John Hamilton Ruckman
* The following is an original essay “in progress” and written by P.S. Ruckman, Jr. The author welcomes all comments; especially those that might be helpful for purposes of documenting facts or events described herein, or which shed light on Ruckman family ancestry pre-1858. Send e-mail to PSRuckman@aol.com. Last Updated – 2/5/07
Hamilton Ruckman was the son of a notable United States Army General and the
grandson of a highly decorated war hero. He graduated from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and the
essay will attempt to track the life of Colonel Ruckman, from his birth in
John Hamilton Ruckman was born on June
5, 1888, at
John’s paternal grandparents, Thomas R.
Ruckman (1831-1904) and Mary O’Brien Ruckman (1832-1922), were farmers who
John’s mother, May
Early Childhood – Traveling With the Army
Hamilton Ruckman probably traveled much more than most children of his age as a
result of the fact that his father was a rising star in the United States Army.
“Jack” and May Ruckman moved to
In February of 1892, May gave birth to a second child, Marjorie Campbell Ruckman. “Jack” and May would have no additional children.
Marjorie Campbell Ruckman and
John Hamilton Ruckman
In April of 1893, five-year-old John
Hamilton served as a “page” in the wedding of his Aunt, Florence Hamilton, and
Otto F. Winterwerb of
The family then moved to
1900 federal census suggests eleven-year-old John and his eight-year-old
sister, Marjorie, were living with their parents in the Artillery Defenses of
Havana, Cuba. By the late 1890’s, Americans owned millions of dollars in Cuban
property (primarily related to the sugar, tobacco and iron industries). The
sinking of the
“Jack” Ruckman was transferred, however, to Fort Totten (NY) for duty at the
John Ruckman’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Ruckman, passed away in Champaign (IL) in August of 1904. Shortly thereafter, a leave of absence on surgeon’s certificate of disability was granted to Captain Ruckman for four months.
Ruckman attended Grammar School for two years and graduated from the ninth
grade at the
1903 Report Card from
During the course of a school year, Wilmington
Friends published a quarterly entitled Whittier Miscellany and Ruckman
served as the Assistant Editor. The March 1906 issue (volume III, no. 2)
featured one of his five-page short stories, entitled “A Mountain Fire” (pp.
7-11). The story was thick in description of a forest fire on the side of
Ruckman authored the short story, but also drew an illustration entitled “The man turns slowly in his saddle” (below). The effort would seem to suggest the 17 year old had considerable potential, if not a wealth of talent.
John Hamilton Ruckman’s 1906 Illustration:
“The man turned slowly on his saddle.”
On pages 23 and 24 of the March 1906 Whittier Miscellany, Ruckman wrote brief reviews of four lectures. He described the first - on Fridtjof Nansen’s famous voyage - as focusing on an “old” subject, but full of “new facts.” Nansen had published a thousand page account of his polar expedition (Farthest North) in 1897.
The second lecture was given by Jacob Riis (1849-1914), a native of
Jacob Riis, Lecturer
Ruckman wrote that the Wilmington Friends meeting room and gallery were “packed” and there followed what was “perhaps” the “finest lecture of the year.” He suggested that the students could have never realized the conditions in the tenement districts without actually seeing the places.
Jacob Riis Photograph of Hell’s Kitchen
Ruckman lamented the fact that the third lecture, by a Professor Pearson, featured no illustrations and, worse, began with poetry. He observed, that many students were soon day dreaming about “track meets and summer camps,” but a string of interesting stories (one about a bear) soon had everyone’s ear. Ruckman humorously observed that “one of the models of decorum” woke up “so quickly” that he tipped over an iron umbrella stand.” Professor Pearson was eventually given “tremendous applause” and was described as the school’s “most beloved speaker.”
The final lecture of the year was W. Roland Grant’s illustrated
Ruckman’s athletic ability was highlighted at the Friends’ School’s Annual Inter-Class Track and Field Games (May 11, 1906). He finished first in the 100-yard dash, first in the 220-yard dash, first in the pole vault, first in the 12-pound shot put, second in the high jump, third in the hammer throw and second in the broad jump.
17-Year-old John Hamilton Ruckman
Graduation day came on June 16, 1906. Ruckman and just four others were
candidates for diplomas. Each of the graduates gave a commencement speech.
Among the topics selected were German secondary schools, radium, the siege of
Off to Dear Old “Tech”
John Hamilton Ruckman entered Course II
(mechanical engineering – steam turbine option) at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in September of 1906, just after his parents had moved to the
From 1906 to 1910, Ruckman was a member of MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Society, the Technology Club and the Cosmopolitan Club. He also served as Treasurer of the Civic Club, art editor of the Technique, and a member of the Technique Electoral Committee. In addition, Ruckman was a member of the class football team, the track team (shot put and one hundred yard dash), and the Second Basketball team.
MIT Track Team – John Hamilton Ruckman seated, front, center.
In his eight semesters at MIT, Ruckman consistently scored marks of “P” (passed) or “C” (passed with credit). Given a publicized clash that his father once had with the Texas State Legislature over whether to teach German in public schools, it was somewhat ironic that John Hamilton substituted German for French. For his “general studies” courses he chose International Law and European Civilization and Art. Ruckman’s highest course scores, however, were in Applied Mechanics (100) and Physics: Heat (96).
He seemed to stumble in only one
semester, the January term of 1909.
Ruckman received three “D” s (deficiencies) in Differential Equations,
Machine Drawing and a Physics Lab. The only thing that might seem relevant (in
the eyes of this writer) is the fact that his parents, John W. and May H.
Ruckman moved to
In his second year at MIT, the twenty-year old Ruckman wrote a theme for English class that, “in point of expression,” was considered “much above the average.” The theme, entitled, “Why Take the First Two Years at Tech,” was published, in its entirety, in the April 1908, issue of The Technology Review (pp. 168-171).
Ruckman’s piece began with the simple question, “Should a man go to another college for two years before entering Tech?” The first paragraph of the piece heightened the seriousness of the inquiry by stating; “the long delay between the attainment of manhood and the foundation of a home by our young men is largely responsible for our most perplexing social problems.”
MIT Football Team - John Hamilton Ruckman seated on floor, far right
Ruckman noted “tuition and living expenses” at MIT were a “serious drawback” and the dormitory system was “another striking advantage” of such institutions. He recognized that the “companionship” of dorms would do much to “mitigate the first tedious, uphill, lonesome year” which had “proved the ruin” of many “excellent men” at Tech. Ruckman also took note of the popular argument that “college life” produced “broader men” while technical studies had an injurious “narrowing effect.”
That being said, Ruckman argued the
expense of his education was “money well invested.” He noted that, in the
previous summer, he had looked for a job in the
Ruckman considered the lack of dorms at MIT “abominable,” but added that “it becomes easier” for students after the first year and emphasized that college life is not all “plain sailing” either. Indeed, “many a freshman” had gone “to pieces” at other colleges and universities “from conviviality.” He also argued that the situation at Tech was “more like real life.” The second year student wrote:
The man who wishes to work on the
Bearing Straits tunnel must be able to stand loneliness, and the first year in
As for “broad” men coming out of college and universities, Ruckman explained that the debate was not new, having previously been considered as a tension between the classical or scientific education. Ruckman suggested, however, that the notion that there was a huge gulf between the two was “long ago exploded.” The best evidence of this was the fact that, at the time, “nearly all colleges” gave “as much attention to the sciences as the classics.”
But Ruckman made his own definition of a “broad” man explicit:
[He] is a man who is able to survey all questions and all objects from an at once impartial and disinterested standpoint; in other words, to form a true estimate of the acts of his fellow man, and to be able to appreciate the world in which he lives for its own beauty and not for what he can make out of it.
He then quickly concluded that, “considering the material” with which MIT worked, an education there did “far more” to make a man “broader, more intelligent and disinterested than that elsewhere.” In his experience, most men left the school “with little love of money” and a “firm resolve to be all-round men, masters of their craft, and to love and understand the works of nature.” Tech broadened men “splendidly” but, at the same time, gave them a means to earn a loving – something which the “average college” did not do.
The “Dome” at M.I.T.
Finally, Ruckman gave what he considered the reason “above all other reasons” to be a Tech man:
A Tech man [learns] during his first years at college to work. At other colleges one may become polished and all that, but he doesn’t learn to work. That is the point. That is why men from other colleges have such a hard time on entering Tech. That is why Tech men are in demand. That is why they pay the prices and stand the boarding houses. That is why they can learn more than other students in a given time. It is because of the spirit of Technology. “Work is here for every man, and every man is here for work.”
The twenty-year old who would later serve in WWI, rise to the rank of Colonel in the Army and participate in the Manhattan Project wrote:
I am ready for work and like it, and believe that I am being fitted for greater work in future. [Tech] is, with all her drawbacks, the greatest college in the world; and that is why I am here.
The May, 1908, issue of The Tech (the school newspaper) was, of course, thrilled with Ruckman’s summary and general conclusion. It reported the publication of Ruckman’s essay on the front page.
In November of 1908, The Tech featured a lengthy “communication” from Ruckman regarding whether or not “the Tech man considers himself and his alma mater equals to other men and colleges.” To address the question, Ruckman considered attitudes toward athletics and the Institute in general.
He noted other institutions (such as
With respect to sports that already existed, the situation seemed worse. Ruckman noted track was considered “the one thing worth supporting,” but the number of supporters at events ranged from only three to fifty. Many considered basketball, a “minor sport”, so it may not have been a surprise that one outing drew only three fans. Ruckman concluded Tech men did not see themselves as the equals of other college men.
With respect to the Institute, Ruckman noted the “remarks” of men around him. They complained they learned more in high school and they were getting “robbed.” They always had their eyes on some other better system for doing things that was being used somewhere else. Likewise, they complained that they were worked too hard by the “Stute.” He concluded that, if such persons really considered themselves the equals of other college men, they would learn more and participate in sports and the operations of the Institute.
John Hamilton Ruckman, 1910
Ruckman saw two exceptions to this defeatist attitude, Technique and the Show. He observed they are “the best productions of their kind in the country” because “the Tech men believe that they are.” Thus, he concluded, it would be best if Tech men were to simply “throw away this idea” that they were “no good” and realize there was “no cause to be ashamed” of Tech.
Ruckman completed his thesis in May of 1910. The fifty-nine-page work was entitled, “An Investigation of Stresses in Open Links.” Ruckman tested the validity of a formula that was generally used in computing the strength of hooks and other open links. Ruckman conducted several tests of elastic limits and yield points of specimens of steel plate when subjected to tension and bending, and to both combined. He used circular hooks of various radii and cross sections to collect his data.
John Hamilton Ruckman, Signature
From 1910 MIT Thesis
He concluded that the formula of interest was actually “dangerous” for rings of small radius and two alternatives were equally so. He concluded, however, that two formulas were “well adapted for the circular hooks of rectangular cross section.” The complete work consists of roughly ten pages of written text. The remainder consists of intricate charts, graphs, data summaries and formulas.
After leaving the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Ruckman worked for three years as a driller in the oil
At present, there is little information
regarding these years, but the Bulletin of the Department of Geological
Sciences at the
A second bulletin notes that Ruckman, a
Dr. B.L. Clark, and a field party from the Department of Paleontology created
the “Tejon Collection” in December of 1913. Ruckman researched the white shales
overlying a white sandstone member and discovered two fauna, one of which was
“small but characteristic of the Balanophylia zone,
Ruckman'a 1914 thesis was entitled: "Faunal Succession of Coalinga East Side Field, Fresno County, California."
In a resume that he put together in the
1940’s, John Ruckman identified his places of employment as follows: Calvert
Oil Fields, Ltd., Balfour, Guthie and Company, Glagow, Agts., Standard Oil
Company (New York, N.Y.), Utilities Commission (Washington, D.C.) and the E.I.
DuPont de Nemours Company. His work in oilfield operations also included
1916, Ruckman’s life took a dramatic turn, however. The turmoil in Europe
suggested, to some, that the
Shortly after the sinking of the
Nonetheless, over a thousand doctors,
lawyers, college professors, bankers and businessmen paid a thirty five dollar
enrollment fee and awkwardly donned their cotton uniforms a four week training
General Leonard Wood
Each dirt floored Plattsburg tent was
assigned eight men and training began each day at 5:55 A.M. (taps at 10:00
P.M.). General Wood addressed the T.B.M.’s (Tired Business Men) himself around evening
campfires with riding crop in hand. All of the training officers were
Ruckman attended Plattsburg from August
10 to September 6, 1916, as an employee of the E.I. du DuPont de Nemours and
In an August 14, 1945, letter to the Navy Liason Officer for the Selective Service, Ruckman wrote:
During this period, incidentally, I was one of the members of the “old American Legion,” from which the entire Reserve Organization of the U.S. Army and Navy was formed. I was also one of the Plattsburg Rookies in General Woods’ Camp in August 1916, getting my Reserve Commission as a result of an examination held there.
Russell, who describes the Plattsburg Camp as the beginning in the United Sates of “the twentieth–century conception of the citizen soldier” also notes that, by the summer of 1917, the Plattsburg Camp had “evolved into an officers’ training camp” where “ninety day wonders” emerged after three months training “with gold second lieutenant bars on their shoulders.”
Army Training: 1916-17
Ruckman entered the United States Reserves as a First Lieutenant on November 1, 1916. He was called into active duty May 8, 1917, and entered the Resident Officer’s Training School in Fort Myer, Virginia (just outside of Washington, D.C., and Northeast of Arlington National Cemetery), where he remained until the month of August.
On May 26th, the twenty-nine
year old asked Mary Warner Armstrong to marry him. Mary, born on October 26,
1896, in the State of
Ruckman was soon ordered to the 80th
Soldiers Training in
In the month of September, he was
assigned to the 157th Depot Brig and thus transferred to 2,400 acre
Camp Gordon in
On October 6, 1917, Ruckman was finally transferred to the 18,000-acre Camp Travis, Texas, and made Aide De Camp (an officer who acts as a military assistant to a more senior officer) of the 179th (or “Oklahoma”) Infantry Brigade. There, he was in charge of communications and reconnaissance. The 179th was organized as a component of the 90th Division which took as a nickname, the “tough ‘ombres.”
John Hamilton Ruckman in Camp
Interestingly, Ruckman’s fifty-nine year
old father, Brigadier General John Wilson Ruckman, had been nominated Major
General by President Woodrow Wilson the previous August and was made commander
of the Southern Department in September. As a result, the father was based at
Fort Sam Houston, in
Unfortunately, General Ruckman, whose name was already a mainstay in the nation’s leading newspapers, had drawn exceptional attention to himself by building a set of gallows overnight and sending thirteen soldiers to their death. The hangings were in relation to courts martial following the Houston Riots of 1917.
John Hamilton Ruckman, 1917
Army Training: 1918-1919
The General’s son was made First Lieutenant on January 1, 1918, and was stationed in the headquarters of the 179th Infantry Brigade (90th Division). A little over a month later, President William H. Taft toured the camp and sat on the review stand with Ruckman’s father, the General. Taft gave also gave four speeches to the camp during his visit.
On March 16, Ruckman was certified in
the Infantry School of Arms,
Meanwhile, the General was busy holding
well-publicized meetings with the Governor of Texas and local religious leaders
in an effort to stamp out “saloons, vice and gambling” in the
in May of 1918, General Ruckman failed a physical that disqualified him from
the Foreign Service. He was returned to the rank of Brigadier General and, on
May 26th, placed in Command of the Northeastern District, in
The General’s son did not have the good
fortune to leave the anxiety of
Thus, three days later, John Hamilton Ruckman became a member of the American Expeditionary Forces and remained so until June 6, 1919. As a result, he saw action in the Saizerais Sector, the St. Mihiel Offensive, the Puvenelle Sector, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and served as a member of the Army of Occupation.
On July 27, 1918, General John J.
Pershing persuaded a conference of Commanders that American troops deserved their
own sector on the Western Front and chose the St. Mihiel salient. The Germans
had controlled the salient since September of 1914. The First Army and the
French II Colonial Corps took over the sector on August 30. On September 12,
When the St.-Mihiel Offensive was
complete, Pershing marched the entire U.S. Army to the
Major George Wythe’s History of the 90th Division notes the signalmen of the Division “were put to several tests, but in each case they were successful to a remarkable degree.” Wythe adds that General Joseph P. O’Neil was “kept informed of everything that was going on” by Lieutenant Ruckman “from an observation post on the ridge west of Bois des Rappes, his telephone having been installed in a shell-hole.”
Ruckman would later write that the
memory of six-week effort was “dear to every American soldier’s heart.” It was
– he said - a kind of “memorial” to “the unselfish devotion of comrades living
and dead.” The “
A time when death was a member of every company and when his presence came no longer to be especially dreaded. It was a time when petty jealousy, personal ambition and rivalry were slowly washed away in the blood of heroes; those who survived to the last days were able to catch a glimpse of what our nation and perhaps the world might be if all men could lay aside their individual interests and work as brothers for the common good. It was a vision such as few of us had imagined. It was one which we hope may never be entirely lost.
Ruckman was made Captain on November 1, 1918, and would never forget the last paragraph of an order that he received on November 2, the last day of the battle of the Meuse-Argonne. It read:
Captain J.H. Ruckman will establish an observation post and advance center of information on Hill 243.
As the new Captain told it, he was in place the next morning, just before 8:00. He watched American artillery send earth, brush and tree trunks in the air while the bodies of Americans and Germans from the previous day’s battle lay all around him. When battalions of infantry headed into the thick forest, there was no hostile fire and considerable concern that there might be some sort of trap. But the Germans had fled and, Ruckman wrote, “the day of glory had arrived.”
John Hamilton Ruckman 1917
The average advance of Ruckman’s division in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was twenty-two kilometers and when the last bullet flew, it had been under constant fire from August 20th to November 11 (excepting seven days in changing sectors). In that time, it went “over the top” (charged out of the trenches) in two major offenses and seven minor offenses and never relinquished a single foot of ground to the enemy.
Twenty-three years after the war, Ruckman would note the November 10 anniversary of events at Stenay, the last French town to fall into American hands before the Armistice took effect.
Ruckman also provided commentary on the “new problems” that arrived just after the signing of armistice. He observed the “organization and discipline” of the German army was lost “temporarily” and a common sight for abandoned automobiles were the scrawled words “Parol ist Heimat” (The watchword is home). Ruckman notes that the evidence of this disorganization soon “disappeared,” however, and the Germans appeared anything but “beaten or demoralized.”
On the other hand, Ruckman observed, “the entire American Army suffered from a severe depression of morale” after the cessation of hostilities. He attributed this depression to a number of things including: hostile propaganda, physical and mental exhaustion, the loss of comrades, “disappointment at the unspectacular finish of the campaign” and, of course, homesickness. He gave great credit to the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Army Educational System for preventing this mindset from having “serious” results.
On November 10, Ruckman was made Adjutant General (or Chief Administrative Officer) for the 179th Infantry.
The following month he became an Assistant G-2 (Intelligence Officer) at the Headquarters of the 90th Division.
General T. Allen and Staff.
Ruckman on back row, far right.
Lonnie J. White’s 1996 work, The 90th Division in World War I,
notes the reception for the Division’s troops back was particularly hearty when
As the year 1918 came to a close, the wife of a professor Sedgewick at MIT wrote a letter that suggested that a book be written which recognized the contribution of Tech graduates to the Great War. The suggestion was forwarded to another individual, then taken up at a meeting of the Alumni Council. On June 6, 1919, an eight-member committee of graduates and faculty met and outlined a plan for the book. They also constructed a “provisional” table of contents. As originally conceived, a different individual would edit each chapter of Technology’s War Record. But a decision was eventually made to place the entire publication of the book into the hands of Captain John H. Ruckman who was an instructor of Modern History (economic) at the Institute.
Five months later, “blanks” were mailed out to alumni. In November, The Tech reported Ruckman had received “an encouraging number” of replies from circular letters. At that point, he estimated a total of 3,363 MIT graduates had participated in the War and 1,396 were members of the American Expeditionary Forces. Ruckman had also identified 121 individuals who had lost their lives. Eventually, he received information related to six thousand “records.” A search through Technology periodicals and other publications raised the total number of persons that were recognized in his work to 8,000.
On May 18, 1920, The Tech reported that very few copies of the first printing of Technology’s War Record (fifty six hundred in all) were not “already spoken for.” But, a little over one month later, an editorial noted Ruckman was getting a “half hearted response” to his requests for information. By October, The Tech reported “delays caused by lack of cooperation from the Alumni” had “held up” the publication of the War Record book. Ruckman was reported to have been “embarrassed” by this “lack of interest” or “backwardness.”
Cover, Technology’s War Record
John H. Ruckman, Editor
Ruckman’s role as Editor of Technology’s
War Record was certainly downplayed in the publication itself. He penned a
four paragraph Foreword (page vii) that set the tone for the narrative
that followed. He noted MIT was “not only a valuable auxiliary in developing
commerce and industry in time of peace” but “in time of national emergency it
becomes an indispensable part of the Nation’s military organization.” He
acknowledged that the “real history” of the War was “written it the shell-torn
fields and forests of
John Ruckman and Mary Warner Armstrong were finally married September 20, 1920. John was thirty-one years of age and Mary was twenty-three. The marriage would last forty-six years and produce three children.
Mary Warner Armstrong Ruckman
Ruckman’s connection to M.I.T. was surely a factor in the 1920 campus appearance of General Leonard Wood, his Plattsburg mentor. Ruckman served as a member of a committee that was “appointed in charge of reception of the distinguished visitor.” The Tech reported that Ruckman’s father, General John Wilson Ruckman, was also among the “prominent persons” attending.
October 28, 1920, John and Mary Ruckman had their first child, a son, and named
it John Hamilton Ruckman, Jr. John Jr. would later test successfully into
John Hamilton Ruckman, Jr.
The new father, John Hamilton Ruckman, accepted appointment as Captain of Infantry in the Officer’s Reserve Corps on March 12, 1921.
April 10, 1921, the Decatur Daily Review reported Ruckman had found
shells that were “fifteen million years old” in
Almost two months later (June 1921),
John Ruckmans father, Brigadier General John Wilson Ruckman, died in
John Wilson Ruckman
The following November John and Mary had
their second child, a son, in
Peter Sturges Ruckman
(1922 – present)
Nine months later (August 1922), John
Ruckman’s Irish born grandmother, Mary O’Brien Ruckman passed away in
In 1923, Ruckman moved to
John Ruckman’s mother, May Hamilton Ruckman, passed away in April of 1925.
On June 3, 1928, John and Mary had their
last child, Marion Armstrong Ruckman.
Marion Armstrong Ruckman Dodge
In the 1930 federal census, John was forty-one years old and his wife, Mary W., was thirty-three. Their son, John Hamilton, Jr. was nine years old and Peter Sturges was eight. Marion, the daughter was one. John listed his occupation as “civil engineer.”
Ruckman’s tours of active duty included several two week stints at Fort Des Moines (1924), Camp Curtis, Topeka (1925), Fort Des Moines (1925), at the 354th Infantry Training (1929), Fort Crook, Nebraska (1930), Fort Leavenworth (1931), Fort Riley, Kansas (1932), Fort Leavenworth (1933 and 1934), Fort Crook, Nebraska (1935), 7CA Headquarters, Omaha (1937) and Fort Leavenworth (1938).
From 1924 to 1940, Ruckman also took at least seventeen Army Correspondence and Extension Courses. Across this period he was Captain, then Major and Lieutenant Colonel of the 354th Infantry Reserve. Ruckman’s classes and scores were as follows:
John Hamilton Ruckman
Army Correspondence / Extension Course Title
Administration, Discipline & Courtesies
Military Hygiene and First Aid
Tactics, Techniques of Inf. in Offensive and Def. Combat
Tactics and Techniques of Infantry and Associated Ams.
Command, Staff and Logistics – Infantry
Troop Movements and Shelter
Prep. Subjects: Tactics, Technique of the Separate Arms
Tactical Principles and Decisions
Troop Leading: Command, Staff and Logistics
Tactical Principles ad Decisions
Tactical Principles and Decisions
Mil.Org; Combat Orders; Estimate of Situation
Troop Leading & Command Staff & Logistics
Command, Staff, Logistics: Terr. Org; Mobil.& Troop Leading
On September 23, 1940, Ruckman returned
to permanent active duty. On that day, he also purchased a “Daily Reminder”
from the Standard Diary Company of
to active duty. Reported to Adj. Gen. M.R. McLean, who informed me unnecessary
to see Gov. Ratner. Visited Rollas Clymer of Kansas Industrial Development
Comm, also H.R. Miller of Kansas Planning Bd. Then Jeff A. Robertson Commr. of
Labor. who referred me to Chas. B. Newell, Dir. of Unemp Comp. Div. Later
showed me figures on available labor for munitions but stated unable to
provide. Ref. To
Payne Ratner, Republican
Ruckman was assigned to the Ordnance
Department on January 29, 1941. He later learned, from the Associated Press,
that he was ordered to the Army Ammunition Plant in
By February 11, Ruckman still had no specific
duties and was spending time in the public library, studying chemistry and
visiting various plants. He moved into
One benefit of being in
March 1, he had breakfast at the
John Hamilton Ruckman
On March 10, his orders finally came through and he seemed pleased that he was “now back in the infantry.” Meanwhile, back at the office, he still had no specific duties until the 12th, when he was made liaison officer to Engineering Branch Construction Division, Office of the Quarter Master General. Later, in a personal letter, he wrote:
I believe that I was transferred to the Ordnance Department chiefly because they thought me too old for rough and tumble fighting … I understand however [they] are now talking about waiving all eligibility rules … Should this rumor prove true, I may a little later find myself where I can be a little scared as well as busy.
On September 22, Ruckman wrote:
Thus endeth my first year of “active service” in the undeclared war of 1940 - ? Quite appropriately, the only event was a trip to the dentist and an unsuccessful attempt to buy t some “cit” clothes. Stuff hasn’t risen in nominal price but its shoddy.
Ruckman’s asked to be relieved of his duties there as they were, in his opinion, “becoming trivial.”
October 6, 1941, Ruckman learned that he would “probably” be sent to
a quick trip back home, to
Ruckman also spent the first couple of
nights (and several thereafter) sleeping in the
In late November and early December, Ruckman
found a suitable location on the Depot for the construction of a testing lab, a
guard house, and new surveillance lab. On December 3, he also went to watch a
His diary entry for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, December 7, 8 and 9, 1941, read, in part:
Slept late. I came out. My leg is still
sore so I nursed it all day till about 4:30. Then I started to get supper and
discovered Japanese had surprised
Ruckman was given orders to “prepare for bombing” and spent some time working on an air defense plan. He also conducted a general inspection of the Anniston Army Depot on December 9 which did not “please” him “much.” In “buckets” of ran and “red mud,” he struggled with the installation of a siren and concluded the guards were “only about half efficient.” One morning, at 2AM, he knocked over a barricade “trying to outfox them.”
24 was ready by December 15, but Ruckman complained of “too many men” in the area
and found it particularly “annoying.” He also learned that the
The engineers finally took over the
construction division on the 16th and the Depot received its first
out-shipment order. By the 17th, the Depot was shipping out bombs.
On the 21st it received an order for 3,500,000 rounds of 30 cal for
As the year ended, Ruckman seemed to gauge the progress of the Depot by the fact that 29 cars had arrived on December 29. He noted that, if they had arrived just two months earlier, it would have been “disastrous.” As things stood, the Depot was “not much jarred” by their presence. Ruckman was also notably calm about the fact that the “big bombs” were starting to come in. 1941 as “one hell of a year.”
A historical report of the Depot would later note:
On the first of July 1942 the Anniston Depot Guard, if not a unique organization, was at least a most remarkable one. It was a well disciplined body of armed men equipped with revolvers, rifles, shotguns and some Thomson guns and possessed of considerable automotive transportation,. But in the last analysis at that date, its members possessed no standing as police officers while under the laws of War they could be classified only as guerrillas; the only excuse for its existence was that of military necessity.
Ruckman was awarded the American Defense Service Medal on August 6, 1942. Two months later, the Adjutant General in the War Department informed him that he was also awarded the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal.
In October of 1942, Ruckman wrote:
It is perfectly true that I have been quite busy in getting this Depot organized, but I don’t look forward with any great joy to operating it once it becomes a going concern. To tell you the truth, taking ammunition off a freight car, putting it in a magazine, waiting two weeks, taking it out of the magazine and putting it back again on a freight reminds me a little of the old “shot drill” which they used to use for exercising convicts when I was a youngster.
Two weeks later, in a letter to Robert Bunten of the Merchants National
Hereabout we are living the same old life with periods of quiet altering with others of furious activity. Between Commanding Generals who want stuff delivered day before yesterday and theoretical perfectionists who want to see that no one works overtime, I am certainly having things to think about … Whereas in the past it has always been considered axiom that the simplest plan is the best, the good old United States Government seems to get more complicated every hour.
In November of 1942, Colonel W.A. Capron took over as Commanding Officer at Anniston and Ruckman became the Depot’s Executive Officer and Security Officer – a position that he retained until April of 1943. Capron spoke glowingly of his predecessor. He noted Ruckman was not only the commanding officer, but responsible for “all matters of construction” there since the beginning, in 1941. Ruckman’s supervision of permanent buildings, railroads, roads, switch yards and “pertinent equipment and utilities” involving more than twenty million dollars was of such quality that Colonel Capron recommended him to the War Department for the Army decoration of the Legion of Merit Award.
Ruckman did receive a special letter of commendation from inspector General through Fourth Service Command.
From May of 1943 to August of 1943, Ruckman served as Executive Officer at the Seneca Ordnance Depot, a ten thousand acre facility which is known today as the Seneca Army Depot Activity. He arrived at the Depot (near Romulus, New York) on May 9 and enjoyed a “nice hotel” and a “good room” before an “amusing old character” came in from the Depot picked him up. Ruckman described his escort as an “ex-3rd Division and Texas Ranger” who told him some “wonderful lies.”
On May 10, Ruckman reported that he had been assigned to “renovation and brass popping” but, in the days that followed, he seemed pleased that he was getting more men, that production was “not so bad,” and that things seemed to “click.” Characteristically, he observed that the guards were “not alert” at Post 23. He also complained that ten women, all of whom appeared “virtually good for nothing” were sent to him by one Straub. At the end of his first month, Congressman Tabor came to the Depot for a “ceremony.” Ruckman noted Tabor arrived late, “as is usual for his type” and never did make it to the L.C.L. building.
The popping plant (Building S311) was shut down in June, for a period of time, and Ruckman quickly concluded that the “work” in “renovation” did not “suit” him. Within two weeks he was told that he would be made a “stores” officer. He then heard that he was being “held” for something and the big news finally came on June 30. Ruckman was informed that he would be in charge of tactical training in the ammunition companies. He explained the decision as a result of the fact that they “made an awful flop of their night exercise.” On the other hand, he noted they had been “badly coached” and had “no guns, no signal lamps, no auxiliary equipment, no nothing.” A few days later, Ruckman had dinner with the “men,” for the first time since 1919 or 1920, when he was with his father somewhere. He also gave them “a little talk.”
Ruckman inspected his companies, rearranged the troops, and worked on patrols and shelter in a series of showers and drizzles. He also continued to eat with the men and lecture afterwards. His companies also worked on marches and outposts while he “got the decks cleared of officer candidates.” Ruckman lost weight in the process but complained that the troops were not “improving” as fast as he would have liked. The 690th missed a rendezvous on a night march and struggled with tent holes in the dark. When the 689th showed up badly at drill, he had “quite a conference” with them.
By July 12th, Ruckman had his companies deploying for attack and beginning emergency motor movements and parachutists attacks. But, when he broke out the blank cartridges and had a “bang up advance guard problem on his hands.” A Captain got captured “again.” Another midnight rendezvous failed on July 17 and the 690th was shot up “like a bunch of boy scouts first night in camp.” A “hot reception” followed at 4 AM.
An “A-1” convoy practice was held on July 20 and a “fair” gas drill followed. Ruckman attempted to arrange for target shooting, but found the range (near Pine Camp) was not set up for “street fighting.” In addition, a Colonel with an armored division “assured” Ruckman that his troops could not use the range. Ruckman calmly wrote in his diary that evening, “I’ll get through OK.” Meanwhile, the “idea” of him being made an “operations officer” was “again up.”
On July 30th, an inspector General – a Colonel Hood – arrived and Ruckman considered him “about the best” that he had seen. Hood put people “through their paces” and was meticulous about dog tags, identification of equipment and service records. Ruckman worked until 10 PM that evening, but seemed pleased that he had “learned a lot” from Hood.
Ruckman was made “operations officer” on
August 5th and was pleased with the manner in which one of his
companies marched through the woods at night. Four days later, the companies
packed watched his men “aboard.” He noted that they were heading for his “childhood
home of Hampton Roads” (
Mary Ruckman came to visit her husband as the month came to an end. Her husband said she looked “very young and pretty in very becoming clothes.” They spent several days together, visiting the Depot, canoeing and going to dinner and the movies. She also watched him play second base with the “bandits” and got all that she could at a clam bake.
On September 5, Ruckman wrote that it
was “like the old days at
On November 4, 1944, Ruckman was ordered
to proceed to Jefferson Barracks to be mustered out. He sarcastically called it
“some ending for J.H. Ruckman.” Five days later, Ruckman said “good bye” to
staff and the popping plant gang. He then traveled to
Seemed to be damned good soldiers. One of them clicked his heels so loud that I saluted before I realized he was giving me the Nazi high sign.
Ruckman took the train back to
On December 21, Ruckman received a call
from Stuart Snedden in
Ruckman negotiated his salary and looked
over his new job, which was “interesting but puzzling.” He was also “processed
and processed, mugged, finger printed and social security numbered.” On his
Social Security application form, he listed his home address as
On January 27, Ruckman bought some “civilian sox” and, later, “donned” his “civies.” His wife cried when he gave her his tags. He packed his bags and got on the train. Later, he noted in his diary that the career of “Lt. Col. John H. Ruckman one-time C.O. 2nd Bu 354th Inf 89th Div” had officially ended. In a membership application to the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers dated June 4, 1945, Ruckman stated he was the Chief Research and Design Engineer for Fercleve and that he was specifically connected with the Manhattan Ordnance District’s “Project S-50.”
The S-50 Plant at
Thermal diffusion uses heat transfer across a thin layer of liquid or gas to separate isotopes. Cooling a vertical film on one side and heating it on the other produces convection currents, an upward flow on the hot surface and a downward flow along the cooler side. Under these conditions, lighter 235UF6 molecules will diffuse toward the warmer surface and heavier 238UF6 toward the cooler side. The combination of this diffusion and the convection currents causes the lighter U-235 molecules to concentrate on top of the film while the heavier U-238 goes to the bottom. This was a simple, relatively low-cost process, but it consumed much more energy than the gaseous diffusion (the only process used during the Cold War). The S-50 Plant contained 2,100 columns of nickel and copper pipe, each almost 50 feet long, which provided initial enrichment of uranium for the gaseous diffusion.
Columns at S-50 Plant
But one writer notes that the “quantities of U-235 and plutonium
For the moment, firm holding this Contract and details of work had better remain confidential.
Our outfit [Fercleve] for extremely good reasons, has not received a great deal of publicity, but just “between us boys,” we modestly admit that “We Won the war.”
Ruckman’s Manhattan Project Certificate
Ruckman kept his personal diary
faithfully from January 27th of 1945 to September 29th the
day that he packed up everything and returned to
As a resident of
Ruckman applied for retirement benefits on February 1, 1949.
In February of 1950, he became a corresponding member of the Geological Society of Washington, founded in 1893, to “promote the increase and dissemination of geological knowledge.”
On September 23, 1950 (a date that
Ruckman would recall in his personal diaries ten years later), Ruckman donned
his uniform a second time “to bring peace to the world” and reported for duty
John Hamilton Ruckman, circa 1950
Rear Admiral R. E. McLean, Jr. invited
Colonel Ruckman to participate as an “civilian observer” onboard the U.S.S. Murray, a Fletcher Class
Destroyer off of the
On February 27, 1959, he was made a Lifetime Member of the Kansas Engineering Society.
John Hamilton Ruckman, circa 1960
John Hamilton Ruckman died on August 10, 1966, in
Grave of John and Mary Ruckman
John Hamilton Ruckman: The Man
W.A. Capron, who replaced Ruckman as Commander at
Colonel Ruckman is of the highest type, sincere and honest to a fault. His character and reputation are absolutely unimpeachable. His code of ethics is of such a high order that I have known him, upon numerous occasions, in the interest of truth to make professional enemies when he could readily have avoided the issue by a minute departure from technical fact.
“Atomic Bomb Aid Wins ‘E’.” New York Times, September 11, 1945.
Historical Report of the Organization and Activities
The Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. at http:childrenofthemanhattanproject.org.
Rinaldi, Richard. A 2005. Orders of Battle: The
Roster of Attendants at Federal Military Training Camps, 1913-1916. Military Training Camps Association.
Vogel, Peter. 2001. “The Last Wave From Port Chicago.” http:www.portchicago.com.
White, Lonnie J. 1996. The 90th
Wythe, Major George. 1920. A History of the 90th Division. The 90th Division Association.