Nearly 50 years after he was killed in action in Korea, Army Lt. Richard West, '51, finally has joined his fellow Stanford veterans on the Memorial Auditorium plaque honoring the University's war dead.
Why West's name was left off the plaque in the first place has never been determined, according to University spokeswoman Kate Chesley, but the reunion can be credited to the persistence of several Stanford staffers and one particularly motivated classmate of West's, Fred Brosio, '51, JD '57.
Brosio barely knew West at Stanford, but the two--both second lieutenants--became close friends after their assignment to the same artillery unit shortly after graduation. They shared a tent during their first duty with the 3rd Corps Artillery, the original Army detachment that administered the Nevada atomic bomb test site in the summer of 1951. After shipping out to Fort Sill, Okla., later that year, Brosio and West went to separate units, and West, in May of 1952, was ordered to Korea. On July 19, a few days before Brosio arrived in Korea with his unit, West was killed by an incoming mortar shell while giving artillery batteries coordinate information from his forward observation post. The Army deemed West's performance under fire "heroic action" and awarded him, posthumously, the Bronze Star for Valor.
Brosio reconnected with his old friend when, early in 1999, he began collaborating with Chesley and Stanford development officer Kathy Veit, MA '88, to confirm West's killed-in-action status as a prelude to having his name placed on the Mem Aud Roll of Honor. They hit several dead ends before Brosio happened upon a letter West had written to him. West's military serial number was printed on the envelope, and with that, Chesley was able to verify West's service in Korea. University archivist Maggie Kimball, '80, eventually located an obituary that provided the date of death.
On September 15, local stoneworker Ken Kramer engraved "Richard Donaldson West" onto the Mem Aud plaque, bringing full circle a friendship that Brosio says continues to influence him. "I grew to admire Rick very much during the time I knew him; we did a lot of driving together back and forth to L.A. during holiday breaks, and we talked a lot. He was a very thoughtful person. He had all of the virtues anybody would want in a son. His loss for me really brings home the waste of war."
West's sister, Lenore West Chillingworth, '50, planned to attend her 50th reunion on campus in October and commemorate her late brother's overdue recognition on the Farm.