Francis X. C. Knobeloch


Francis Xavier Calvin Knobeloch
Calvin, Cal [civilian]
Knobby [military]
611 10th Street, Tell City, IN
1943 – 1946
1951 – 1953
Iwo Jima HQ/1/24 174 PFC
Corporal (WWII)
Sergeant (Korea)

Born on August 15, 1925, to C. M. Brucker and Anita Knobeloch, “Calvin” Knobeloch grew up in Tell City, Indiana. He graduated from a local high school and was accepted to Indiana University, where he intended to study education. However, he was eighteen years old, and subject for military service. Not long after completing his Selective Service registration card Calvin put his studies aside and joined the Marine Corps.

Knobeloch entered the service late in 1943. The Marine Corps (which insisted on using his given first name, Francis) sent him to San Diego for boot training, then to radio school. He quickly qualified as a low-speed radio operator; when he showed some mechanical aptitude, as well, the Corps sent him to radio material school in Omaha, Nebraska. Calvin emerged wearing the stripe of a private first class, and fully qualified as a radio repairman.

PFC Knobeloch was sent back to California, where he joined the 24th Replacement Draft and sailed for the Hawaiian Islands. While there were a few veteran non-commissioned officers in the ranks, the unit was mostly comprised of Marines who were no long out of training. Some, like Knobeloch, were specialists; many were simply riflemen. They were attached, en masse, to the 4th Marine Division, which was then in training for its fourth amphibious operation. The replacements were informed in no uncertain terms that they were there to take the place of Marines who fell in combat. However, the operation itself was not anticipated to be too difficult – a matter of days at most – and most of them would not be called on to do any actual fighting.

This assumption turned out to be wildly inaccurate. On 19 February 1945, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions landed on Iwo Jima; within days, the 3rd Marine Division had to be committed, and the combat units were calling for replacements to man the lines. Many replacements came ashore to work as stevedores on the black ash beaches, and PFC Knobeloch may have experienced his first enemy fire while ducking mortar and artillery rounds among piles of supplies. His specialized training may also have spared him an immediate posting to a combat unit, but on 4 March 1945, the 24th Marines needed a radioman and PFC Knobeloch’s name was picked. He reported to the communications platoon of First Battalion, 24th Marines as the unit was reeling from the shock of yet another bloody, futile attack on Japanese positions aptly called “the Meat Grinder.”

What Calvin Knobeloch saw and experienced on Iwo Jima, he kept to himself, rarely sharing with friends or family. He spent nearly two weeks on the front lines with 1/24, and evidently integrated himself well with the veterans if his platoon – a Marine Corps photographer snapped a shot of Calvin with Cpl. Howard Peterson and PFC Clyde Letcher as the trio cooked breakfast one morning. Whether he ever repaired a radio on Iwo is not known; he might have been pressed into service as a platoon’s radioman or helped work the battalion’s comm net. Although casualties in his platoon were not especially heavy, he certainly saw more than his share of wounds and death while serving with 1/24. When the battalion was finally pulled off the lines on the morning of 17 March 1945, his relief was probably no less great than that of the most seasoned veteran.

The communications platoon would become PFC Knobeloch’s home in the Marine Corps. He returned to Maui with them, helped train up even newer replacements, and prepared himself for the eventual assault on the Japanese home islands. Fortunately, the war ended before Knobeloch had to face combat again. He served out the remainder of his time in the Corps with the 17th Service Battalion, and returned home to Indiana in 1946.

Senior year at Indiana University. 1949 Arbutus yearbook.

“Cal” put the war behind him for a time, and continued his life where he left off. He resumed his studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, and graduated from the School of Education with a degree in speech. He was back in uniform in 1950, however – as a Marine Corps reservist, he was called up for service at the outbreak of the Korean War. Fortunately, he was not required to serve overseas, and after brief spells of duty in North Carolina, Washington DC, and Indianapolis, he was placed back on active reserve status. When he was finally discharged in 1953, he was not only “Sergeant Knobeloch” of the Marines, but “Mr. Knobeloch” of New Albany High School, where he taught English, speech, and theater (a passion from his college days) and ran the student debate club. That year, he married his colleague Sheila Richeson, and the two continued to teach in New Albany for several years.

Calvin and Sheila, faculty portraits at New Albany High School, 1953.

Calvin Knobeloch became an expert in the field of audiology and speech pathology. He went on to earn his PhD; “Dr. Knobeloch” is frequently cited in academic works relating to speech and hearing disorders, particularly among veterans and children. His family summarized his professional accomplishments:

Cal started the Audiology and Speech Pathology programs at the V.A. Regional Office in Winston-Salem and Hospital in Durham. In 1964 he became the Associate Director of the Division for Disorders of Development and Learning at UNC-Chapel Hill. After he retired in 1985, he taught for six more years at NCCU. He was a Fellow of the American Speech and Hearing Association and received the honors of the NC Speech, Language and Hearing Association.

He was also known for his love of travel, baking, and children – he and Sheila eventually had three of their own, and by the time of his death in 2019, Dr. Knobeloch was a grandfather and great-grandfather.

Dr. F. X. Calvin Knobeloch passed away on 1 March 2019, at the age of 93.

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