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Howard M. Potter

Company F-1

15 Oct 1939 - 22 Apr 1994

Place of Death: Fayetteville, NC

Interment: West Point Cemetery


Class Memorial Pages\F-1 Max Potter.pdf

This is very overdue, but prompted by another member of the class of '61 going home for his final rest.I am glad to take this time to speak from my heart about a special person in my life.  Max was one of my beast barracks roomates-actually since I had been in the army nearly 4 years at that time and Max had been in about 10 min we certainly looked at life differently. The first difference was that Max was very smart-an Andover grad as I recall, and gifted academically-when he found out that the only math I had ever taken in high school was algebra 1 in the tenth grade, he just rolled his eyes. On top of that, Joe Maio was also in this room and he had 4 years active duty also-poor Max.  When us! "old soldiers" became too much for him he just got out his bagpipes and worked on our very limited musical education.  Well, those were the days and as fate would have it Max graduated and I returned to active duty. In the later years of my life I have come to learn that my closest friendships and the best memories come from those days in F-1.  Max Potter was a huge part of that period of my life and I am sorry that he is no longer here.  When I hear the pipes now, I always think of Max

John Purdy '61


Taps Memorial Article:

Howard M. Potter  1961

Cullum No. 23359-1961 | April 22, 1994 | Died in Fayetteville, NC

Cremated. Inurned at West Point Cemetery, NY


Oh, Max, aka “Max with the facts,” “…the pipes, the pipes are calling…’tis you must go and we must abide… .” Howard Maxwell “Max” Potter came into the Corps out of prep school and brought with him not only bagpipes and a briar pipe, but a keen intellect to his cadet company that most of us had never seen. He also came with a vast collection of arcane knowledge that impressed and bewildered his classmates, including all the lyrics to every Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, which he could, and would, recite at the slightest provocation. Inquisitive, introspective and cerebral, he was more sensitive and astute than most new cadets, and, when paired with two old soldiers who had joined the Corps with four years of active duty each under their belts, John Purdy and Joe Maio, as roommates in Beast Barracks, the culture shock on both sides of the room was resounding. When the revelation that Purdy’s most advanced math class in high school had been algebra, Max was only able to conjure up an eye roll in response.

Although he initially chaffed at the “Army way” of life, Max earned his classmates’ respect for his unhesitating willingness to help those less academically gifted. His tutoring sessions in the sinks, in all subjects, were legendary in the company, and he willingly gave up the honored status as a star man to mentor any-and-all who were “deficient.” He usually showed public disdain for being known as “Max with the facts,” but we sensed it was a deep source of pleasure and pride for him. Max’s pronouncements, known as “Potterisms,” became renowned throughout the Corps. Beyond his tutoring, Max took good advantage of the wide spectrum of extra-curricular opportunities when he abandoned his “brown boy” for more social undertakings. His club activities over the four years included Russian, Rifle, Lacrosse, Hi-Fi, Camera, Fencing, Debate Council and Forum, and the Glee Club. Along with the other Glee Club members, Max had four appearances on the nationally televised “Ed Sullivan Show” and three occasions to perform for the Bataan Death March survivors and General Douglas MacArthur at their annual reunion banquet at the Waldorf Astoria.

Commissioned in the Field Artillery, where he briefly served, Max made a branch transfer to Military Intelligence, which seemed more fitting to his IQ. The transfer, no doubt, fit his well-honed analytical prowess and assuaged the need to help others see the same justice in the “facts” as he saw them, this trait of sharing his well-considered opinions was the source of great angst in the fog of the Vietnam War, where Max served two tours in Military Intelligence in the field, earning a Combat Infantryman Badge and three Bronze Stars.

Between tours in Vietnam and after earning a master’s degree in political science from Ohio State University, he returned to West Point to teach social sciences, and it was here that Max developed the idea to create the USCC Pipe and Drum Corps, which became and remains an integral part of the Academy today. The group has traveled and performed in a variety of venues and performs in the Battle of the Pipe and Drum Bands on the day prior to the annual Army-Navy Game.

Upon his return from his second tour as an advisor to the 109th Military Intelligence Group in Vietnam’s contentious and corrupt Phong Dinh province, Max’s unrecognized and emotional combat wounds overcame his ability to function, and he was medically retired in 1973 as a major with one of the earliest cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After leaving the military, he worked as an account executive at the NYSE with Merrill-Lynch, as an analyst for the Congressional Research Service, as a research historian for TRADOC, and as dean of the Villa Oasis School in AZ, among other ventures. During this period, Max wrote and distributed to a limited list a quarterly “newsletter” that enumerated his disillusionment with the flourishing careerism within the military’s officer ranks and rampant corruption that he observed in the native military and civilian leaders while in Vietnam.

His greatest skill set, teaching, brought him to Fort Bragg, NC in 1990 as an archivist for the JKF Special Warfare Center School. There, in Fayetteville, he fathered two children, Diana and Robert and lived out his years.

Max’s happiest time were his cadet years. He was proud to have been a cadet and an officer, but the Army itself and the execution of the Vietnam War disappointed him in its lack of clarity in defining an obtainable objective. In the end, he could not square the mission with what he had been taught and in which he firmly believed. Max was wounded in Vietnam as severely as those hit with shrapnel. He could neither articulate nor express the outrage he felt with our institutional moral failures and lacked the capacity to heal his own wounds. Max was a sensitive and astute old soul with a penetrating intellect and probing curiosity who served his country and his conscience in difficult times. Max with the facts just may have been a man who knew too much. He died in 1994 in Fayetteville, NC at age 54 and is interred at West Point.

— Ken Hruby, Jack Fischer, Joe Maio and John Purdy ’61 roommates