• Flag from mounted Scout troop returns to post

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  • Bob Kerr | Editor
    A reminder of Fort Leavenworth’s equestrian history returned May 13 in the form of a flag for Mounted Troop 2, Boy Scouts of America, a group that existed on post between World Wars I and II.
    The framed red and white troop flag, which has the swallow-tail shape of a cavalry guidon with “Troop 2” above and “Fort Leavenworth” below, came from the estate of retired Navy Capt. George A. O’Connell Jr.
    O’Connell’s nephew, Reginald Vachon of Atlanta, sent the flag to the Heart of America Council of the Boy Scouts of America after his uncle’s death in 2010. With the flag was an essay O’Connell wrote a few years earlier about his boyhood at Fort Leavenworth and a copy of his obituary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
    Jose Romero, Kaw District executive for the Heart of America Council, contacted leaders of the post’s current Scout troops to bring the flag “home,” which eventually led to the idea of giving it to the Frontier Army Museum.
    “I’m proud to bring it to you,” Romero said at the museum to a group of officials and historians from the post, as well as several local Boy Scout leaders.
    While the flag itself is not terribly remarkable, the three-page essay written by O’Connell that accompanied the flag is a glimpse into what it was like to be a teenage boy — and mounted Boy Scout — at Fort Leavenworth in the 1920s.
    “Fort Leavenworth was a wonderful place for children,” he wrote.
    O’Connell’s father was an Army major and a surgeon when the family of eight was stationed at Fort Leavenworth. They lived at the corner of Pope and Grant avenues, in the two-story home now known as the Thomas Custer House. O’Connell refers to himself in the third-person throughout the essay, remarking that the house “was underpinned with an unfinished dungeon-like basement, unused, except by George, who used it as a meeting place for his woman haters club.”
    O’Connell described the many jobs he had as a teen, including delivery boy for the Post Exchange, pinsetter at the bowling alley, caddy at the golf course, soda jerk, and manager of a store at the Citizens’ Military Training Camp. But it wasn’t all work for the young O’Connell.
    “Boys were organized into senior boys and junior boys with all kinds of programs for each group,” he wrote. “Major (Dwight D.) Eisenhower was charged with looking after the children and was very innovative.”
    The future general of the Army and U.S. president attended the Command and General Staff School from 1925 to 1926 and lived in Otis Hall, across Kearney Avenue from the four-story student housing known as “the Beehive,” which now houses the National Simulation Center.
    Page 2 of 2 - When the adults had a dance, the children also had a dance, O’Connell wrote.
    “Horse shows and polo matches were common events,” he wrote. “Major Eisenhower saw to it that each horse show and each polo match was duplicated for children.
    “He also ensured that each boy (was) given Boy Scout opportunities,” O’Connell wrote. “Many boys went on to make Eagle Scout. In fact, Fort Leavenworth had a very elaborate Boy Scout program.”
    O’Connell joined Mounted Troop 2 and soon found himself under the tutelage of a former Buffalo Soldier he called “Hos Harris.”
    “Hos may not have been the Scoutmaster, but he took the troop on its hikes,” O’Connell wrote.
    In his remarks at the flag’s turnover to the museum, Jack E. Walker, deputy to the Fort Leavenworth Garrison commander, said Hos Harris is thought to be Isaac Harris, a former member of the 10th U.S. Cavalry.
    “He issued each Scout one sweaty horse blanket,” O’Connell wrote of Harris. “Needless to say, Scouts of Mounted Troop 2 smelled horsey for weeks.”
    O’Connell’s family moved to Boston and he was accepted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. According to his obituary, he graduated USNA in 1935 and served in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters in World War II. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars and earned two Silver Stars. He was 96 when he died in 2010.
    It is not known how O’Connell came to have the flag, nor is much known about Mounted Troop 2.
    Combined Arms Center Command Historian Kelvin Crow said he has found references to Boy Scout and Girl Scout mounted units being trained by Buffalo Soldiers, but not a lot of specific information.
    “This pre-dates the Heart of America Council,” Romero said, adding that some record of Mounted Troop 2 might be found in the BSA archives in Dallas.
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