James Drexler Michel

NO. 17954  •  19 June 1927 – 26 March 1951

Died March 26, 1951, of  Wounds Received in Action, in Korea.  Aged 23 Years.


Those of us who were the friends of Jim Michel, and his friends were legion, were shocked and bewildered to learn of his death from wounds received in action in Korea. It is incomprehensible to realize that this wonderful youth is no longer mortally with us. In his brief lifetime, he left a tapestry of memories that those of us who were privileged to know him will never forget.

Jim was born June 19th, 1927, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the son of Clarence B. and Alice Michel. He was christened James Drexler Michel, the third son of his beloved parents. Saint Paul, which was his home until he entered the Service, was to him more than a city; it was a way of life. Here he passed the formative years of his life with his family and his friends. Away from home, in the service, his life was a mirror of associations and memories of Saint Paul.

One did not have to know Jim long to realize that his whole character and being were shaped and guided by his family and his Church. He received his elementary schooling in the Parochial Schools of the Church, and coupled with his wholesome and happy family life, it was inevitable that he matured into a kind, self-sacrificing

young gentleman who loved life in all of its manifestations.  A devout Catholic, he practiced his religion by living it, and achieved a peace of mind that was the essence of a Christian. It was natural that he entered a life of service.

In 1941, Jim followed his brothers and entered Saint Thomas Military Academy in Saint Paul. His years there were spent preparing for the United States Military Academy. After graduation in June 1945, he entered the Regular Army as a Private. He took his basic training at Camp Roberts, California, and served with the Air Force at Stephenville, Newfoundland, until he returned to the States to enter West Point in July of 1946.

The Point produced no startling changes in Jim's character. His effervescent personality and sound sense of values made him one of the better known cadets in his class. He was engrossed with sports, and played Corps Squad Football and Hockey, in addition to all the intramural sports. His weekly written reports to the Tactical 0fficer, on Athletic Affairs in Company B-1, became required reading for all.

Perhaps his greatest love was music. He could, and would, listen to any kind of music for hours. Any musical instrument small enough (and some not small enough) for a cadet room, he possessed and played. He sang in the Catholic Choir and the Cadet Glee Club. He often stated that the most enjoyment he experienced at the Academy was singing with these groups in their practices and presentations. He also played in the Hundredth Night Shows. On trips away, he would go to musicals and the opera. To live with him was to live with a song.

Jim was a good student, but there were so many more interesting things to do that he never gave the books more than slight attention after plebe year, and he still graduated some distance from the bottom of the class. Any subject he was interested in, he excelled in, with seemingly little effort.

His ability to get along with people and to make friends was fascinating. If ever a man had no enemies, it was Jim Michel. His hearty laugh and ready wit enlivened every minute, and in moments of adversity his calm, kind words and succor would be forthcoming. He gave himself to his friends, and to him everyone was his friend.

Jim chose the Coast Artillery when he graduated. He spent his graduation leave in Saint Paul and in Northern Minnesota with his family and friends. When his leave was over, he sailed for Japan, and he stayed there until early in 1951, when he went to Korea. He served with AAA units until the middle of March, when he transferred to the 159th Field Artillery Battalion.

On March 21st, 1951, he was promoted to First Lieutenant, and the next day he was walking along a mountain path near Kum-gong-­ni, Korea, when a soldier in front of him tripped a booby-trapped grenade. The fragments from this grenade wounded him in the head and he was immediately evacuated. On March 26th, he passed away, leaving his parents; two brothers, Ted and Charles; two sisters, Crescence and Rita; a host of other relatives and a myriad of friends.

Although four years is not a long time, the impression that Jim left upon us, his friends, will last a lifetime. None of us will ever forget the constant kindnesses and the lovable nature, that coupled with an inquisitive mind and peaceful spirit made living near and with him such a wonderful adventure. He set high standards for himself, lived by them, and was a credit to himself, to his family, and to his Church. He was truthfully a cavalier and a Christian. Those who were denied the privilege of knowing him in this life have missed a rich and satisfying experience, while those of us who did know him have been shown a way to joy and peace.

-Lieutenant R. G. Trefry.