Remembering Everett Pope

Everett P. Pope, a member of the Class of 1941 and a decorated World War II hero, died Thursday, July 16, 2009, during the early morning hours of his 90th birthday.

“With Ev’s passing, Bowdoin has lost a devoted son, while America has lost another of the great heroes of the Second World War,” said President Barry Mills.

Born in Milton, Mass., Pope excelled at Bowdoin, both academically and in athletics. Captain of the state champion Bowdoin tennis team, he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in French and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Pope was the recipient of the Goodwin French Prize and a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Shortly after graduation — and just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — Pope joined the U.S. Marine Corps and began to distinguish himself as a tenacious and courageous leader.

He fought at Guadalcanal, New Britain and on Peleliu in the Pacific, and was awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and the Congressional Medal of Honor — the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the United States armed services.

Pope was the fourth Bowdoin graduate to be so honored, following in the footsteps of Civil War veterans Oliver Otis Howard, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Henry Clay Wood.

Pope’s Medal of Honor Award for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but presented after Roosevelt’s death by President Harry S. Truman at a White House ceremony in June 1945. The award citation recounted the harrowing circumstances that faced Pope and his men:

“Subjected to pointblank cannon fire which caused heavy casualties and badly disorganized his company while assaulting a steep coral hill, Capt. Pope rallied his men and gallantly led them to the summit in the face of machinegun, mortar, and sniper fire. Forced by widespread hostile attack to deploy the remnants of his company thinly in order to hold the ground won, and with his machineguns out of order and insufficient water and ammunition, he remained on the exposed hill with 12 men and 1 wounded officer determined to hold through the night. Attacked continuously with grenades, machineguns, and rifles from 3 sides, he and his valiant men fiercely beat back or destroyed the enemy, resorting to hand-to-hand combat as the supply of ammunition dwindled, and still maintaining his lines with his 8 remaining riflemen when daylight brought more deadly fire and he was ordered to withdraw. His valiant leadership against devastating odds while protecting the units below from heavy Japanese attack reflects the highest credit upon Capt. Pope and the U.S. Naval Service.”

Following the war, Pope embarked on a career in business, serving for more than a quarter century as president and CEO of the Workmen’s Co-operative Bank in Boston.

Pope never forgot about his alma mater. A member of the Alumni Council from 1955-59, he served for 27 years on the governing boards of the College, including as an overseer (1961-77), president of the board of overseers (1973-77), trustee (1977-88) and chair of the board of trustees (1984-87).

Pope served on the building committee for Coles Tower and Wentworth Hall, chaired the committee that nominated A. LeRoy Greason to be Bowdoin’s 12th president and chaired the committee for the Bowdoin Memorial dedicated on June 4, 1994, to those who died in World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict.

Pope and his wife Eleanor had two sons, Laurence E. Pope ’67 and Ralph H. Pope ’69.

A memorial service for Everett and Eleanor, who died January 22, 2009, just a month shy of the couple’s 67th wedding anniversary, was held in the Bowdoin Chapel Friday, July 31.

“Ev Pope was a modest and thoughtful man. He was also a man of principle, courage and bold action,” said Mills.

“He once wrote of his admiration for fellow Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, declaring that Chamberlain’s ‘was a life that any one of us would be proud to emulate.’ The very same can be said of Everett Pope.”

Story courtesy of Bowdoin College News, originally published July 30, 2009. Photo of Everett Pope courtesy of Richard A. MacKinnon.