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Former sailor Jim Rabideau remembers McCulloch with fondness

Arriving home from my 70th high school reunion at Coulee Dam, Wash., I found the MSU Connections magazine in my mail. The story of Minot State's involvement in the Navy V 5 and V 12 programs made me smile. I was part of the latter from March 1944 until the end of February 1945.

After testing at the Naval Officer Procurement station in Seattle, I was asked where I wished to be assigned. I knew of Navy V 12 units at University of Washington in Seattle, Gonzaga College in Spokane and Whitman College in Walla Walla. I put all three down, in no particular order, just as long as I remained in Washington. I believed the Navy cared about our desires.

Six weeks later, I received orders to report to the Navy V 12 unit at Minot State Teachers College, Minot, N.D. I knew where North Dakota was, but had no idea about Minot. Mom and I found a road map and located Minot, but didn't know how to pronounce it. Later, a local barber told me, and that it was the "Magic City."

I arrived by the Great Northern passenger train, along with 30 others on Feb. 27, 10 days past my 18th birthday, greeted by a blizzard and two feet of snow. I had a reasonable coat, but some of the guys from Los Angeles arrived dressed for summer. We were immediately issued uniforms and assigned to live in Dakota Hall; three of us in 303. Classes began March 1.

Hazel McCulloch taught U.S. History. The Connections story mentions her career and many accolades, but doesn't mention her teaching neophyte sailors. We learned she was a North Dakota native who cared about our success, and who went out of her way to be helpful. However, on occasion she could be distracted when a student raised a question out of context.

In April or early May 1944, stories in Time and Newsweek speculated on the possible invasion of Europe in the summer. A student asked Miss McCulloch if she had an opinion on whether there would be an invasion of Europe soon, as suggested in the magazines. I paraphrase, but this is what I remember:

"Quite possibly," she said. "I've been reading the tide tables for western France and learned the tides will be optimum for the Brittany area June 5 and 6. June 6 at 5 a.m. will have the lowest tide to avoid beach obstructions. It might be later if weather is a problem; otherwise the tides won't be low enough again until September, and farther to the north."

Well, she missed "it" by 30 minutes, as bad weather forced the landings to start at 0530 June 6. That date is noted annually, reminding me of that remarkable teacher at Minot State Teachers College, Hazel McCulloch.

I often wondered how a lady from North Dakota thought of tide tables. Many years later, I discovered she was a professional librarian, learned and astute. Miss McCulloch did a splendid job broadening the intellectual horizons of several hundred young Navy men. She deserved all the accolades she received, and many more. I am indebted to her for stirring my latent interest in history, and was delighted to see the Connections story, especially in light of the date, June 5, 2013.

This story was submitted by Jim Rabideau of Pasco, Wash. Read more about the Navy programs or McCulloch in the June Connections issue.