Notable Cadets

George B. Christian, Jr., 1896 (White House Insider)

George Chritain 1896After completing high school in three years, George B. Christian, Jr., left Marion Ohio and enrolled at Pennsylvania Military College. He was a gifted student, earning the title of distinguished Cadet for earning a spot on the Merit List. Colonel Frank Hyatt wrote that “Mr. Christian is a cadet of high character and excellent intellectual attainments.” In 1896, he graduated with a Civil Engineering degree. He then returned to Marion and worked for his father at the Norris & Christian Stone and Lime Company.

Christian was also the next-door neighbor of Warren and Florence Harding. At an early age he delivered the Star newspaper, owned and operated by Harding. When Harding ran for the U.S. Senate in 1913, Christian was very involved in the campaign. One of the first decisions Harding made as senator-elect was to hire Christian as his personal secretary. As Harding’s alter ego this association continued throughout Harding’s presidency.

As Secretary to the President, Christian was the precursor of today’s White House Chief of Staff. He would act as the buffer between the President and public, keeping the President’s schedules and appointments, managing his correspondence, communicating to the press and managing the White House staff, which consisted of 31 people during the Harding Presidency.

President HardingIn February, 1920, PMC held its annual recognition of Washington’s birthday. Then Senator Harding, accompanied by Christian, was the featured speaker and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws. Harding’s address was described as a “tribute to PMC.” Although Harding declined an invitation to attend the Centennial Commencement Ceremony, Christian sent a photo of the President inscribed with the comment “… from one who holds Chester’s famous college in high esteem.”

Christian was devastated after the unexpected death of Harding in 1923. In an interview with the New York Times he commented: “For nearly nine years I worked beside him and my present sorrow is somewhat assuaged by the feeling of satisfaction of having been permitted to serve a great president, a most humane and considerate chief and the finest friend as has ever been given a man to have.” Although he assisted with the transition of President Coolidge, Christian turned down the President’s offer to remain.

For the next few years, Christian devoted his time to working with the Harding Memorial Association, which was formed shortly after Harding’s death to plan and raise money for the Harding Memorial. He had also planned on writing a biography about Harding and his own experiences, but he developed glaucoma, with eventually robbed him of his sight. By 1930 he was inactive and his health began to fail. died in 1951.

Judge George T. Cann, 1885 (No Ordinary Cadet)

Cann Hall

Cann Hall

Cann Memorial Hall was dedicated in February, 1965. At the time, Cann housed 86 Rooks (freshmen Cadets) and a small cadre of upperclassmen. The dormitory was named in honor of George Turner Cann, PMC 1885. The dedication ceremony was attended by faculty, Cadets and honored guests of PMC, including Cadet Captain Walter Clayton Jr., President of the Board of Trustees, Laurence Sharples, and Cann family members. In accepting the dormitory, it was said Cann “certainly was not ordinary.”

Judge Cann’s forebears settled in Georgia shortly after James Oglethorpe founded the colony in 1732. He was the valedictorian of his high school class in 1882 and entered Pennsylvania Military Academy in the fall. After only three years, he earned the distinction of being Cadet Captain, achieved the highest grade average (99.7 on the Merit List) ever attained at PMA, and became the class valedictorian. After graduation he attended Columbia University where he continued his studies and received his diploma from the law school. He returned to Savannah and was admitted to the bar. His law career included three terms as county attorney and as judge of the Eastern Judicial Circuit Court of Georgia.

George_Cann_003George Cann was an active participant in many civic and fraternal organizations, including the Savannah Board of Trade, the Georgia Historical Society, and Director of the YMCA. In 1887, he joined the Savannah Volunteer Guards as a private. He advanced quickly, however, and attained the rank of captain of Company C. He was a skilled marksman and led Company C at the sixth annual New Jersey Riflemen tournament at Sea Girt, NJ. In 1896. Cann won the Wimbledon Cup with a score of 103 of of a possible 150.

In 1924, Judge Cann conferred the degree of Bachelor of Military Science upon 64 PMC alumni. Judge Cann explained that “the degree was designed to honor graduates of PMC who had served in any branch of the military in time of actual warfare.” He went on to say that PMC

creates a sound body and healthy mind, teaches obedience ot law and authority and inspires lofty ideals. PMC men have been heroes in peace and in war. They are always ready to make the supreme sacrifice when their country calls them.

Throughout his life Judge Cann continued his involvement with PMC. He was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1924-1937 and was awarded the Honorary Degrees of Master of Arts in 1892 and Doctor of Laws in 1935.

Gordon M. Bettles ’10 (Philippine POW)

Gordon M. BettlesGordon M. Bettles left Montana in 1906 and entered PMC, He quickly became a leader in a very talented class. As a senior, he received the honor of being the Cadet Battalion Commander. Commander Bettles was also an athlete and captained the football team. At Commencement he was awarded a degree in Civil Engineering and continued his education at the Colorado School of Mines. He oversaw the successful mining operations of the Yellow Tiger Mining Company in Goldfield, Nevada and introduced the use of an oil-driven compressor to mine the gold. In 1937, Bettles left his lucrative position at the Wiljobar Corporation in California and sailed to the Philippines. He was to become a part of a mining syndicate in Manila.

The bombings at Pearl Harbor in 1941 suddenly and dramatically changed the American attitude towards the Philippines. Since becoming a colony at the end of the Spanish American War, America’s approach was muddled. To many, the Philippine were an economic investment. This resulted in various large and small companies seeking the wealth of lumber, sugar and precious metals that the islands offered. After Pearl Harbor, the view was that Manila Bay was a large well-fortified port in the Pacific.

Within a month, Gordon Bettles and 6,000 other American and British civilians were interred in Japanese prison camps in Manila. The largest of these camps was Camp No. 1, University of Santo Tomása Internment Camp. The University campus consisted of 50 acres and was surrounded by high masonry walls on three sides an an ornate iron fence facing the main street. Inside the compound were the Main Building and an education building, both structures were 3-stores in height and contained offices, classrooms and a gymnasium. In addition, there were two light construction one-story buildings called the Annex and the Infirmary. Segregated by sex, thirty to fifty people were crowded into these small spaces. Bathrooms were scarce.

While there were many difficulties accommodating the growing number of internees, the Japanese absolved themselves of any responsibility. The Japanese did not consider the internees to be prisoners, but merely civilians held in protective custody. This left the internees struggling to find ways of feeding of themselves and dealing with a variety of health issues.

On June 14, 1943, Gordon M. Bettles, age 50, died of unknown causes while imprisoned. He was buried in the Manila North Cemetery.

Watch a photographic slideshow of the “University of Santo Tomas during the 2nd World War.”

 

Hugh F. McCaffery, Jr. ‘24 (Army Air Corps)

• McCaffery, HFor 150 years, PMC taught students to be academically disciplined and instilled in them the qualities of leadership. Two brothers, Hugh and Joe McCaffery (read more), learned these lessons well and were superior leaders at a time when the nation needed them.

Hugh McCaffrey ‘24 started in the PMC Prep School and then entered the college. During his time at PMC he was a multi-sport athlete, football, basketball and baseball, and was admired by his classmates for his energy and leadership. As the quarterback of the football team, McCaffrey was considered by many, including Col. Frank Hyatt, to be “slightly” better than Reds Pollock ’34. In 1924, he received his Degree in Civil Engineering from PMC and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Reserves. McCaffery then entered law school at Notre Dame University. While there, he joined the swim team, became the team’s captain, set collegiate records in the 100-meter freestyle, and qualified for the Olympics swim team. After earning his law degree, his interest in flying took him in a different direction.

McCaffery was a gifted pilot. Before joining the Army Air Corps in 1930, he graduated from the School of Aviation at Essington, PA. He then joined the Army Air Corps and completed flying school at Randolph Field in Texas. Thereafter, he received specialized training in pursuit, observation and bombardment in a variety of airplanes. Upon completing his training, he was assigned to the 31st Bombardment Squadron. In 1939, he was an instructor at the Air Navigation School at Hickam Field in Hawaii. In 1940, he was put in charge of the squadron.

Hugh McCaffery Air CorpsShortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of War Stimson ordered Major General Herbert A. Dargue, an aviation pioneer and commanding officer of the First Air Force, and his staff, including Major McCaffery, to investigate the lack of preparedness at Pearl Harbor and to take command of the Army units in Hawaii. In July (?) of 1941, while flying a Douglas B-18 enroute to Hamilton Field in California, McCaffrey encountered a snow storm as he approached the Sierra Nevada Mountains and subsequently went missing. An exhaustive search was conducted. It wasn’t until May, 1942, that a search party led by Norman Clyde, a well-known mountaineer with experience in the Sierra Nevada, found the aircraft and bodies, covered by five feet of snow.

On the evening of October 14, 1949, the Corps of Cadets gathered in the Armory to hear Bill Stern, ’30 (read more) noted sports broadcaster. During his 15-minute, coast-to-coast broadcast that evening, Stern paid tribute to Hugh and Joe McCaffery, who had been killed in action. Any death in war is tragic. For PMC, the loss of the McCaffery boys was very personal and underscored the sacrifice PMC has made while serving our country.

John Grant ’65 (A Marine aboard Stars & Stripes)

• John Grant flippedLike many others before him, when John Grant completed Bordentown Military Institute, he enrolled at PMC. His classmates described him as a “straight up man.” He studied economics, played football and was E Company Commander in his First Class (Senior) year. He graduated in 1965 as a Distinguished Military Student and entered the Marine Corps.

After flight school, he was assigned to the 4th Marine Division. As a Marine, he was involved in a series of battles in Vietnam. One noteworthy campaign was Operation Hastings in 1966. In order to confront the lead forces of a North Vietnamese force advancing across the DMZ, the Marines launched an attack. It was during this time that 2nd Lieutenant Grant responded, organized, and deployed a defense for a forward aid station. This act of gallantry was not isolated. While serving aboard the USS St. Paul, Grant dove into the sea to rescue a drowning sailor that had fallen overboard. Towards the end of his 20-year career, Grant was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro in California. It was while he was at El Toro that he met Dennis Conner, a famed yachtsman and a four-time winner of the America’s Cup. This chance meeting gave Grant an opportunity to follow a new path. Shortly after meeting Conner, Grant was asked to join the Stars & Stripes team. To be a part of the historic America’s Cup Races was an incredible opportunity for Grant. His perspective was that these races were the “holy grail” of yacht racing.

• America's Cup TrophyThis challenging competition began in England in 1851, when the Royal Yacht Squadron challenged the New York Yacht Club. The New York Yacht Club won the race and was presented with the 100 Guineas Cup, an award commemorating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year. The New York Yacht Club renamed the trophy “The America’s Cup,” after its winning yacht. For the next 132 years, American yachts successfully defended the America’s Cup. This changed in 1983, when the Australian challenger won. By 1987, Dennis Conner had organized and built a new yacht which went on to defeat an Australian defender. Grant’s role on the team was that of a “winch grinder.” Although he was the senior member of the crew, his emotional and physical leadership quickly caught the attention and respect of his teammates. They affectionately called him “Rambo.” Just prior to the start of the America’s Cup in 1987, Grant was sidelined by a broken foot. The next year he was part of the team that defended the America’s Cup from a New Zealand challenge.

Walter D. Fetterly ’29 (The Liberator of Stalag IX-B)

Walter D. FetterlyWalter “Fet” Fetterly arrived in 1922 and spent two years at Pennsylvania Military Prep School before starting PMC and graduating in 1929. He was not an outstanding athlete, but was known more as on organizer of military and social events. Fetterly was, however, an outstanding rifleman and Captain of the Rifle Team during his senior year. This team went undefeated and Fetterly led them to PMC’s first Eastern Championship and the Hearst Trophy.

Fetterly joined the Army and was assigned to the 114th Infantry Regiment. In February 1945, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for “meritorious achievement … in the face of determined resistance from strongly fortified enemy positions, in addition to the hazards of extensive minefields along the axis of advance, the Second Battalion, under Lt. Colonel Fetterly’s direction, was able to secure its assigned objective. When heavy casualties were sustained and one company had lost all its officers, Fetterly quickly reorganized his battalion, assigning duties to new leaders and changing the plan of attack to meet the situation on the ground, and led his battalion in the assault which resulted in the capture of Bellevue and Brandelfingerhoff Farms.”

In April 1945, the end of the war was close at hand. The difficult and dangerous mission Lt. Colonel Fetterly received may have surprised him. He was to command a Task Force, consisting of the 2nd Battalion, 114th Regiment, 44th Infantry Division reinforced with light tanks and armored cars from 106th Cavalry Group, and Company C from the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion equipped with M36 “Slugger” Tank Destroyer. The mission of the Task Force was to break through German lines and drive 60 kilometers (37 miles) through enemy held territory to liberate POWs at Stalag IX-B, in Bad Orb. The Task Force was to proceed with all deliberate speed avoiding contact with the enemy. With elements of the 106th Cavalry in the lead, the attack started well. On occasion, the Task Force experienced occasional resistance, but they were not slowed down and they rejoined the Cavalry in Bad Orb. On April 2, Fetterly and the Task Force liberated 6,000 Allied soldiers, of which 3,364 were American. What they found was shocking.

 

Stalag IX-B was appallingly overcrowded and the available food supply was inadequate for the prisoners. The 160-man barracks were so overcrowded that soldiers had to take turns sleeping. Each barrack had only one water tap and one hole in the ground which was used as a toilet.

For many, the liberation did not come soon enough.

 

Rifle TrophySurrender IX-Bliberate1eating1

George Bjotvedt ’51 (Scout Dogs)

Geroge BjotvedtGeorge Bjotvedt arrived at PMC in the fall of 1947. The transformation to cadet #224 began when the college tailor fitted him for his uniform. That year freshmen were assigned to Old Main where a cadre of senior cadets enforced the rules and regulations. By his junior year, cadet life was “second nature,” and he realized the structure was preparing him for the future. He was a Distinguished Military Student and upon graduation received a regular army commission. Like many of his classmates he would be asked to perform as a leader of men in combat during the Korean War.

When he arrived in Korea, he was transported to the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment. There he was assigned to A Company of the first battalion. Bjotvedt soon found himself conducting the bulk of ambush patrols for the battalion. At first the men of the 65th Puerto Rican Regiment suffered numerous casualties while patrolling in “No-Man’s Land.” To make these dangerous assignments more manageable, a scout dog and handler were assigned to each patrol.

Scout Dogs on patrolGerman Shepherds were used because of their temperament, size, and toughness. Bjotvedt described these dogs as being able to “detect hidden enemy far in advance of the patrol’s ability to see, hear or smell the enemy.” When a scout dog sensed the enemy he would alert the patrol, “much like a bird dog’s rigid stance.” Each night a patrol, following a predetermined route and position, would advance into “No-Man’s Land” escorted by a scout dog. The patrol would advance in single file with the scout dog clearing the way. The patrol relied on the dog’s night vision and keen hearing throughout the patrol.

Many thankful soldiers will remember the outstanding service of the scout dogs.

Edwin A. Howell, 1890 (Howell Hall)

E.A. Howell 1890Born in New Jersey, Edwin Howell enrolled in the Class of 1890 after attending a year at Alfred University in New York. Howell was an exceptional student, earning top academic honors each year and was a Cadet Lieutenant and aide to Charles Hyatt in his senior year. As a Cadet, Howell was the editor of The Reveille, an early PMC newspaper. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and joined the Pennsylvania & Northwestern Railroad. He then returned to Chester to “read law.” In 1896, he was admitted to the Delaware County Bar and maintained law offices in Chester for the next 50 years. In 1927, he joined the PMC Board of Trustees and served as the solicitor and became secretary.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, PMC faced serious financial challenges. The business model was flawed and despite being recognized as a non-profit by the federal government in 1936, state and local taxes were an enormous burden. Howell focused his energies on solving these problems. His plan included a reorganization of the business model, significant belt tightening along with fund raising, lowering faculty salaries and increasing enrollment.

Howell 1953In 1952, Frank Hyatt, who had been ill for many years, retired. Edwin Howell was appointed interim President and head of the Search Committee. During his Presidency, Howell maintained his law practice in Chester and Vice-President Stanton von Grabill ‘35 oversaw the daily operation of the College. During this time, Howell began the preparations for the Middle States Evaluation, strengthened the Day Cadet program, made financial aid more evenly distributed, developed a more efficient budgeting process for the College and began a policy of competitive bidding on purchases.

After General Edward E. MacMorland was selected as the new President of PMC, Howell continued on the Board of Trustees until his death in 1954. Expansion of the Corps of Cadets was one of General MacMorland’s priorities. To accomplish this goal, new facilities were required, including a new dormitory. MacMorland recommended that the College name the new dormitory, which was dedicated in 1958, after Edwin A. Howell:

Over the years, he was a tower of strength to the College. He served the College faithfully and well for many, many years as secretary and president of the Board and, for a brief period, as President of the College.

Among the many lasting contributions the Howell family made to PMC was the establishment of the Hyatt Endowed Scholarship and significant support for the Wolfgram Library.

Jesse W. Roberts ’36 (Battle of the Bulge)

Jess W Roberts JrJesse Roberts came to PMC from Upper Darby High and spent a term in the Pennsylvania Military Prep School. He then transitioned to PMC. He was gregarious, played football, and was part of the Cavalry Squad while at PMC. His keen sense of humor and love of a good practical jokes resulted in his intimate acquaintance with the “Delinquent Guard”, later known as “Walking (penalty) Tours”. After graduation, Roberts worked for the Roberts Filter Manufacturing Company, which his family had started in 1896. Jesse later returned to PMC as the Adjutant in 1941 and continued in that role until he was called to active duty in January 1942. After completing Tank Destroyer School, he was assigned to the 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion (the “Seven O Deuce”).

The “Seven O Duce” landed on Omaha Beach in mid-June and entered the line in early July. The battalion became part of the 2d Armored Division. In November, Roberts joined the “Seven O Duce” as Platoon Leader, second platoon of Company A.

In response to the German counter attack in the Ardennes, the VII Corps, under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery, was tasked with halting the advance. As the battle intensified, the 2d Armored Division was ordered to seize Buissonville, Belgium, where German tanks had been reported. Company A moved toward Buissonville and attacked the 2d Panzer Division and elements of the 116th Panzer Divisions as they were preparing to move north. After encountering and destroying several German tanks, Roberts positioned his troops on an exposed ridge, where they battled the enemy that were hidden in the woods. During this encounter, the Germans lost two Panther tanks, two 88 mm anti-tank guns, one Self-Propelled 75 mm gun, one armored car, one personnel carrier and eight trucks. In early January 1945, Roberts lead an attack against two German Panther tanks near La Wate, Belgium. During the firefight, a German round struck Roberts’ gun crew, killing two men and Montgomery BMCwounding Roberts. He extinguished the fire in the vehicle and evacuated three wounded men. Despite refusing medical assistance for burns to his hands and face, he returned to his unit. Later in January he was injured twice and eventually evacuated to a field hospital. It was determined that Roberts had suffered fractured ribs and remained hospitalized. For his actions, Field Marshall Montgomery awarded Roberts The British Military Cross Medal.

Like many families, the Roberts family connection to PMC continued. He was the President of the Alumni Association and later the PMC Parents Association. In addition, both sons of Roberts were members of the Corps of Cadets and graduated from PMC.

Russell A. Freas, Jr., ’41 (Battle of the Bulge)

Russell A. Freas Jr

Russell A. Freas Jr

Russ Freas came to PMC from Glen-Nor High School, in Glenolden, where he was described as one of the “pluckiest” football players of his time and he was selected to the All-Delaware County and Chester team. While playing football at PMC, he became an outstanding Guard. As a Cadet, he was described as having great energy and determination. After Commencement, he joined the Army and was eventually assigned to the 423rd Infantry Regiment.

A week before the start of the Battle of the Bulge, the 106th Infantry Division was sent in to relieve the 2nd Infantry Division near Schonberg, Germany. The Germans began their assault at dawn on December 16th and the 106th stared directly down the barrels of the Second SS Panzer Division.

The German attack on the town of Bleialf that morning gave the Germans control of the lower two thirds of the town. The arrival of more than two hundred reinforcements, including the Service Company, which had been re-organized as a rifle company and commanded by Freas, halted the German advance. These reinforcements were then ordered to counterattack. Freas personally led his men into many of the town’s buildings. He was credited with personally capturing numerous German prisoners. By mid-afternoon, Freas and the other reinforcements had reoccupied the entire town, except for the houses around the train station.

After three days of arduous combat, two regiments of the 106th Division, the 422nd and the 423rd, were surrounded. While both regiments continued to fight, supplies of ammunition and food ran low. On December 18, the regiments counter-attached in hopes of breaking through the German lines. This bold action was blocked by the sheer weight of German numbers. Both regiments surrendered.

Bild 183-J28589The Germans marched 985 captured men of the 106th for four days until they reached Stalag XIIA near Limburg, Germany. The Americans never entered the camp, but were packed into boxcars, 60 men to a boxcar, and transported to Stalag 9-B, considered to be one of the worst POW camps in Germany. During the trip to Stalag 9-B, eight men attempted to escape and were killed by an exploding land mine. The German sergeant-in-charge was enraged and began shooting. Although the sergeant knew that every boxcar was densely packed, he fired a round through the door of a car, killing an American soldier.

In 1946, Freas was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal for his gallantry.