Commanding in his blood

  By Mike Sando

  The News Tribune

  Aug. 1, 1999


  Col. Jens Bugge believed a strong offense was the only means to victory. His grandson, Mike Holmgren, became an offensive coordinator.

  The colonel authored a book on military tactics that explained the intricacies of advancing by a series of rushes. As a coach, Holmgren knows the value of a strong ground attack.

  The colonel stressed the importance of communication between different parts of a command. Holmgren, entering his first season as the Seattle Seahawks' leader, stays in touch with subordinates through use of a radio headset.

  Similarities abound.

  "It's certainly an interesting, interesting story," Holmgren says. "Obviously, I didn't know him. But it's a great conversation piece."

  Col. Bugge was 48 years old when he died of malaria in 1919, nearly six years after he contracted the disease during a hunting trip to Indo China. He was eulogized by none other than Brigadier-General Douglas MacArthur, who had been superintendent at West Point when Col. Bugge was commandant.

  "As a cadet, Bugge first came into prominence by participation in athletics, in all phases of which he excelled," MacArthur wrote. "His was a naturally active brain capable of making a correct and careful analysis."

  The better to make halftime adjustments.

  "Had he lived, would have been like Gen. Bradley and all those guys in World War II," says Tony Bugge, Holmgren's cousin. "He would have gotten his four stars, I'm sure."

  The colonel's book, Practical Minor Tactics, remains in circulation at the West Point library. And his family still has the commemorative challis awarded to Col. Bugge for his role in founding the R.O.T.C. program at Stanford University.

  Holmgren's mother, Barbara, was two years old when her father lost his final battle.

  "She was a product of a single-parent family, basically,'' Holmgren says. "And they moved a little bit. When I think of my mom, I don't think it was real easy for her growing up.

  "She attended the University of California when she was 16. I just think she was kind of on her own a lot. I've always loved her for a lot of reasons, but life in those days, I don't think it was real easy for her."

  Eighty years after her father died, Barbara Holmgren can take solace in an uncommon legacy, knowing her father didn't succumb without a spirited fight.

  "Col. Bugge refused to concede that he was no longer capable of active service," MacArthur wrote, "and after repeated applications to the War Department he was ordered to France in January 1918.

  "Even after arrival there, he was not contented, for his desire was to command a regiment on the front."

  According to MacArthur, the colonel was known to defiantly mutter, `They say I will kill myself. Very well. I would rather be a dead live-wire than a live dead-wire. All I ask is the chance.' "