueux, resides in Arlington, Va. His brother Norman and wife Lois LaGueux live in Litiz. Pa. and sister Germaine Berube and Pauline Boucher reside in Rhode Island. LaGueux was elected into the Pawtucket Hall of Fame in 2002. He died on June 26, 2001 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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