Commissioning Into The Coast Artillery: The Rich And Varied Career Of A 1939 Graduate Of West Point

Francis K. Newcomer


Francis K. Newcomer was born on May 29, 1917, and grew up in an Army family. His grandfather, BG Henry Newcomer, graduated first in his class from West Point in 1886, and his father, BG Francis Newcomer, also graduated first in his class in 1913. His father earned a Distinguished Service Cross in WWI for a river crossing and later taught in the Math Department. His uncle, COL David Newcomer, graduated from West Point in 1919 and was killed in southern France during WWII. His cousin, BG Henry Newcomer, graduated with Francis in the Class of 1939 and served in the Army Air Corps / Air Force. As his father was transferred to different posts, Francis enjoyed learning about new locations with his older sister and younger brother. He remembers taking a train from Hoboken to West Point and walking up the hill to Central Area for R-Day in the summer of 1935. In the 1930s Cadets were not permitted radios, but were allowed record players, and Francis enjoyed Guy Lombardo music. When he graduated in 1939, President Roosevelt handed every graduate his diploma in a ceremony on the Plain. He commissioned as a Coast Artillery Officer, and after a brief assignment in New York (Forts Totten and Hamilton) he was stationed in Panama, where he met his future wife, Jacqueline Guthrie, at Ft. Clayton. In March 1940, he took command of a battery in the 73rd Coast Artillery (AA) (Anti-Aircraft) at Ft. Amador. On March 29, 1941, he and Jacqueline were married, honeymooning in Costa Rica. He recalls being alerted on December 7, 1941, after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and in May 1942 all dependents (including his wife) were evacuated from Panama. From August 1942 to September 1943, he was assigned to the faculty of the Air Defense Artillery School at Camp Davis, North Carolina. He then was hand-picked for a mission at the Pentagon, which quickly became an assignment to the Headquarters of the China Burma India theater, where he was the Joint Operational Planner and the Executive to the Deputy Chief of Staff, serving as the expert in amphibious operations. When Francis arrived in New Delhi, his father was stationed with Stillwell in China as the senior engineer officer at the forward Headquarters. When the war ended, Francis returned to the Pentagon, where he served in the Military Intelligence Division on the War Department General Staff, analyzing how to draw down the Armed Forces following WWII. In 1950, he earned a master’s in business administration from Stanford before returning to the Pentagon’s G3 section for much of the Korean War. Shortly after the armistice in Korea, he took command of the 140th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion and was stationed north of Seoul, responsible for 30-35 miles along the DMZ, where his battalion was employed in a ground defense mission. In 1954, he became the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Ryukyus Command on Okinawa. Following that assignment, in 1956 he commanded the Niagara Air Defense from Ft. Niagara, one of the oldest posts in the Army. This command was composed of a Nike Missile Battalion and an Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion, and conducted joint ground and air defense with the Canadians against the Soviet threat. Following a year at the National War College, he served from 1961 to 1965 as the J5 of NORAD (North American Air Defense), where he was the Chief of Plans Analysis in a combined US / Canadian Headquarters. His final assignment in the Army from 1965 until his retirement in 1967 was as the Chief of the Inspector Division in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, auditing different agencies to develop improvements in how the military operated. After retiring from the Army, he took a job with Warner Lambert for 10 years before accepting a position with the Mennen Company. After leaving that company, he worked in real estate, maintaining his license until he turned 100. This interview with Francis Newcomer was recorded over four visits to his home in New Jersey. He provides vivid details about many of his life’s experiences, helping the listener to visualize what he describes. He also shares recollections about many of the people he interacted with over his long career. At the end of the interview, he shares what West Point means to him.


conflicts World War II Korean War Cold War
topics Teamwork Leadership Camaraderie Military Family Military Techniques Life After Military West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 19 February 2021


name Francis K. Newcomer
institution USMA
graduation year 1939
service Coast Artillery / Air Defense Artillery
unit 73rd Coast Artillery (AA); 140th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion; Niagara Air Defense Command
specialty 105 Years Old
service dates 1939 1967