A Corps Day Tale
By Commander Bill Lind, USN (Ret), Citadel Class of 1991
Corps Day is The Citadel family’s celebration of our collective history, an opportunity to reflect upon the heritage of our school and honor the accomplishments of our graduates. I recently joined The Citadel's staff, 25 years after my own graduation. Not a day goes by where I’m not reminded of our history and the bond all Citadel graduates share. Recently, I played a small part in a family’s 77-year experience with The Citadel, a story spanning several generations.
In 2009, I came across photographs my grandfather gave me from his time as a surgeon in World War II. He served with the 101st Airborne at Bastogne and spent the balance of the war supporting the advance into Germany. Of his many sobering experiences, one concerned the liberation of a prisoner of war (POW) camp previously evacuated by the Germans. During the liberation, my grandfather had taken a photograph of a concrete wall on which many of the departed POWs had scratched their names and information in case they ultimately went missing. No one knew the fate of these men, making this a particularly grim find.
Photo taken by LTC William F. Lind, DDS,
The photo of the wall centered on a message from one of the POW's. He had drawn a scroll, in which he scratched his name, rank, service number, and the date. Most chilling was the phrase he etched, “I am starving.” My grandad always wondered what became of this man, Captain Marion A. Parrott, U. S. Army. I kept the photo, as I had always wondered as well.
As it was now 2009, I referred to Google in an attempt to discover more information about this man--and so The Citadel connection began. I discovered a CPT Marion Arendell Parrott, a Citadel graduate from the class of 1939.
Further searching yielded an email address belonging to a distant relative of CPT Parrott, who was able to put me in contact with his wife and children. I wanted them to have the photo if they wished, an offer they quickly accepted. I sent them the photo and, after a receiving a very gracious thank you note, considered the matter closed.
In February 2016, during my first few weeks on staff at The Citadel, I was standing in line at The Canteen in Mark Clark Hall when I noticed the field jacket name tape of the Cadet behind me read "Parrott."
"No way," I thought, but still asked.
"Excuse me, but did you by chance have a relative who graduated in 1939?"
The Cadet's eyes lit up as he took in my Navy uniform and nametag. With no introduction or preamble he exclaimed, "You're the Navy guy who sent my Grandmother the picture!" He leaned over to show his right shoulder field jacket patch. Under his own "16" was a "39," in honor of his grandad. The cadet was Charles Parrott, CPT Marion Parrott's grandson. It seemed receiving the photo my grandad had taken in 1945 was a significant link for the Parrott family to their patriarch.
To further the connection, Cadet Parrott's first cousin LTC Sean Pike graduated with the class of 1990, and now serves as a TAC officer in second battalion. LTC Pike was able to fill me in on the details of Marion Parrott's wartime story, a tale worthy of the silver screen.
CPT Marion Parrott jumped into Normandy with the 101st Airborne on 6 June 1944. He was captured two weeks later. After attempting several escapes, CPT Parrott ultimately broke out of a camp in Poland in the winter of 1944, made it to Russian lines, and was repatriated to U. S. control. At the time he weighed less than 100 pounds.
Informed escapees were not permitted to return to combat, but CPT Parrott took advantage of a clerk's unguarded typewriter and rewrote his orders--directing him not back home, but to France to rejoin the 101st. He talked his way onto a transport plane, but messages to detain him were passed along before his arrival.
Corps Day 2016. Left to Right: LTC Sean Pike,
Military Police (MP) were waiting for CPT Parrott at the airfield in France. As he deplaned, it appeared his ruse was ended. However, The Citadel connection came into play yet again.
The officer leading the military police was CPT Parrott's roommate from The Citadel. After a moment catching up, the officer informed him that "it was a shame he would have to report that he 'missed' the plane's arrival and was unsuccessful in detaining CPT Parrott."
CPT Parrott returned to the 101st to finish the war. When the war ended, he returned home to Kinston, North Carolina, where he became a successful attorney, member of the North Carolina legislature, and founder of a private school. CPT Parrott passed in October 2000.
At Corps Day 2016, a reunion occurred on the Parade Ground. I was able to join CPT Parrott's wife Lillian Parrott, LTC Sean Pike, and Jeanette Parrott (Cadet Charles' mother, CPT Parrott's daughter), in watching Cadet Charles Parrott's final performance as a Summerall Guard.
It was a great way to mark my first Corps Day back on campus, reaffirming the bond between Citadel graduates--no matter how distant.