• The official photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr., left, shows AMC's first commanding general in a newer uniform with both the four-star and AMC flags. The photo on the right, thought to be taken in 1963, shows the general shortly after his promotion holding a pipe and wearing an older style uniform that dates back to the 1950s. Besson had the longest tenure of any AMC commander, leading the organization from 1962 to 1969.

    The official photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr...

    The official photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson Jr., left, shows AMC's first commanding general in a newer uniform with both the four-star and AMC flags. The photo on the right, thought to be taken in 1963, shows the general shortly after his promotion...

  • Gen. Frank S. Besson, Jr., AMC's first commanding general, left, and his aide-de-camp, then Capt. Rudolph Descoteau, examine a Springlfield Rifle which was later presented to President John F. Kennedy on behalf of AMC in June of 1963.

    Gen. Frank S. Besson, Jr., AMC's first...

    Gen. Frank S. Besson, Jr., AMC's first commanding general, left, and his aide-de-camp, then Capt. Rudolph Descoteau, examine a Springlfield Rifle which was later presented to President John F. Kennedy on behalf of AMC in June of 1963.

  • Col. Rudolph "Deac" Descoteau, who had served as the aide-de-camp to AMC's first commanding general retired in 1981. AMC historians recently received a call from his son, Donn Descoteau, and assessed the late colonel's collection of military uniforms, insignia and artifacts. Among the collection, historians discovered an official command photo of the first commander.

    Col. Rudolph "Deac" Descoteau, who had served...

    Col. Rudolph "Deac" Descoteau, who had served as the aide-de-camp to AMC's first commanding general retired in 1981. AMC historians recently received a call from his son, Donn Descoteau, and assessed the late colonel's collection of military uniforms...

  • This photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson was among the artifacts of his late aide-de-camp, Col. Rudolph "deac" Descoteau. Before discovering this photo, AMC's only official photo of its first commanding general showed him holding a pipe and wearing a uniform that dated back to the 1950s.

    This photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson was among...

    This photo of Gen. Frank S. Besson was among the artifacts of his late aide-de-camp, Col. Rudolph "deac" Descoteau. Before discovering this photo, AMC's only official photo of its first commanding general showed him holding a pipe and wearing a uniform...

  • Until historians discovered a newer photo, this was AMC's only official command portrait of its first commanding general, Gen. Frank S. Besson.

    Until historians discovered a newer photo, this...

    Until historians discovered a newer photo, this was AMC's only official command portrait of its first commanding general, Gen. Frank S. Besson.

The best information often comes from unexpected sources, and a recent phone call to the Army Materiel Command's Historical Office yielded some significant finds.

The caller was Donn Descoteau, a former government employee who worked in AMC's Inspector General's office while the command's headquarters was located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Descoteau worked there until the day AMC turned its facilities over and completed its move to Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

"I planned on retiring here in the north Virginia area," Descoteau said. "I told my supervisors in the IG Office that I would turn out the lights -- and I literally did just that."

But Descoteau wasn't calling to rehash his days as an AMC employee.

Instead, he was calling about his late father, Col. Rudolph "Deac" Descoteau, who was the aide-de-camp to AMC's first Commanding General, Gen. Frank S. Besson, Jr.

"My dad worked for General Besson when (Besson) was the chief of the Transportation Corps as a major general," Descoteau said. "He followed General Besson to start AMC in August 1962."

As many Soldiers do, Col. Descoteau saved uniforms, artifacts, and photographs from his career. Donn Descoteau wanted AMC historians to assess the collection.

Command Historian Michael "Mule" Baker said in his 35 years as a historian, some of the most valuable information has come from unforeseen events, like this call.

Beyond the vintage possessions historians examined was a treasure of sorts -- something that was missing from the AMC historical collection: Besson's final command portrait.

"It seems strange that we didn't have the first commanding general's final command portrait in the archives," Baker said. The only official command photo in the AMC collection was one taken early in the general's command with Besson smoking a pipe and wearing a uniform dating back to the 1950s. Historians estimate the photo on file was taken in 1963, shortly after Besson was promoted to a four-star general.

Besides Besson's final command portrait, AMC historians also found hundreds of photographs covering much of AMC's early history.

Baker said Col. Descoteau had what might be among the most unusual career tracks with AMC.

"Besides serving as Besson's aide, Col. Descoteau was the commanding officer of the USNS Corpus Christi Bay, AMC's floating aircraft maintenance ship that provided aviation support in Vietnam. He was a project manager for what would become the Black Hawk, then years later, Col. Descoteau returned to AMC and served as the command's Inspector General. That was all in addition to being a master aviator. It's just amazing," he said.

Baker said he hopes some of the uniforms and photographs will be used in various displays in the AMC Headquarters Building at Redstone Arsenal.

Col. Descoteau retired from AMC in 1981. He died in May 2011. His wife, Ruth, died last month. They are both buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Page last updated Wed August 27th, 2014 at 00:00