• The story behind the Leavenworth Lamp

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Your author graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1989, a few years ago. The graduation ceremony was on Main Parade, the iconic birthplace of Fort Leavenworth. Gen. Colin L. Powell, then-commanding general of U.S. Forces Command, was the guest speaker. The most interesting event on that grand day was seeing that the Leavenworth Lamp had been moved from its location in front of Bell Hall to the ceremony. I did not know it was portable and, in truth, did not know much about the lamp at all.
    It is a traditional lamp of learning with a mailed fist on top clenching a saber, rifled musket, and guided missile. The fist symbolizes the military nature of the institution, the saber and rifle represent the college’s origin as the School of Application for Cavalry and Infantry in 1881, and the missile represents the future of warfare. The chain resting on top of the bowl of the lamp and the flame complete the symbolism by representing the knowledge gained by college graduates that contributes to the defense of the nation.
    The CGSC crest is affixed to the viewing side of the bowl. The CGSC crest itself depicts three lamps of learning, one each for the Regular Army, Army Reserve and the National Guard. Not a component of the heraldry is the oil fueling the flame and probably represents the midnight oil burned by (some) students.
    A monograph in the archives and special collections of the Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library indicates that Maj. Gen. Garrison H. Davidson, commandant of CGSC from July 1954 to July 1956, conceived the idea of a symbol for the college. He envisioned the Leavenworth Lamp in time holding the same place as the Camberley Owl, the symbol of the former British Army Staff College at Camberley, Surrey (1802-1997), U.K., remembered on Fort Leavenworth today in the semi-annual U.S.-U.K. exercise Eagle Owl.
    In 1954, Davidson asked the Post Historical Committee to solicit drawings for the proposed symbol from the college staff departments. After several early designs were reviewed, in September 1955, Davidson directed a postwide competition with an accompanying public announcement to suggest an appropriate symbol for CGSC. To encourage participation, cash prizes were established: $25 for first place, $10 for second and $5 for third. Entries were to be submitted by Oct. 30, 1955.
    The contest committee selected seven semi-finalists and after deliberation the three winning designs were forwarded to Davidson. Concerned that the submitted designs were not expressive enough of his intent, Davidson and his aide-de-camp pieced together a design with elements from several of the submissions.
    A professional sculptor who worked on post produced a clay model, and Davidson approached the Kansas City chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars, a veterans’ service organization, to sponsor the project. MOWW commissioned Green Jewelry Company, Kansas City, Mo., to cast the lamp. The Leavenworth Lamp was presented to CGSC on May 7, 1956, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the college’s founding.
    Page 2 of 2 - The original silver lamp with a plaque identifying its presenting organization is displayed in the deputy commandant’s office in the Lewis and Clark Center. There is an exact replica of the original Leavenworth Lamp outside the Senator Pat Roberts Room across from the main entrance to the Lewis and Clark Center. A highly polished plaque states it was presented to CGSC by the Regular Course classes of 1957 and 1961.
    A large-scale model of the Leavenworth Lamp, the one familiar to most people, sits proudly on Abrams Loop in front of the Lewis and Clark Center, much like it once did in front of Bell Hall. It was originally crafted in 1958 for the dedication of Bell Hall. It has been reconditioned or replaced several times, including in 1981, 1996 and 2002. The full-scale lamp is no longer used at outdoor graduations. A 1/4 scale replica is displayed at the graduation ceremony and, according to Army University Public Affairs Officer Harry Sarles, is very popular for student and guest photographs.
    The original Leavenworth Lamp gets around. It, or the replica, is displayed at presentations and ceremonies to represent the mission of the college and carry on the intent of Davidson to educate military officers to — in the words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution — provide for the common defense. Look for it around post, including in this newspaper.
    Editor’s note: In 1971, Lt. Col. Robert Simpson, a CGSC instructor, won a contest to name Fort Leavenworth’s new post newspaper “The Lamp.” Among 28 other suggestions were “Sir Echo,” “Brass Mirror,” “Fort Leavenworth Dispatch,” “The Dragoon,” “Post Parade,” “Outpost” and “Dirty Damned Lying Press.”
    In 1991, the Lamp was officially renamed the Fort Leavenworth Lamp to avoid a trademark conflict with “The Lamp,” a corporate publication of the ExxonMobil oil company.
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