On February 16, 1957, Hans Kramer, as he would have said, "ran out of ammunition” at Letterman General Hospital. Two days later he was buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery.
Born in Germany on December 12, 1X94, he came to America at an early age; and, henceforth, American he was to the core. After a brief period at the University of Michigan, he graduated from West Point in June 191K near the top of his class as an officer in the Corps of Engineers.
Early in his career he won a Freeman Scholarship which enabled him to earn a Doctorate of Engineering at the Technical University of Dresden. His thesis is still a valued engineering paper. In 1935, still a Captain, he was placed in charge of the great Conchas Dam project in New Mexico and, on its completion, the design and construction of the Third Locks Project of the Panama Canal.
In September 1942. Hans, now a brigadier general, took over engineering activities in Hawaii which included not only post Pearl Harbor construction but also the building of a great military base for the war in the Pacific. For this, he received the Legion of Merit. This was only a beginning for Hans had his health held up. However, it was here he found that he was suffering from cancer and that lie would have to undergo a major operation which would not restore full physical vigor. Those of us who visited him immediately after the operation could see the suffering which he had to undergo, but never did we hear a word of complaint.
Thus, Hans had to retire from the Army he loved so well. This man who had never thought of physical discomfort readjusted his life to a self discipline which would allow him a few hours of work each day. He did not remain idle for a day but. under conditions which would have caused most of us to quit in despair, led an active life and constantly increased his already well-established reputation as an engineer.
As consultant to Sverdrup & Parcel, he maintained an active office in San Francisco. He served as consultant for the high dams in the Missouri River Valley. In 1945. he was selected by President Truman to represent the United States in negotiations between Colorado and Kansas over the disposition of the waters of the Arkansas River, and later to serve as ex-officio member and chairman of the Arkansas River Compact Administration. Other major tasks were: Board on the Isthmian Canal studies, Board to the State on Salt Water Intrusion in the San Francisco Bay area, and consultant to the State of California on flood control.
These engineering achievements, imposing as they are, do not indicate the full size of the man. His ROTC students of some thirty-five years ago, civilians and soldiers who served with him at Conchas Dam, in Panama, in Hawaii, wrote to express their gratitude for the increased purpose which he had given to them. A few extracts from some of these letters show what they thought:
The Adjutant General, "He served with distinction”; the Chief of Engineers, “His career exemplified the high tradition of the Corps”; a 19 year old girl, “There was cheer and good will wherever he was’’; General Tyler, "He was a great and good man”; Herbert Vogel, "All of us are richer for having known him”; William Leavitt of the Arkansas River Compact, “None of us has any heart to continue with the General no longer at the head of the table.”
In spite of the suffering which was his for twelve years. Hans was fortunate to have found a happy way of life. His first marriage did not provide the ties he wanted. When he married Alice in 1939, he really found the home life which he sought so eagerly. Alice lived and laughed with him, and their devotion to young Hans was evident to all. With Alice as a constant companion, his home became a castle in which each day he could gather his strength to move out into the world and to meet with his fellow man with no concessions to his own physical problems. Theirs was a rare partnership in which one sought to hide hit suffering and the other to make each moment memorable without outwardly recognize the ever present danger.
To his classmates and old Army associates there is a special loss. We learned very early that the brusque exterior covered a warm and sentimental interior, that the sardonic humor which became almost a trademark was but the outer coat to hide the emotions of an extraordinarily sensitive and lovable man. We can never forget Hans coaching at third base, exhorting the Army team to victory, as a classic example of the will to win. In his zest for victory, defeat was only a temporary interlude in progress to ultimate success. Always, to be with him was to be mentally alert because his was a mind which lived to challenge and grow.
Alice and young Hans lives in, San Mateo, California. They can never fill the void created by his loss, nor can we who were his friends. They have the memories of happy years, the feel of his warm devotion, and pride in his many accomplishments. So, too, we who knew him have the memories of his warm friendship. No reunion can ever be the same without bis booming voice to welcome each new arrival, to participate joyfully in all activities. There is no one among us who became young officers together of whom it can be said by all the rest, as it can of Hans, "He was our friend.”
—Lucius D. Clay, James H. Stratton