Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts

Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts

by Alvin Townley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312539337
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 202,296
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.14(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Alvin Townley spent a year traveling throughout the country to explore the legacy of America's Eagle Scouts. In thousands of miles of travel, he met with Eagles from all walks of life. The result was Legacy of Honor, a uniquely powerful narrative of character and virtue in American life.

Alvin's journey truly began years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, where he followed the Scouting path of his grandfather and father and earned his Eagle Scout rank with Troop 103. He is a Brotherhood Member of the Order of the Arrow and has completed High Adventure treks at the Florida Sea Base, the Northern Tier Canoe Bases, and Philmont Scout Ranch.

The author graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He has interned in the U.S. House of Representatives, served on the executive staff of an international consulting firm, and worked for his alma mater, where he built relationships with alumni across the country and spoke to classes on corporate strategy and ethics.

Alvin currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he works and coaches at Marist School. He also works with Reach for Excellence, a tuition-free program benefiting talented middle school students from underserved communities.

Read an Excerpt

Legacy of Honor

The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts

By Alvin Townley, 1st ed.

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Alvin Townley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9656-3


Part I

The Legacy Through History

The 110 million young men who have worn the Scout uniform, have left their marks on almost every major event in recent American history. Sometimes the organization itself helped to shape events. The Boy Scouts of America planned massive war bond drives during World War I and organized efforts to collect scrap metal during World War II. It launched early campaigns to prevent drug abuse during the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it regularly sponsors nationwide community service initiatives, mobilizing its 125,000 Boy Scout troops. Cub Scout packs, and other units.

Most important, however, Scouting has influenced America through its Eagle Scouts. As Scouts, not only did these young men learn skills, they also developed character. They learned to persevere as they climbed through the ranks. They learned about ethics as they followed the examples of their leaders. They developed a sense of duty to others as they served their communities, and they grew into true leaders, tested by experience on countless expeditions and projects. That combination of skills and character remained with them as they entered various arenas of adult life. And when they faced choices and challenges as soldiers and statesmen, teachers and parents, the virtues they exercised at critical junctures in our history shaped the nation for the better.

The Second World War

The first significant generation of Eagle Scouts earned the rank in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These young men belonged to a Scouting program that had finally become nationally established, having grown considerably from the time of its founding in 1910. Three decades into the twentieth century, the Boy Scouts of America had nearly 1 million members, with troops registered in every state. The Eagles of this generation were shaped not only by Scouting, but by the heady success of the Roaring Twenties and the wrenching uncertainty of the Great Depression. As they emerged from the dark years of scarcity that marked the 1930s, they began to steel themselves for the greater challenge that lay ahead.

Bill Kemp, an Eagle Scout and a Scoutmaster for seventeen years, was among the generation of Eagles who came of age during the Second World War. He was also among the last Scouts to see Scouting's founder, Lord Baden-Powell, and hear his message of peace. In 1937, Bill traveled to the Fifth World Scout Jamboree in the Netherlands where "B-P," as Baden-Powell was called, gave his farewell address to the boys he loved. The eighty-one-year-old "Chief Scout of the World" urged his audience to be brothers with Scouts of all faiths and backgrounds. He hoped they would keep their memories of the jamboree alive, saying "It will remind you of the many friends to whom you have held out the hand of friendship and so helped them through goodwill to bring about God's reign of peace among men." He hoped that somehow, the brotherhood of Scouting would avert the war he feared would come. Regrettably, it could not.

"That's the most vivid memory of my life," Bill recalled, himself eighty-one when we spoke. "He stood up at that bonfire with a Jacob's staff and he made a speech and said, 'You're my boys and before we meet again, we'll probably be at war. It's too bad the rest of the world can't get along like you can.'"

The storm clouds outside the World Jamboree continued to gather, and the days ahead would indeed be as dark as Baden-Powell feared. Sadly, he would not live to see the conflict's resolution, having died in 1941. Many of the 29,000 Scouts present at the jamboree also perished before peace was restored in 1945. But Baden-Powell's boys served well. A short decade after their mothers pinned the Eagle medal to their Scout uniform, America's Eagle Scouts led soldiers onto battlefields around the globe.

Steven Liscinsky of the Second Ranger Battalion traded his Scout pocket knife for an Army combat knife, which he jabbed into the rocky cliffs of Normandy as he scaled Pointe du Hoc before dawn on D-Day, June 6, 1944. On the Pacific outposts of Guadalcanal and Roi Namur, Mitchel Paige and Jimmie Dyess — one an enlisted sergeant, one a commissioned captain — earned Congressional Medals of Honor as they rallied their fellow U.S. Marines against enemy lines. Nearby on the beaches of Tarawa, Corpsman Ken Rook used the skills he learned in First Aid merit badge to help wounded soldiers until a Japanese bullet found his shoulder, making him one of the 3,300 casualties of the infamously vicious four-day battle. With thousands of deeds like these, this generation of Eagle Scouts began to create a true legacy as the collective virtues of their youth carried the nation through the Second World War.

Robert L. Scott, Jr.



On the afternoon of December 26, 1942, the planes of the Twenty-third Fighter Group were spread across an airfield in southeastern China. Combat and the elements had weathered the planes' green paint, but the blazing eyes and hungry jaws emblazoned on their fuselages still marked each as a legendary Flying Tiger. The leader of this increasingly famous unit, Colonel Robert L. Scott, Jr., surveyed his command proudly. Since his boyhood, he had dreamed of becoming a pilot. Gazing across the sunny field, he saw his dreams realized.

Soon, he also recognized a serious problem. His eighteen P-40 fighters lay scattered across the wide airfield to confound any Japanese pilots who made their way through the base's defenses, as they had days earlier. Unfortunately, the primitive radar system gave the American pilots scant minutes to respond to an attack. On this day, Scott could find no Jeeps available to deliver his pilots to their far-flung planes quickly enough to defend the base in the event of an attack.

Clerks paid little attention to his requests for transportation, instead referring him up the chain of command again and again. Worried that a flight of hostile bombers could find the base wholly unprepared and incensed by the lack of cooperation, Scott made his case for transportation to the major in charge of the airfield. Rebuffed again, Colonel Scott pulled rank and commandeered the vehicles his men needed. He stormed out of the office under a hail of court-martial threats.

As it turned out, the Flying Tigers got this necessary transportation just before air raid sirens began to sound. They piled into the Jeeps and sped to their planes as the sirens wailed. The squadron rolled down the runway, rose into the sky, and followed their commander as he winged toward their prey.

Scott always led his pilots into combat with supreme confidence. Thousands of training hours had prepared him for this very moment, and he always approached battle with a sense of serenity and purpose. His confidence spread among his men and filled them with the assurance that helped the unit become one of the most famous and successful squadrons of World War II.

That day, the perpetually outnumbered Tigers took their usual position relative to their targets, between the enemy and the bright China sun. As the twenty-seven Japanese bombers approached, Scott's fighters fell upon them from above. The American pilots quickly sent several victims spiraling downward, smoke billowing behind them. The remaining bombers jettisoned their payloads in the futile hope of gaining enough agility to escape the quick P-40s. Within minutes, however, the Flying Tigers downed the entire squadron of Japanese planes. Scott alone claimed four.

Confident that they owned the sky — as Scott later phrased it — the Twenty-third Fighter Group flew home. Scott's men returned to relax and recount stories of the battle, but Scott went straight to headquarters to find his commanding officer and personal mentor, Major General Claire Lee Chennault. Scott knew he needed to answer for the Jeeps he commandeered. He reached headquarters after dark and found Chennault waiting.

"How'd you do Scotty," Chennault asked.

"We shot them all down, sir."

"Well, that's good," Chennault replied patiently. "And the bad news?"

"Well, I had to commandeer all the base traffic."

"In that case," Chennault sighed, "General Stillwell will be raising Cain. You better go to Chungking with me tomorrow."

The next day, they walked into General Stillwell's office and found him hastily drawing up court-martial charges against Scott. Chennault asked Scott to leave. As he walked out the door, Scott overheard his mentor saying, "Now listen you so-and-so. You tear those up. If he hadn't done what he did, I would be court-martialing him!"

Scott's actions occasionally put Chennault on the spot, but Scott became a son to the general. Several years later, Chennault wrote of Scott: "His story is a record of persistence, determination, and courage from early boyhood. Having determined early in life that he had to fly, he overcame all obstacles in the way to the attainment of his ambition. This story alone should be an inspiration to every American boy."

Flight always fascinated Bob Scott, and in Troop 23 he began to explore his future. As his fellow Scouts set about earning the Aviation merit badge, Scott dutifully helped them ferret pieces of wood, fabric, and rubber from basements and scrap piles around his hometown of Macon, Georgia. As the boys began building model airplanes from their harvest of materials, Scott could feel their enthusiasm, but he didn't quite share it. The sandy-haired twelve-year-old had other plans.

The Scoutmaster had asked each Scout to build a model airplane, and while most Scouts conquered their task by building miniature models, Bob Scott had little desire to be like "most Scouts." Instead, he built a full-size glider, a contraption that dwarfed the rubberband–powered models pieced together by his friends. Scott wouldn't consider his glider a success unless it could fly — that is, fly with him in it — so he took his quest to the dusty streets that marked many southern towns of the early 1920s.

"I would run along the ground in Macon, and I could feel the wings trying to lift the glider upward, but of course, you couldn't run fast enough to take off," Scott explained eighty years later. "So then I had it towed behind our $25 Model T Ford, but the police ran me off the road. So I figured the thing I needed was altitude."

To escape both the police and the bounds of gravity, the young Scout turned his sights to Mrs. Viola Napier, who owned the tallest house in town. Mrs. Napier agreed to let Scott fly his glider from her roof after he promised to avoid her cherished flowers. "She must have thought it was one of those little old things with rubber bands," he recalled with a not-so-innocent grin.

With the help of his fellow Scouts, Scott hoisted the glider to the rooftop. Then with their cheers egging him on, he ran down the roof and launched himself and his glider into the sky. He felt the wings lifting him upward and found himself flying, peering down on Mrs. Napier's garden nearly three stories below. Unfortunately for both Scott and Mrs. Napier's flowers, however, a sickening crack announced that the wing had broken, and he suddenly found himself in Mrs. Napier's garden.

As his friends picked him out of the quagmire of thorns, wood, and canvas that his crash had created, Scott was scratched but even more resolute. Loving nothing more than a challenge, he decided he would become a fighter pilot — and an ace.

I first met General Scott nearly eight decades after he ruined Mrs. Napier's roses. I had discovered that his 1908 birth date ranked him among the nation's oldest living Eagles and soon learned that he also ranked among her most interesting.

On a chilly February morning, I drove through the small town of Warner Robins, Georgia, and found the Museum of Aviation, a complex of buildings and hangars guarded by a number of decommissioned planes from various periods of military aviation. I parked beneath a mounted Vietnam-era fighter and walked into the museum where a volunteer kindly pointed me toward the office of the general, the chairman of the museum's capital campaign and its living legend in residence. On my way to the stairs, I confronted a dark green P-40 with thirteen Japanese victory flags painted on its fuselage. It bore the eyes, mouth, and teeth of the Flying Tigers, and inscribed just to the right of the flags, I saw the former pilot's name, "Col. Scott." Before me was a replica of the plane with which then-Colonel Scott introduced his name into aviation history.

I found the plane's retired pilot upstairs in a simple sky-blue corner office. He was leaning back in an old swivel chair behind a desk only slightly less cluttered than the surrounding shelves and tables. Evidently, the general had been neglecting paperwork and cleaning in favor of golf. At the moment, he was discussing his new glasses with someone on the phone. As I overheard, he'd recently gotten his first pair, ever, but only so he could see better on the golf course.

He warmly welcomed me into his office, offering me one of the chairs in front of his desk. My subject quickly bridged the sixty-seven-year age gap between us, and soon we were laughing together as he recounted the tale of his quest for an Aviation merit badge, which his Scoutmaster awarded him for his effort — if not complete success — in flying the glider. He then arrived at a larger point about merit badges.

"Just about every single thing I did in Scouting — all those merit badges — was a new profession," he explained. "You can find people who know flowers, but they don't know birds. You can find those who can mix cement, but they couldn't take a hammer and a nail and hit the nail. You learn all of that in Scouting. I mean, you're even a little bit of a doctor. Every one of those merit badges makes you able to do different things. I had all the merit badges except three: Music, Interpreting, and Sculpture — and I couldn't get those now!

"One of the other main things the Boy Scouts teaches you is to be prepared, be prepared for anything," he continued. "And I knew that someday, I was going to meet somebody in the sky who loved his country as much as I loved mine. He might be better-looking, taller, stronger, or more agile, but he never was going to have the experience I had. And I bet you the first Japanese pilot I shot down was eighteen years old. He had two hundred hours at a maximum. I had ten thousand and was thirty-three."

Scott spent his younger years training incessantly to make sure he'd be ready when the call came. "I became what's known in the Air Force as a time hog," he said. "I flew every day and every single time that I was grounded, and I was grounded several times for flying too much. ... God un grounded me."

"For instance, I came to Mitchel Field. I was a second lieutenant, and it was the first time I had a plane with my own name on it. I flew it every day. At the end of the week, the commanding officer sent for me and said, 'I've finally found out who's waking me up every morning. Scott, how many hours have you flown since you got here?'

"I said, 'Eighty-eight, sir,' really proud of myself." I imagined the look of pride and feigned innocence Scott probably gave the officer. As he well knew, eighty-eight hours far exceeded the official ration of flight time. So, with a cold glare, the CO shot back his reply, "Scott, you're grounded until April!"

"And this was only October," added Scott, a trace of irritation still detectable all these years later.

Scott of course, didn't stay grounded for long. He was soon flying again and getting in trouble again. Out came a second illustration of how, in his opinion, his superiors frequently did their best to foil him in doing his best. He remembered another commanding officer reprimanding him and saying, "You know Scott, you've burned up enough gasoline to fuel a battleship!"

Knowing that his superior had recently crashed a plane, Scott cockily replied, "Yes, sir. But I never crashed."

In the years before World War II erupted, this 1932 West Point graduate spent much of his time training young pilots, all the while hoping for the chance to join a fighter wing. When Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he thought that his chance to fly in combat for his country and to realize his boyhood dream had come, but, as Scott put it, "No one called."

He spent hours furiously writing letters to every ally he had in the Army Air Corps, hoping for a transfer from his training assignment to an active fighter wing, with no luck. In truth, no one called because, according to Army standards, Scott was too old and too high-ranking for combat. His commanding officer, General Henry Harms, finally heard of his efforts and sat down with the dejected thirty-three-year-old flight instructor. Scott recalled, "He put a fatherly arm over my shoulder and said, 'Scott, you were a fighter pilot. Why son, you're thirty-three years old. Go on back down there and run that flying school and be patient. You might be the youngest general in the army.'"


Excerpted from Legacy of Honor by Alvin Townley, 1st ed.. Copyright © 2007 Alvin Townley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

A Second Eagle Scout Project
The eagle rank
PART I: The Legacy Through History
The Second World War
The Baby Boom Generation
The Struggle for Civil Rights
Wall Street
Beyond the Cold War
September 11, 2001
Hurricane Katrina
PART II: A Legacy for the Future
The Scoutmaster

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Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is something inherently innate about this book and the effect it can have on people. Myself, an Eagle Scout, I was shocked and surprised at the length of research and writing that was put into this book. I did not know that the Eagle Scouts had such a storied history, nor did I realize how much of an influence that the Eagle Scouts in America have. Reading about the Vietnam War, to the metropolis of New York had a profound effect and a lasting experience on myself. I know I will never look at Scouting again the same. I have a whole lot more respect for the badge that I wear and the people who have worn it, who were greater people than I. This book makes a great gift to any Eagle Scout for his court of honor, or to any Eagle Scout you might currently know. The writing style is informative and very flowing in its originality. I would recommend this to anyone who is also looking for an inspirational book to uplift their thoughts. Like I said before, this book has the ability to reach in and pull you in good directions. Recommend with the highest amount of stars I can give it, and I write reviews rarely, in relation to all of the books I read. Definitely a special book, and a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a valuable addition to anyone's leadership library. It explains the value of Scouting in general, and Eagle Scouts in particular to the US and the world...and it does so with excellent vignettes about a multitude of Eagle Scouts -- some world famous and many not known outside their communities. But they all share the values and character that Scouting instilled in them. If you have ever been a Scout, this book will remind you of why Scouting was likely an imporant part of your life and why it almost certainly helped develop both your character and the leadership skills you have used ever since. If you have never been a Scout, this book will help you understand those who were...and are Scouts. Well written, well organized and wonderfully insightful. A great leadership read.
Timothy Hill More than 1 year ago
If a scout needed any motivation to work for their Eagle rank this is it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an Eagle Scout I am quite aware that it takes hard work and dedication and that many of us have those qualities inbedded in us. These qualities help us in life as adults. Mr. Townley being a brother eagle also knows of this dedication and he wanted to see how other eagles have influenced american life, and how the scouting movement is changing the world one eagle at a time. For this reason this book is one of the better books that i have ever read and it shows us how ordinary people can change the world.
Mechen More than 1 year ago
I recently had the honor of speaking at the same banquet as Alvin Townley. He gave me a personalized copy of this book and I will honestly attest to its value. I achieved The Eagle rank in 2006. This book tells the stories of different Eagle Scouts and their endeavors. The book is testament to everything that it means to be an Eagle scout. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is or is aiming to be an Eagle. It also makes a great gift for Eagle Courts of Honor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author, a second generation Eagle Scout, tells a wonderful story of Eagle Scouts from the 1930's to the present day. Profiling Eagle Scouts of all abilities and accomplishments through the 20th to 21st century, what they gained and learned from their Scouting experience and how 30-50 years later their payback to their family, community and country in service to others. While not a Eagle Scout myself, I enjoyed reading how the Scouting movement has created such wonderful men out of unruly teenagers. The trail to Eagle, as the author explains so well, instilled the values that made a difference so many years later. I especially recommend this book to parents of Scouts and anyone who is a role model for young boys learning about themselves and service to others. After you read these stories, you will rededicate yourself helping others on the trail to Eagle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Inspiration from the past generation of Eagle scouts to the current and future generations. Did not realize some of these gentlemen were Eagle scouts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will get my eagle project done in july 2016 but i hate all the paperwork and the person right under me why did u rate it one star if u loved it?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an inspiring look at individual Eagle Scouts and how achieving that rank has influenced their lives. An excellent read for any young man contemplating the journey toward Eagle, or a way to commemorate the achievement of a new Eagle Scout.
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