Lieutenant General Thomas M. Rienzi, RIP

 

 

Eulogies from the Class of 1969, USMA in addition to those already at

www.west-point.org/users/usma1942/12735/

Initial draft to be posted here NLT 1/17/2011 will comprise remembrances posted
on the USMA69 List or Forum, with submittals identified by poster's initials.

To correct, add, or delete, please contact Bill Bahr by clicking here.

Final draft will be posted to the west-point.org page on or about 1/21/2011.

 

6/2/2018   LTG's nickname was "Long Tom."  -- TL

12/16/2010

I recall LTG Tom Rienzi as a friend of the Class of 1969.  RIP.  Grip Hands... -- HD

Great guy.  Great inspiring speech.  Thanks.  -- JC

As a Signal Corps guy I remember him well.  He was a troublemaker at a rally in the mess hall - I remember coats twirling and flying - I'm not sure if there was table stacking.  But he was a dynamic guy.  On the first class trip around the country, when we got Ft. Monmouth he knew every firstie by sight that had picked Signal Corps in the straw poll - he recognized their faces and knew their names.  He was a great soldier.  -- EQ

I will never forget a talk he gave to us when we were doing our summer Branch tour before our Branch decisions. It was one of the major reasons I went Signal.  Not only did the way he delivered the talk inspire me, but also his approach to "being direct and basic"  -- TK

I almost decided to go Signal Corps because of him....a great soldier who was also direct and honest.  I first remember/ got to know him well during one of my only quasi-legal trips to "Snuffy's" (i think it was called).  Was certainly glad he had a driver waiting in order for us to return to school under the cover of legality and no DWI concerns.  Like EQ says, he had an incredible memory regarding people in our class, at least.  Saw him only once after graduation and he remembered our incident at Snuffy's and remembered other events at which it's conceivable I was a part of during rallys, etc.  The army probably broke the mold after creating that super guy, fun leader and one who knew how to get the job done without a lot of "show."  May he rest in peace.  -- RL

We folks in Hawaii have been fortunate to have had him here with us as a very active, outgoing leader.  He was a member of the West Point Society of Hawaii, and was at our recent Founder's Day dinner last April (after a brigade of the 25th returned).  He was in a wheel chair but definitely outgoing and full of life.  He was also a member of the Pearl Harbor Rotary Club, and de facto chaplain.  He was also a deacon at his church and a defining force at the retirement home where he lived -- Star of the Sea.  Like RL, I also almost went signal because of LTG Rienzi.  I planned to go Signal as I entered branch selection night in South Aud -- until a Corps of Engineers slot was still available  -- it was that close.  I was at Snuffy's and needed a ride back to USMA.  LTG Rienzi has a corvette that he borrowed from someone in the class of '68, who was at Ranger.  He said I could come back with him if I rode in the trunk.  I did. No ID card required or checked!   I remember him as always very positive, a leader, and blessed with a very strong "command voice."   ... may it be said "Well done"... Yes, WELL DONE!  -- LH

My foggy recollection of our Ft Monmouth sojourn recalls Max Clelland as his Aide. Can that be correct?  I worked for VA when Max was the administrator; and he also was an inspirational leader.  LH must have taken my Engineer slot, because I ultimately chose Signal Corps, had 10 months of TDY, spent 4 straight years OCONUS, and have been employed in technology ever since. I guess if both Les and Roger had gone Signal; I would have had no career.  PRO PATRIA VIGILANS   -- MD

Max definitely served as his Aide but whether or not during our firsty trip I donít recall.  Max is now the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission for which I am counsel.  Max stayed very close to General Rienzi and just visited him about a month ago.  Speaking of the Fort Monmouth trip, do you remember Gen Rienziís early morning charge through the barracks we were billeted in well before we were up and running?   He got your attention.  A fine leader and a great person. WELL DONE indeed.  -- BA

LTG TOM RIENZI was the primary reason I went SIGNAL CORPS and I am glad I did!  It was not only the GREAT time we all had at Fort Monmouth on our Senior Trip, BUT ALL that he stood for.  I really respected and admired him.  A GREAT Leader, A GREAT MAN and a REAL Friend to the BEST OF THE LINE!!!  My prayers and thoughts are with him and his family.  -- BM

This [picture, not included here] was when he was Cdr, 1st Sig Bde, RVN.  He loved the troops and loved his job.  -- GP

RIP,  Gen. Rienzi.  I don't think there is a member of the class that doesn't remember this outstanding, and motivating soldier!  The beach party he threw for us at Monmouth on the First Class Trip still lives in memory.  As Roger said, they broke the mold after making this General Officer.  He showed us that it was possible to be BOTH professional AND have fun doing it.  Did he not coin the phrase many (all?) of us remember and still use, "Redundant Communications is GOOD Communications!'??  Anyone know?  And all that is coming from an Infantry-ranked, Armor-transferred ASAP '69er.  -- JM

I remember meeting General Rienzi at Fort DeRussy in Hawaii in July after we graduated.  He gave me a firm handshake and introduced himself as Thomas Matthew Rienzi.  Ė MC

12/17/2010

Best motivator I ever met during those four years --bar none-my recall was his coined phrase "If you ain't got commo you ain't got shit"-how true that proved to be. -- BN  

You're absolutely right, BN!  I remember him gallantly supporting the Catholic Choir in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral, sweeping into the church in dress blues with the brilliant orange silk lining of his general's cape blowing in the breeze.  Two of my favorite quotes, one similar to yours:   "Without commo, all you command is your desk."  and my favorite: " You're not supposed to be 6' 6" as a general, so I tell people I'm 5' 18."  God bless a great soldier and a fine man.  -- JL

Dear BN:  Thanks.  Iíll join JL in giving LTG Rienzi credit for ďWithout commo, all you command is your desk.Ē   However, just to be 5x5, I recall LTG Rienzi giving fair credit to LTG Robert F. Sink, he of Band of Brothers fame, for ďIf you ainít got commo, you ainít got s#$&!Ē   Having gone Signal in part due to the fantastic effort General Rienzi and his team put forth during our First Class Trip visit to Ft. Monmouth, I especially remember an incident that still has me wondering about his outstanding promotional expertise.  You may recall the generalís penchant for placing pretty girls in all manner of presentations about the Signal Corps.  Well, do you remember one beautiful sunny dayís presentation outside with the class bleachers facing towards a tree-lined park?  Half-way through the class, all the cadetsí eyes moved away from the instructor and started following in mid-distance a gorgeous blond pedaling by herself a two-seat (tandem) bicycle as she traversed (over the course of several minutes) the field of view.  Who (besides yourself) would be the right person to sit on the empty seat?  Was this just part of normal Signal Corps life or did General Rienzi put her up to it?  We may never know!!   -- BB

BOTL [Best of the Line, class motto], how about "The winner of the next war will be the side that has the last antenna standing"?  -- AH

Classmates, it's great reading everyone's fond, funny and  serious memories of LTG Rienzi.  I'd forgotten the 5'18" matter.  I'm certain he's both surprised and pleased by our comments, but it's obvious that he made a significant impact on many of us.  You guys in Hawaii have been extra lucky to enjoy one of our favorite "old soldiers" during part of his twilight years.  LTG Rienzi and Bob Berry are two people that are/were part of a very select group of "uncles" / "big brothers" / mentors who reached well beyond their military or professional levels in impacting our lives.  We were lucky kids to have had their friendship and guidance.  Just lucky to have had the privilege of knowing them.  Makes me pause and wonder how many of us will be so fondly remembered??  -- RL

Dynamic, charismatic and impossible to forget.  An inspirational leader and simply a remarkable human being.  Living proof that a General Officer could also be a cool guy.  Although much of the First Class Trip is perhaps to most of us nothing but a blur at best, who could forget Fort Monmouth because of General Tom Rienzi?  -- SL

Well said, SL!  Really sums it up-(however I do remember driving tanks at Knox-Buffalo burgers at Sill and the dog tracks (Mexico) and dates at Bliss) but Rienzi's personal touch at Monmouth was unforgettable!  -- BN

GEN Rienzi retired on Oahu, and I was a battalion S3 in the 25th.  I asked him to speak to our officers as part of the professional development program. He met me at our quarters, which were a block from the Bn HQ.  I asked him if he'd like something to drink, and he said he would love a cold beer. Four beers later we walked down the street. The officers of 1-19th Infantry said it was the best PD speech they ever heard!  -- BN

Tying together the General Rienzi and Howitzer e-mail trails, I think thereís a picture of Gen Rienzi in the first class trip part of the Howitzer.  Heís on stage heading for the podium.  I think thatís him.  Only Dick Simmons would be that tall, and I know it wasnít Dick.  -- EQ

1/17/2011

I have enjoyed all the stories about General Rienzi. I went Armor, but I had a great deal of respect for the General for how he transformed our view of the Signal Corps. Prior to his taking over the Signal School, I think that there were West Point graduates who were ranked in the Signal Corps. I remember during our visit to Ft Monmouth, he planned an agenda that made it clear that Signal Corps soldiers could fight as well as facilitate communications. We had a presentation on the battle of "Suy Tre" (I am unsure of the spelling but it sounds like Sue E Tray.) which recounted the defense of an isolated communications site by members of the Signal Corps. General Rienzi's efforts to change the image of the Signal Corps made Signal a more attractive option for our class and enhanced the image of the Signal Corps for those of us who chose other branches. -- DA

From www.armysignalocs.com/history.html  "History of the Army Signal Corps in Vietnam:  The following link will take you to a history of the Army Signal Corps in Vietnam. It was written by Major General Thomas Matthew Rienzi, and is titled 'Communications - Electronics 1962 - 1970.'  It's an excellent document, and well worth a few hours of your time perusing it.  If you are a Viet Nam vet, you can search the file for those sites and fire bases you were posted to, and read about how they got there, their purpose, and lots more.  Enjoy. We who served under General Rienzi are indebted to him for his effort in writing this book."  www.history.army.mil/books/Vietnam/Comm-El/    -- BB