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#168 Leonard “Steamer” Nason’s War Stories

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, This Week in History

In the summer of 1995, the Norwich Record reprinted a short story by Leonard “Steamer” Nason, Class of 1920. The story, “Too Many Guns,” had originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in April 1937. The Record’s reprint was accompanied by this heartfelt editor’s note:

Few Norwich cadets or alumni in the ‘20s and early ‘30s gained as much notoriety and universal appeal as Leonard Nason. “Steamer,” as he was affectionately known by generations of classmates and friends, stands alone as a unique Norwich folk hero. It was Steamer Nason who fired the cannon from within Jackman Hall as an undergraduate. And it was Nason who led the New York alumni group in the ‘30s and ‘40s on a crusade to let the nation know that Norwich University produced graduates destined for greatness.

Through his hundreds of published stories, Nason, a veteran of both world wars, brought the foot soldier home to a new generation of readers who could only imagine the conditions brought on by war. In lighter moments, he recalled his days at Norwich University with great enthusiasm and humor.

Nason originally matriculated at Norwich in 1914 as a member of the class of 1918. His freshman roommate was another notable Norwich man, Bill Wilson, who went on to become a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. He also attended at the same time as “Doc” Martin, Norwich’s first African-American cadet, and I.D. White, who would command the 2nd Armored Division in World War II.

Nason studied science and literature at NU and, among other activities like football and rifle team, contributed short stories to the Reveille (the student newspaper at the time) using the nickname Steamer, which would become his pen name as a professional writer. Like so many of his colleagues, his studies were interrupted, first by service in the 1916 Mexican border conflict and then by World War I. Determined to complete his degree, he graduated in 1920.

After finishing his studies, Nason became a prolific author. He published 17 books and over 90 short stories in the Saturday Evening Post, mostly during the 1920s and 1930s. Appropriately, his special topic of interest was war stories. He also went on to serve in World War II. He served for four years as a major and a colonel in the 2nd Armored Division, which was commanded by three Norwich men over the course of the war.

The course of “Steamer’s” successful writing career was largely thanks to his experiences at Norwich and in service to his country, as well as his early start writing for a little student newspaper in rural Vermont. A Norwich man through and through, his son, Leonard Nason Jr., followed him to NU and graduated 1949.