Joe Fitzpatrick ’49 was a Marine stationed in the South
Pacific during World War II. Of the 72 young men in his platoon,
only four survived to return to their homes and families. Fitzpatrick
was a radio navigator/gunner on a two-man bomber plane, the
Curtis-Wright Helldiver, until he broke his ankle. At that point
he was sent home by ship. Six days out from San Diego, the ship
ran out of food, so Fitzpatrick and the other Marines on board
ate nothing but pancakes and sorghum for six days. When he was
discharged, he came home and entered the business school at
the University of Maryland.
In a photo taken
before his death, Joe Fitzpatrick '49 stands with granddaughter
Jenny Fitzpatrick and wife Mildred Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick died last fall, but his stories about the war
and the university are now collected in the Smith School’s video
archives as part of an unusual oral history project sponsored
by his son, Terry Fitzpatrick ’75. As part of the project,
students in the University of Maryland’s College Park Scholars
program videotaped interviews with three World War II veterans
who came to the University of Maryland under the G.I. Bill.
Joseph Fitzpatrick ’49, Ambrose Klotz ’55, and Alvin Lann
’58 spent an afternoon with the Scholars downloading their
memories of the University of Maryland in the post-World-War-II
Listening to the videotaped interviews gives one a sense
of each man’s experiences on campus. Alvin Lann played basketball;
Joe Fitzpatrick played baseball; Ambrose Klotz never even attended
a sports event on campus. Lann went on to retail management,
Fitzpatrick to a career in sales and printing, and Klotz to
be a top-level manager in the federal government. But all of
them say their education wouldn’t have been possible without
the GI Bill.
U.S. government passed the G.I. Bill in part to forestall the
millions of young men and women who were leaving military after
World War II from flooding the job market and driving up unemployment
while the national economy adjusted to post-war conditions.
The Bill paid for a veteran’s tuition and books and included
a small stipend that helped defray their living expenses. In
1947, half of the country’s college students were veterans.
“The GI Bill was the greatest thing that ever happened to
me besides marriage,” said Fitzpatrick in the video interview.
“I never had an inkling I would ever go to college. My father
went to work at 13 without a high school education, and my mother
never went to high school. Being the oldest boy, there was very
little chance that I’d ever go to college. Going to college
gave me a whole different approach to life, for which I’m eternally
The university made a great effort to accommodate ex-servicemen.
When he came to Maryland, it had been five years since Fitzpatrick
last looked at a textbook; he says he wouldn’t have made it
through accounting without the tutoring he got from student
tutors. Ambrose Klotz didn’t do anything on campus but take
classes, because he also worked at a local grocery to provide
for his wife and growing young family. “The University of Maryland
went out of its way to help veterans succeed,” said Klotz. “My
first child was born during finals week my freshman year, and
my professors all made allowances. They treated veterans very
life changed with so many veterans on campus. During Fitzpatrick’s
years playing baseball for the university under the leadership
of legendary coach H. Burton Shipley, the team was made up of
Marine majors and Navy commanders, all over the age of 21. Combat
experience and world travel made them self-confident, assured,
and adults in every way, and they expected to be treated as
such. This sometimes came as a surprise. “Poor Coach Shipley.
The first trip [the baseball team] took was to Richmond. Stuffy
Evans (a teammate) said, ‘Ship, they’re yours in the day, but
at night they’re mine,’ and we went out and drank beer,” Fitzpatrick
These Smith alumni remembrances offer a unique perspective
on a unique time in University history. Excerpts from Fitzpatrick’s
interview, along with those of Klotz and Lann, can be viewed
at Smith Business Online.
Share a memory of your own by logging on to
Network and posting on the UMemories forum, under “communities.”