Legends

 

The Pennsylvania Military College Legends represent the threads of the fabric that bind us to PMC. Because the fabric is strong, our bond will always continue.

 

This page contains the stories of all legends in all categories with the most recently added article first. To read the articles of the specific categories within the Legends, please click on one of the sub-categories below.
 

 

Cadets and others who wish to share their experiences about PMC are welcome to contribute to this page. Visit the Contact page to send us your Legend.

Julius T. Conrad, Class of 1887 (Cavalryman)

Conrad, a decorated career Army officer who served in the Mexican border wars, the Spanish-American War, the Chinese Relief Expedition, the Philippines Insurrection and World War I—and as a professor of Military Science and Tactics at PMC–has the distinction of not only graduating from PMC, but also from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (Class of 1892).

Born in West Virginia, in 1868, he was the son of Col. Joseph Conrad, who commanded a Union brigade during the Atlanta campaign in the Civil War and “carried in his head a bullet intended for General Phil Sheridan…when he interposed his person for protection of his Chief,” according a 1955 USMA alumni bulletin.

At Pennsylvania Military Academy, Conrad was one of the youngest and most brilliant members of his class. After graduation, he passed the entrance exam for USMA, where his experiences in Chester “enabled him to fit comfortably into the pattern of cadet life at West Point,” the alumni bulletin, written after his death in 1955, reported. After graduation from the Academy, Conrad, an avid horseman, was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment. While stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he was commended for his conduct in the field during the Garza Revolution on the Mexican border.

During the Spanish-American War, the 3rd Cavalry was one of five cavalry units assigned to the crucial assault on San Juan Heights. Three troopers in the regiment were killed and 52 wounded in the action, including 2nd Lt. Conrad, who was shot in the ankle. Conrad was also one of five troopers in the battle awarded a Silver for distinguished gallantry.

After three tours of duty in the Philippines and participation in the Chinese Relief Expedition at the end of the Boxer Rebellion, Conrad, by then a captain, served as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at PMC from 1902-1905. He took a special interest in the Cavalry Squad and was regarded by students as “firm and strict, yet always just, kindly and an ‘all-around good fellow.’” He returned to the college in 1924 to receive the Bachelor of Military Science degree, awarded to honor graduates who served in the military in time of war.

Conrad commanded the 38th Field Artillery during World War I and until it was demobilized in 1919. After that, he served with the Adjutant General’s Department in Washington, D.C. When he retired in 1932, he and his wife, the former Jean Hoskins, settled in Washington.

After his death in 1955, his plebe-year roommate at West Point remembered him as “as fine and loveable a character as ever was.”

PMC Authors

The key to successful writing, Ernest Hemmingway famously said, is “the application of the seat of the pants to the seat of a chair.” What he was referring to, of course, was discipline. At PMC, inculcating discipline was at the heart of the curriculum, not to mention the real purpose of all that seemingly interminable spit-shining and brass polishing and bracing and close-order drill. So it’s not surprising that several former cadets went on to become successful authors. Here are a few:

BILL SPEER (Class of 1972) has taught at the American Military University and Georgia Military College and produced several historical documentaries and films. “Broomsticks to Battlefields: After the Battle, the Story of Henry C. Robinett in the Civil War,” is the biography of an 1860 graduate of Delaware Military Academy (predecessor to PMC) who distinguished himself as a Civil War artillery captain, only to commit suicide. The book “reminds us that historians and psychologists have barely begun to study…post-traumatic stress disorder among Civil War veterans,” one reviewer wrote.

MARK L. RICHARDS (Class of 1969) served as an Army infantry officer before entering the health care field, where he worked as the chief financial officer at a large academic health center. “Legions of the Forest,” which opens in 9 A.D., and centers around a clash between Roman legions and the German people they intend to subjugate, is a tale of war, treachery and the vicious politics of the Golden Age of Rome.

ROY EATON (CLASS OF 1969) left the Army as a second-lieutenant. He taught math and coached wrestling at St. Bernard, a Connecticut prep school that inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. He was named to the New York Military Academy Sport Hall of Fame in 2007 and the New London (Conn.) Hall of Fame in 2009. His memoir, “Soldier Boy,” tells the story of his experiences at PMC and as a prep school cadet at New York Military Academy.

DAVID FIEDLER (Class of 1968) served in the Signal Corps and after a deployment to Vietnam was assigned to the U.S. Army Electronics Command. Drawing on his combat experiences, Fiedler wrote a book on radio physics that is still in use today, was used extensively in the Gulf War/Afghanistan and has been incorporated into official Signal Corps doctrine. As a result of his work in tactical communications the Army Chief of Signal has awarded him the Chief of Signal plaque twice and inducted him into the Order of Mercury signal honor society

BRIAN KATES (Class of 1968) served as an Army military police captain in Berlin Brigade during the Cold War. His first recognition as a writer was PMC’s Dome Award as best student journalist. Later, as a reporter and editor at the New York Daily News, he won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, including a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. His non-fiction book, “The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady,” the story of a homeless woman slain on the streets of New York, won a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award from Mystery Writers of America.

TOM VOSSLER (Class of 1968) severed 30 years in the U.S. Army commanding an infantry platoon in the Vietnam War and a mechanized infantry-armored battalion task force in Germany. In addition, he taught military history, strategy and leadership at the U.S. Army War College and is a former director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. Vossler and co-author Carol Reardon combined to encapsulate the events of the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day in American military history, and in their newest book “A Field Guide to Gettysburg.”

EDWARD J. MAROLDA (Class of 1967) served as the Acting Director of Naval History and Senior Historian of the Navy. In 2017 the Naval Historical Foundation honored him with its Commodore Dudley W. Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award. He has authored, coauthored, or edited nine works on the U.S. Navy’s experience in Vietnam. In support of the U.S. Naval Institute’s Oral History Program, he has interviewed Vietnam veterans and retired admirals Stanley R. Arthur and Joseph W. Prueher.

CHARLES E. “Doc” MERKEL, Jr. (Class of 1967) served for more than 20 years as an Master Army Aviator in the U.S. Army and currently serves as the historian for the 53d Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He authored the book “Unraveling the Custer Enigma,” which contains information about the court martial of Custer.

 

 FAGIANI (Class of 1967) was a social worker and director of a program for recovering drug addicts, He is also a translator, essayist, short story writer and poet whose free verse captures “the rhythms of struggle and street life,” the New York Times wrote in 2014. His first book of poetry, “Rooks,” published in 2005, follows him through his freshman year at PMC, where, one reviewer noted, “the spotlight is on the time-honored discipline that transforms young men into warriors.”

LOUIS HORNER (Class of 1962) served in the U.S. Army Signal Corp. He received a presidential citation from President Ronald Reagan in 1985 for designing a computer enrichment program that served several thousand children nationwide. His book “Who Will Water the Flowers,” chronicles his life as an African American during a turbulent time in U.S. history and examines the friendships he forged, beginning with those built at PMC.

MERVYN HARRIS (Class of 1957) is a former Army captain and served as a representative to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Delaware County from 1964-66. He has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations and events committees. His book traces the history of Nether Providence Township, Pa, from its original Lenape Indian inhabitants.

 

KARL WETTENGEL (Class of 1921) wrote “The Ghost of Paddy O and Other Poems” in free verse while at PMC. It illustrates the continuity of the spirit of PMC.

 

 

 

EUGENE HOOPES (Class of 1901) served as an engineer during World War I and became an aeronautical consultant for the military, working at air fields in the U.S. and Europe. He began his writing career in 1951 with the publication of “Tales of a Dude Wrangler,” a series of fictional stories told, as one reviewer put it, “by the type of wrangler one may find at any roundup, at any ‘dude’ ranch, or around any campfire where stories of the rangeland and its lore were told.”

HORACE HOBBS (Class of 1897) was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism during the Philippine Insurrection in 1905 and the Silver Cross for gallantry in France during World War I. “Kris and Krag: Adventures among the Moros of the Southern Philippine Islands” is recognized as a classic work on the little-documented Philippine Insurrection.

 

James C. Hobart Jr., ’16 Determined to Serve

Less than a year after James Calvin Hobart Jr. graduated from PMC in 1916, the United States entered World War I, and he was eager to get into the fight.

Rejected a dozen times by various branches of the American military because of poor eyesight, he left home in Cincinnati in 1917 for France. There, on July 9, he joined the American Field Service as one of a growing number of American volunteers assigned to the French Army’s Réserve Mallet transportation unit. Praised by the French as “America’s first belligerents,” the 800-member unit convoyed ammo and materiel from the railheads on the Soissons-Fismes road to the Chemin des Dames on the Western front.

Hobart was placed in Transport Materiel Unit 397 Groupe Hémart. On a typical sortie, he ferried 10,200 pounds of 75 mm artillery rounds through shell-pocked terrain in his five-ton Pierce Arrow truck as French and German pilots dueled in the skies above.
The work was dangerous, and Hobart saw plenty of action.

“I watched what first appeared to be a column of black smoke,” he wrote in a letter home. “I caught one of these columns at its birth. It was a huge fountain of earth which rose, oh, I’d say about forty feet in the air, spread out and came back to earth. I’d counted about forty or fifty of these ‘Jack Johnsons.’ I closed my eyes and listened to the rifle fire; I’d lie on my back and see the Shrapnel bursting around a dozen French planes.”
The 23-year-old attempted to make light of the dangers. “I’m just as happy and safe as if I were at home,” he wrote his family in mid-August 1917. But in the next breath, he added: “God’s will be done. Remember that’s what you pray for and hope for. So, Mother, if anything happens, please take it that way. I intend to come back and would be darned sorry not to, but if He decides otherwise, let’s be glad it’s so.”

That month, Hobart was decorated for his service by the French government in a ceremony that included “one French general, on colonel, one major, one captain and a general of the British Army.”

“We, about thirteen of us, were called to attention…decorated and kissed twice, once on each cheek,” he wrote home. “At this point, a German plane was sighted and we all scuttled off the open field and made for a wood nearby.” Records of the century-old ceremony are elusive and it is not clear what medal Hobart was awarded. AFS drivers received three types of French Army decorations, the Légion d’honneur, the Médaille militaire, and the Croix de Guerre.

After he had served three months with Réserve Mallet, the U.S. Army assumed control of the AFS and Hobart (still disqualified from the military by what he called “these dishpans I have for specs”) joined the American Red Cross as an ambulance driver. “If PMC taught me anything,” he wrote a friend, “it taught me to perform a duty whether pleasant or not. I leave for Italy, December 3, 1917.”

Later, he wrote: “I am driving Ambulance 87. That was my old number at PMC. Funny how that was assigned to me!”

Hobart died in Albuquerque, N.M, at age 76 after serving as an administrative officer in the Atomic Energy Commission

Major General Irving J. Carr, Class of 1897

Irving J. Carr was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in 1875. After attending the public schools, he enrolled at Pennsylvania Military College. While at PMC he played baseball, was awarded the Marksmanship Medal and was an exceptional student.

Carr graduated from PMC with a degree in Civil Engineering and began his Army career. He served as an infantry lieutenant in the 17th Infantry during the Philippine insurrection. During his time in the Philippines, he participated in several battles and engagements against the insurgents at Magalang on the island of Luzon. He was awarded the Silver Star for his gallantry. Carr graduated from the U.S. Army Signal School at Fort Myer in 1908. In 1914, he was assigned to the 2nd Division, IV Corps and Third Army in France as a signal officer. During the Spring Offensive of 1918, Carr participated in the attacks at Aisne-Marne and St. Mihiel and in the Somme-Dieu defensive. During the 1920s, he graduated from the General Staff School and the Army War College. After the war, he served as signal officer of the Western Department and as chief of staff of the Hawaiian Division.

In 1930, Carr was appointed Chief Signal Officer. He took charge of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as the nation plunged into the Great Depression and military preparedness was less important. At the time, Carr commanded a very small Corps, consisting of approximately 270 officers and 2,500 enlisted men. During his command, the Corps introduced the use of the typewriter, FM radio and walkie-talkies were all introduced. By 1934, The Corps provided the Army with the most comprehensive radio net in the world. Message traffic averaged almost 82 million messages per year from 1931 to 1934.

Carr retired from the Army in 1934 and settled in St. Petersburg, Florida. After a long illness, he died on June 12, 1963. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Frank W. Jakob ‘41 (Combat Infantryman)

Frank Jakob ’41

Frank “Jake” Jakob entered PMC from Collinswood High School (NJ), where he was a multi-sport athlete. At PMC Jake was a star tackle on the football team and played basketball and track. Jake was also a leader and in his senior year was the Battalion Captain. At Commencement, he was commissioned and joined the Army. After basic training, he was assigned to the 18th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Battalion, First Infantry Division.

After a successful amphibious landing in North Africa in 1942, the Allies focused on seizing Tunisia, the strategic key to the Mediterranean. In March, 1943, the First Infantry Division received orders to move towards El Guettar. The Division was expected to capture the cliffs at Djebel el Ank and to press eastward along the Gumtree Road. After a day of reconnaissance and preparations, an attack was launched on the night of 22-23 March. Company G of the 3rd Battalion was commanded by Frank Jakob, who assumed command after the company commander had been wounded. The company was ordered to capture an insignificant ridge that would become very significant.

After taking the ridge, German snipers on an opposite hill began to pick off the Americans who moved. The men of Company G omit scrambled to dig shallow foxholes as the omit intense fire continued. “We just had to lie there and take it,” Lt. Jakob told the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Germans outnumbered us and “our communications were broken and we couldn’t contact our artillery to return fire.” The next day, the Germans made frequent attacks on the hill in groups of four but were turned back. By the light of the moon on the evening of March 25, 133 of the original 183 Americans burst through the German lines to safety. When morning came, the Americans discovered that the Germans had withdrawn.

After the war, Jakob married and raised family in Collingswood. He worked at Campbell Soup until he retired as a Supervisor. In 1995, he was inducted into the Coolingswood High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He passed away in 1997.

Churchill B. Mehard, 1902 (Brigadier General)

Churchill Mehard was born in Mercer, PA and attended public schools. He then enrolled in Haverford College, PA. He left Haverford in February 1898, he arrived at PMC. Known as “Baldy,” for the lack of hair on his head, it was clear that he wanted to earn military honors in the Corps of Cadets and pursue a law career. Although he earned an appointment to West Point, he remained at PMC and in his senior year was appointed First Captain.

After Commencement, Mehard began his study of law at the Pittsburgh Law School and was admitted to the Allegheny County bar in 1903. Yet, his military aspirations remained. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard and was commissioned a First Lieutenant in 1903. As World War I approached, Mehard was commissioned into the U.S. Army under the National Defense Act of 1916, and assigned as an instructor at Fort McPherson, GA. On August 15, 1917, he was assigned to the 321st Field Artillery, 157h Brigade, 82nd Division AEF as a Major. After completing School of Fire at Fort Sill, OK, Mehard remained as a senior instructor. In May of 1918, he was ordered to rejoin the 321st Field Artillery in France. He led his troops through the second Battle of the Marne the St. Mihiel offensive, and throughout the entire Meuse-Argonne operation. Despite being severely gassed at L’Esperance, he was twice cited for gallantry in action. After the Armistice, he returned to America, and appointed Colonel of the field artillery of the Pennsylvania National Guard. In 1923 he was promoted to Brigadier General and commander of the 53rd Field Artillery Brigade.

Upon his return from France, Mehard resumed his law practice with his father, Judge Samuel Mehard. After his father’s death, Mehard reportedly became a “hard-drinking socialite” who was happy to be named the city solicitor of Pittsburgh. In 1939, he was found guilty in the City Hall consent verdict scandal (involving accusations of bribery) along with several other attorneys. Mehard successfully pleaded for mitigation of his sentence on grounds of his failing health. He moved to Arizona and died in September, 1943.

Joseph A. Minturn, 1880 (Camoufler)

After Commencement, Joseph Minturn returned to Indianapolis and opened a wood carving business, having learned the machinist trade before he entered PMC. Wood carving became nearly obsolete when photo-chemical engraving was introduced and Minturn decided to enter the Indiana Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1895 and began a successful career in patent law. In 1916, he founded the Indiana Society of Mayflower descendants after learning that he was a direct descendant of John Howland, one of the passengers on the Mayflower.

In response to advertisements in the local papers in 1917 to join the Officer’s Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison and his own sense of duty, Minturn applied and was ordered to report at once. He registered, was given a thorough medical exam and was pronounced “sound and all right, but over-age.” He was then sworn in. Within weeks, Minturn was honorably discharged from the Army because of his age (he was 56 at the time). He left Fort Harrison and immediately traveled to Washington, D.C. There he hoped to receive a special dispensation from President Woodrow Wilson. Despite his unsuccessful efforts to acquire Congressional support from the Indiana delegation, Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall, a fellow Hoosier, came to his aid by contacting the Secretary of War. Minturn received new orders to re-enlist at Fort Harrison. After he completed his training, Minturn was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps and ordered to Camp Taylor, in Kentucky.

Fort De Piesnoy

At the start of World War I it became apparent that, because of advances in surveillance, there was a urgent need for specialists, called camouflers, who could fool the enemy through ingenious perspective illusions. Because of his ability to sketch and help make large-scale backdrops, Minturn was promoted and transferred to the Engineer School and attached to the 309th Engineers of the 84th division. In October, 1918, Minturn went to France with the 309th. There he was ordered to the A.E.F. Army Specialist School at Langres, France. He became an instructor in camouflage and military sketching. In 1919, the Army Schools were closed and Minturn was transferred to A.E.F. Headquarters. There he continued his work of illustrating manuals. In June, he returned to America and was discharged. He then returned to Indianapolis.

In 1920, Minturn and six other Indianapolis men who had served in the War founded The Service Club of Indianapolis. This group held regular lunch meetings to maintain the “bonds of friendship” they had formed during the War. The only requirement was that members had to have seen service in the Army, Navy or Marine Corps. In 1921, the story of Minturn’s war experiences along with many of his own illustrations were published in “The American Spirit.” He remained active in Indianapolis for many years and died after a short illness in 1943.

Eugene L. Melchoir ’49 (PMC’s First Korean War Casualty)

As a senior, “Midge” Melchoir was the Battalion Adjutant, business manager for the Sabre & Sash and a member of the Glee Club. At Commencement, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, began active duty immediately, and volunteered for paratrooper duty at Ft. Benning, GA. During his final jump, he broke his leg and was forced to transfer to the infantry. He was then flown to Korea as an officer replacement in the 1st Cavalry Division.

Melchoir arrived in Korea in September (1950) and was immediately assigned to lead a platoon in Company G. His new command was comprised of South Korean soldiers with only one Korean who could speak English. Melchoir made him his sergeant. As the Army was pushing toward the 38th parallel, the 5th Cavalry spear-headed the drive to Pyongyang. Melchoir and his platoon were constantly on the march. Although the North Koreans provided little resistance, there were numerous skirmishes.

After the capture of Pyongyang, the 5th Cavalry continued to push northward. While outside of Suncheon, the lead elements were attacked by a well dug in reinforced regiment. Melchoir’s platoon was ordered to take a road block, located on a ridge. During the attack, all but six members of the platoon were casualties, including Melchoir who was wounded in both legs. Despite his wounds, he continued to direct his platoon using hand and arm signals, until he was evacuated. After the attack, he was flown to Japan where he began his recovery. Several weeks later, he was flown to the Valley Forge Hospital where he received months of treatment. In March 1951, Melchoir was awarded the Silver Star (click here to read more) for his gallant actions and inspirational leadership. After spending 2 years in Veterans Hospitals, he was discharged.

Melchoir worked for the Hercules Powder Company, a small explosives company serving the mining industry, gun owners, and the military, for 6 years. He left Hercules to become the owner and operator of Midge’s Bar in Kennett Square for 35 years. Melchoir died at the Neighborhood Hospice in West Chester, PA., at the age of 84.

CLICK HERE to read more

Major Benjamin S. Berry ’02 at Belleau Wood

In late May of 1918 a massive German offensive smashed though the British and French lines. The Germans were now bearing down on Paris. The Marines were ordered to march toward Belleau Wood. An old hunting preserve, Belleau Wood covered about a square mile. In the heavy undergrowth the Germans created an ideal defense with a regiment armed with both light and heavy machine guns.

On June 6, the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (3/5), commanded by Major Benjamin S. Berry advanced from the west into Belleau Wood as part of the Allied effort to take the village of Bouresches. As the first waves of Marines made their frontal assault, in a well-disciplined line, they had to go through a meadow of murderous machine gun fire. Almost immediately, Major Berry was wounded in his forearm. Marines attacked the woods six more times before the Germans were successfully expelled.

After the battle the wood was renamed “Bois de la Brigade de Marine” (“Wood of the Marine Brigade”) in honor of the tenacity of the Marines, by the French. An official German report classified the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen….

News reached P.M.C. that Major Benjamin S. Berry, ‘02, had been awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery during the battle of Belleau Wood. On May 27, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels presented a gold sword to Major Berry in recognition of his splendid service in France. The inscription on the sword reads: “From P.M.C. to Benjamin S. Berry, Major, United States Marine Corps, for bravery and distinguished service in the World War, 1917-18.” Later, Major Berry received the Distinguished Service Cross.

John L. Fancourt ’43 (Capture and Escape)

Jack Fancourt

After completing Germantown Academy in Pennsylvania, John “Jack” Fancourt attended PMC. He was a local track star, and, by his senior year, held the Middle Atlantic 220-yard record. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and went on to attend Officer Candidate School (Infantry). Because of a deficiency in math, he failed to graduate, and was transferred to Camp Butler, North Carolina. Private Fancourt wasted little time requesting an over sea’s transfer to replacement forces and was assigned to Company K, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division.

During early morning hours of January 22, 1944, the Allies landed on the Italian beach near Anzio. They advanced inland, but were stopped by a German counter attack in early February. At dawn on February 16, the Germans, supported by tanks, launched an attack, with the 179th receiving the brunt of the assault. On February 18, the Germans launched a more intense assault and destroyed one battalion of the 179th, forcing the remainder of the regiment to fall back. Company K suffered heavy casualties, but Fancourt survived. He was captured by the Germans, and along with other prisoners forced to walk towards Rome. After four days, they reached “Cinecitta,” a prisoner of war camp located just outside of Rome. The camp was used to hold prisoners for short periods of time. It was lightly guarded by German soldiers, and surrounded by barbed wire. One night, the guards were distracted by an air raid near the camp. This allowed Fancourt and several others to escape through the barbed wire fence. For the next several months, Fancourt, now with a moustache and long hair, hid in an apartment in Rome, and eluded recapture with the help of the Italian Underground,. In June, Rome was liberated, and Fancourt returned to duty.

At the request of Major General James Ulio, Adjutant General of the Army and a trustee of PMC, Fancourt returned to the school for a short time as a staff member of the Army Specialized Training (AST) unit. After being honorably discharged in late 1945, Fancourt joined the family business, W.F. Fancourt & Company, makers of textile soaps, in Philadelphia. Eventually the company moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. There he enjoyed fishing and golf, serving as the Honorary Chairman of the Greater Greensboro Open in 1974. He died in 1996.