Karl Savatiel grew up in New York City (Queens and Brooklyn). His father, a fireman, told Karl there was no money to send him to college, and he went to West Point partly because it was affordable for his parents. Karl applied to the Academy with a close friend, and both read their acceptance letters to each other over the phone the night of their prom. Arriving at West Point, Karl recalls meeting the “Man in the Red Sash,” and the resulting damage to his new typewriter from dropping it. Pleasant memories during Plebe year include the picnics his mother provided for Karl and his friends. As a Firstie, Karl was the Bowling Team Captain and had a phone in his room for official business. Karl and his roommate, Jose Sanchez, soon discovered that they could make outside phone calls and decided to order pizzas delivered from town. Quickly, they developed a “service” ordering pizzas for friends, until the Tactical Department shut down their operation. When he graduated, he commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer and was assigned to 7th Battalion, 7th Artillery in Korea, which he described as a “learning experience.” Duty in Germany followed, and he was part of a Special Weapons Detachment with 8-inch guns and the Nike Hercules missile system. In 1969, he deployed to Vietnam and joined the 1st Battalion, 8th Field Artillery in the 25th Infantry Division, where he learned to orchestrate fire from the air. He describes a big firefight on the Michelin Rubber Plantation, long a sanctuary for enemy forces because of restrictions around the valuable rubber trees. Returning from Vietnam in 1970, Karl left the military and began a 25-year career with AT&T, and he later worked for Lockheed. Currently, Karl lives in South Carolina and remains connected to his alma mater by reviewing candidate packets and assisting with interviews for Senator Graham.
In this interview, Karl talks about his childhood, his West Point experiences, and his time in the Army. He describes several of his classmates, including Jose Sanchez and Gary Kadetz. He shares several incidents from his Cadet days, highlighting a fateful spirit mission and the pizza ordering service he and Jose started. Finally, he reflects on what West Point means to him.