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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Lieutenant Colonel Lou Preston

Wed, November 02, 2022 6:16 PM | Anonymous

Dad arrived in Ithaca in Fall, 1939 to attend Cornell’s College of Agriculture. As the war in Europe had just begun with Germany’s invasion of Poland, and amidst growing concerns that America would be drawn into conflict, Dad, like several students at the time, took part in both basic and advanced Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) training at Cornell. Then with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, it was clear that Dad, alongside many classmates, as well as his two brothers, would soon be going off to war. 

At his Cornell graduation in May 1943, graduates were asked to stand if they were headed off to war, and Dad reported that more than half the graduates stood. Dad left for Officer Candidate School (OCS), was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, and after extensive training was deployed overseas in August 1944, first to New Guinea as a Reconnaissance-Survey Officer, then on to combat in the Philippines. In July 1946 he was returned to the US and assigned to the Active Reserve as a Captain. Dad served several positions in the Reserves, with weekly meetings, and attended “army camp” every summer, which was when Sol Goldberg shot the photo. In October 1971, Dad was assigned to the Retired Reserve, as a Lieutenant Colonel, after 28 years with the US Army.
He received both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, as well as two Campaign Ribbons and two Battle Stars. He taught in the Ithaca City School District after the war, retiring in 1980.

In the words of my cousin Tim Marchell given as Dad’s eulogy: As Tom Brokaw wrote in his book, those who grew up in America during the deprivation of the Great Depression and who served in the military or worked on the home front during WWII, were known as members of “The Greatest Generation”…they gave new meaning to courage, sacrifice, and honor. They served their country with valor, then came home and transformed it. Lou Preston in his life within and beyond the Army, was a model member of the Greatest Generation.


This article was written by Martha Preston in honor of her father Lou Preson, for the 2022 Tompkins County Veterans exhibit on display at The History Center. 

Top Photo: Photograph by Sol Goldberg of Col. Louis Preston with family. The History Center in Tompkins County General Photograph Collections. 

Bottom Photo: 1945 - Lou Preston and fellow solders pose for a picture while deployed in the Philippines. Preston is seated in the middle of the front row. 

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