Notable Cadets

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 When morning came, the Americans discovered that the Germans had withdrawn.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.

Frank B. Wood, 1899 (Storyteller)

Wood, 4th Wisconsin

Frank B. Wood attended public school in Huntley, IL, and completed his studies at the Elgin Academy. He entered Pennsylvania Military College as a member of the Class of 1899. In the summer following the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Wood was commissioned a First Lieutenant in Company B, 4th Wisconsin Infantry. Prior to reporting to training camp, the regiment was ordered to Oshkosh by Governor Scofield. Its mission was “preserving the peach” by quelling the strike of woodworkers. At the end of July, the Regiment reported to Camp Douglas to prepare for active duty. Despite Wood’s claims that he charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, he and the 4th Regiment remained in the United States until the end of the War.

Barney Oldfield

Wood returned to Elgin (IL) and opened an auto garage. He quickly became an auto enthusiast and a member of the Chicago Motor Club. At the time the Crown Point Road Race was the first in the Midwest. Due to financial troubles and unfavorable road conditions along the 232-mile route, the race was forced to change locations. Frank Wood and others formed the Elgin Automobile Club and invited the Chicago Motor Club to consider a 8.5-mile course they planned. Although there were many claims that Barney Oldfield, a famous auto racer participated, the AAA (American Automobile Association) had suspended Oldfield from racing due to his “outlaw” behavior. He did participate in later road races in Elgin.

One of the strangest claims made by Wood was his connection with the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. In various interviews, including with PMC’s Impact Magazine (Summer, 1969), he recounted meeting Barney Oldfield in Philadelphia and driving to Kitty Hawk where they witnessed the Wright Brothers make three trial flights on December 14. Wood stated, “it was Oldfield who made them possible, by instructing the Wrights how to lengthen their elevator lever so the plane would “get more air.” Stephen Author, in his book The Wright Brothers in North Carolina, wrote that the Wright Brothers only attempted one flight on December 14. Furthermore, witnesses to the trials were recorded on paper and film and Frank Wood and Barney Oldfield were not among them.

In the 1920’s, Wood moved to Panama City, FL where he was affectionately known as the “major.” His love of fast cars remained and he would often be seen driving a racing car. He also learned how to sail, and became the first Commodore of the St. Andrew Bay Yacht Club. His first love, however, was aviation, Thanks to his daughter, Betty Wood McNabb who joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in 1953 and flew more than 9,000 hours during her career, Wood accompanied her on several flights. In 1975 he passed away quietly.

George H. Webb, 1880 (Distinguished Railroad Man)

Born in Iowa in 1860, George Herbert Webb attended the public schools of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Military College. He graduated in 1880 with a degree in Civil Engineering and started his career as a surveyor with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Beginning in 1889, he spent the next two years building a railroad in Chile. He then worked in Peru as the chief engineer of the Transandine Railway, a remarkable project which built a railroad through the Andes. He returned to the United States and by 1905 was made chief engineer of the Michigan Central Railway. He omit planned and rebuilt the Third Avenue rail yard in Detroit and in 1913, completed the new Michigan Central Depot.

In 1917, he left the Michigan Central Railway and was commissioned a lieutenant-colonel in the 16th Regiment of Engineers (Railway). The 16th was organized and trained within the city limits and was Michigan’s only volunteer regiment. Among the 687 members of the 16th Regiment were some of the best skilled tradesmen from Detroit. Shortly after World War 1 was declared, the Regiment was ordered to proceed to France. They arrived on August 27, 1917. For the next 21 months, they were in constant service. Along with the other Engineer Regiments of the American Expeditionary Forces, the 16th was assigned to building the infrastructure needed for the success of AEF. Its accomplishments included designing and building the Nevers Cutoff, allowing supply trains to bypass Paris, and repairing the supply line between Verdun and Dan-sur-Meuse during the AEF offensive in the Meuse-Argonne region.

After the Armistice, the Regiment continued its work for some time. On May 5, 1919, it arrived home at the Michigan Central Depot. They paraded through Detroit the next day, and was mustered out of service the following day.

In July, 1919, Colonel Webb was awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Medal for:

“exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services … with the execution of some of the largest construction enterprises in France. Confronted by difficulties of labor, material, and equipment, he set about his task with ceaseless energy, and by his resourcefulness, initiative, and skill he overcame all obstacles and completed these difficult projects with great success.”

After his discharge, Colonel Webb resumed his job as chief engineer of the Michigan Central Railway. He passed away in 1921 while living in Newton Lower Falls, near Boston.

Two Cadets Join the Spanish-American War

Prior to the Spanish-American War, newspaper owners like William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, often sensationalized reports of Spanish atrocities against Cuban rebels. After the sinking of the Maine the national enthusiasm for war even extended to PMC. Although many cadets wanted to join the service, President Charles Hyatt convinced most to remain. While nearly seventy graduates responded to the call to service in 1898, two members of the senior class of 1898 also answered the call. Both Cadet Lieutenant Ezra H. Ripple, Jr. and Cadet Raymond W. Hardenbergh enlisted in the 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard in May prior to Commencement. Although they both had left PMC and had entered the service, they received their degrees in civil engineering.

Ezra H. Ripple enlisted as a private in Company D, and joined the regiment at Camp Hastings for training. At the time of muster, the 13th Pennsylvania consisted of thirty-six officers and 604 enlisted men. In May, the 13th Pennsylvania was ordered to Camp Alger, near Dunn Loring, Virginia, where it became part of the 2nd Army Corps, First Division. The 13th Pennsylvania remained in the new camp until August, when it was ordered back to Pennsylvania’s new Camp Meade, located near Middletown. Since the Spanish-American War ended on August 13, the 13th Pennsylvania did not see action.

Until 1900, Ripple was a mine surveyor, but decided to study law and entered the law department of the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1904. In 1905 he was admitted to the Lackawanna bar. In 1916 he commanded the 13th Pennsylvania during the Mexican Border Campaign. During World War I he was drafted into service and was attached to Headquarters, 55th Infantry Brigade, 28th Infantry Division.

Raymond W. Hardenberg enlisted as a private in Company E of the 13th Pennsylvania, and joined the regiment at Camp Hastings. From the 13th Pennsylvania he joined the Army Corps of Engineers under Col. Edgar Jadwin in Cuba and was appointed a Second Llieutenant in the regular army. He then participated in the Philippine Insurrection, and during World War I he served as brigade adjutant with the 159th Brigade, 80th Division A.E.F.

Hardenberg is best known, however, as the trustee of “Rags”, the war dog and mascot of the 1st Infantry Division. Rags was a mixed breed terrier discovered in Paris by Sergeant James Donovan. He trained Rags to carry messages from the front lines to the 7th Field Artillery and Rags would return with a reply. Rags achieved great notoriety and celebrity when he saved many lives during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign by delivering a vital message despite being bombed, gassed and partially blinded. A severely wounded Donovan and Rags made their way back to the U.S. and Fort Sheridan, IL, where gas victims were being treated. In early 1919, Donovan died, but Rags soon became the post’s dog. The following year, Major Hardenbergh arrived at Fort Sheridan and the family soon adopted Rags. In 1924, Hardenbergh was transferred to Governor’s Island in New York Harbor, home of the 1st Division, with whom Rags had served in World War I. Rags soon became something of a celebrity in Manhattan. In 1934, Hardenbergh was transferred to the War Department. In 1936, Rags died. He was buried with full military honors and a monument to him was erected at the Aspen Hill memorial park and animal sanctuary in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Colonel Hardenbergh died on Feb. 3, 1949

George M. Studebaker, 1885 (“Studebaker Tigers”)

157th-indiana-studebaker

George M. Studebaker

After his Commencement in 1885, George M. Studebaker returned to Indiana. He joined his father’s wagon and carriage business, the Studebaker Wagon Company, and married Ada Lantz. He also joined the 3rd Regiment of the Indiana National Guard.

Between 1895 and 1898, Cuba and the Philippine Islands revolted against Spain. The Cuban revolt had many supporters among the American people and in response to the popular outcry, President William McKinley sent the Battleship Maine to Havana. Its mission was to provide a naval presence there but on the night of February 5th, the Maine was exploded and sunk. A reluctant McKinley reacted to the public demands and Congress approved the President’s request for a declaration of war on April 10.

The 157th Regiment of Infantry, Indiana National Guard, which was known as the “Studebaker Tigers,” was formed from volunteers from the 3rd Regiment. Studebaker, the youngest colonel in the service of the country at the time, was the commander. Immediately following McKinley’s war message, Colonel Studebaker telegrammed Indiana Governor James Goodrich, offering the services of the regiment.

The `157th Regiment was the first organization of volunteers to be mustered into the Volunteer Service for the Spanish-American War. The regiment reported to Camp George H. Thomas at Chattanooga National Military Park, Chickamauga in Georgia. Due to the slow process of examining and passing the physical exam, the regiment was accepted by the United States Army after some delay. The regiment moved to Port Tampa City (FL) where it remained until it was ordered to return to Indianapolis for muster out of service.

Studebaker returned to work at the Studebaker Wagon Company, which entered the car business in 1902. Two years later, Studebaker brought out its first gasoline automobile—a two-cylinder, 16-horsepower touring car. In 1911, the company purchased the Everitt-Metzger-Flanders Co. of Detroit and formed the Studebaker Corp.

Studebaker returned to work at the Studebaker Wagon Company, which entered the car business in 1902. Two years later, Studebaker brought out its first gasoline automobile—a two-cylinder, 16-horsepower touring car. In 1911, the company purchased the Everitt-Metzger-Flanders Co. of Detroit and formed the Studebaker Corp.

Members of the 157th Infantry Regiment

Members of the 157th Infantry Regiment