On a moonless fall night in 1965, six U.S. Military Academy Firsties (senior cadets) kidnapped Billy XIV, the Naval Academy mascot goat, from the Severna Park Naval Security Station in Maryland. To do so, they violated federal laws and the rules of the two educational institutions involved in the caper.
Tom Carhart, one of the Firsties, relates the planning, execution, and outcome of the event in The Golden Fleece: High-Risk Adventure at West Point (Potomac Books, 224 pp. $26.95, hardcover: $25.60, Kindle).
Spoiler Alert: The Firsties were caught but suffered practically no punishment. In fact, the West Point student body and faculty deemed the six men heroes.
The kidnappers—Bob Lowry, Art Mosley, Deme Clainos, Mike Mewhinney, Mike Brennan, and Carhart—all survived tours of duty in Vietnam. Only Brennan made a career of the Army.
Carhart likens their theft of Billy to Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, and assigns roles accordingly in the book. He uses heavy doses of recreated dialogue, which makes the story read like a novel.
Actually, the book contains two stories. Along with explaining the kidnapping, Carhart tells tales of life at West Point. The parallel story line is every bit as entertaining as the kidnapping. It emphasizes high jinks committed by the six Firsties while providing a study of privileged young men destined for combat in a rapidly changing world.
Carhart was wounded twice in the Vietnam War. After leaving the Army, he earned a law degree and a doctorate in American and military history.
Although he has written eight other books on military topics, Carhart may be best known for his vocal opposition to Maya Lin’s design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, calling it “a black gash of shame and sorrow.”
Carhart’s website is tomcarhart.net