The Battle of Bancroft Hall

by Katherine Carradini, USNA ’84

Veterans Day has caused me distress for quite some time. As a 2 for 0, my standing with the Naval Academy has always been clear: if you raised your hand on I-Day, you’re alumni. Period. But Veteran? Could I count myself with those who went on to graduate, to serve on ships, in planes, and yes, even commanding those LMDs? My angst was always particularly acute during public patriotic ceremonies, where they ask you to stand when the anthem of your service is played.

To stand? Or not stand? Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. If I was with my kids, I stood, because I knew they wanted me to – they would look for me, even up from their high school graduation floor, scanning the stands to find me. They were proud of me…why wasn’t I?

It took a weekend visit with my Academy women classmates to resolve the issue in my mind. I had previously avoided these events, feeling that I didn’t quite belong. It took the sharing of stories, of the past and of the present, for me to understand.

I am a Veteran. I fought the Battle of Bancroft Hall.

Being part of the earliest classes at USNA was challenging in ways that I don’t think any of us ever expected. The harassment and humiliation were real. I got away pretty easily. Harassment came in the form of fending off amorous upperclassmen; a disemboweled mouse left on my desk, a class- and company-mate who tailed me and bilged me to our upperclassmen; and one particularly humiliating moment involving the entire dining hall, one incredibly beautiful, bouncy-blond-haired candidate and one sweaty, crop-haired, unmade-up plebe. One woman the midshipmen stood and applauded in appreciation as she exited the wardroom; the other they applauded as well, but clearly in derision.

I’ll leave you to guess which one I was.

And still, I got off easy. Other classmates were assaulted and abused. You know the stories. But still, we forged ahead. Today, we all agree that none of us thought of ourselves as Trailblazers, but that we were. Just being there, just persisting, helped pave the way for thousands of women who came after us. I’m told that there are women midshipmen there today who have no idea what we went through; so much is it not like that now. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing, or not.

I have decided one thing. I served my country. I helped open the Naval Academy to legions of women who would become Captains and pilots and astronauts. I fought the Battle of Bancroft Hall.

In celebration of my conclusion, I dug out my DD214, took it to my local Tag Agent, and asked for the Veteran Stamp – proudly, and without hesitation.

Happy Veterans Day – to all of us.



6 thoughts on “The Battle of Bancroft Hall

  1. Thanks for this from another who resigned at the end of youngster year. As a lesbian, I’ve rationalized that they essentially (in some ways quite literally) pushed me out, but I’ll always feel uneasy about ‘quitting’, about calling myself ‘USNA Alumni’ or ‘veteran’. Battle of Bancroft was very real for me – plebe summer there were many company or platoon come-tos just for the women, Playboy 21 was alive and well, my company, I was woken 2 times by drunken, amorous upperclassman plebe summer, told ‘you can’t’ and laughed at when declaring I was interested in Nuke power, told and made to feel that I didn’t belong as a woman, etc.

    I hope you got 2 full years in. I was released one week short of 2 years, am not eligible for most veteran benefits, notably VA healthcare.

    Karen Colton
    Class of ‘86

  2. I didn’t even make it that far as a 2-0 female due to losing too much weight in 1977 as part of the Class of 1981. You are a Veteran! If you have the DD214, the Government considers you a Veteran. You served the Women of Bancroft then and you are part of the legacy of the Women of Bancroft now.

  3. Karen, don’t know if you will see this but I was in 20th company before they moved me to 6th. We would hang together on Saturdays to get away from the BS. Just went to our 35th reunion for the class of 86 and TOOK MY WIFE! Talk about an eye opener. So inclusive. I would really like to talk with you because your female classmates are looking for you.
    Desiree’ Villarreal

  4. If I may, let me interject a few thoughts from one of the guys from ‘86. If I had it to do all over, the one thing I would have done differently is find a female classmate, or midshipman of any appropriate class, and made friends with them. Think about it for a minute, these girls, in many cases, had almost the exact same interests as I had and have. And not only did they have the same interests, they had to have a tremendous amount of drive, focus, perseverance, you name it. Good Lord, try lugging around an M-1 rifle all plebe summer at 6‘0 180, and that’s not such an easy task. I can’t imagine being 5’4, 110 and holding that beast at present arms for 10 minutes. These female classmates of mine are the Creme of Crop, if you ask me. I couldn’t be more proud of my classmates whether they drove ships or desks, or helicopters, or A-4’s. This 86’er missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime to meet the best this country has to offer!

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