Sidney Berry, 87; was West Point commander

Posted: July 20, 2013

Sidney Berry led men into combat in two wars and was wounded in both. Yet the most trying period the highly decorated officer faced in a distinguished Army career occurred during his stint as head of the U.S. Military Academy, when a cheating scandal roiled the campus just before the first female cadets arrived.

"That was the most difficult assignment he ever had in his life because it was such a difficult time," his daughter, Nan Berry Davenport, said Thursday.

She said her father, 87, a retired lieutenant general, died of complications from Parkinson's disease on Monday, July 1 at a retirement home in Kennett Square.

Gen. Berry was superintendent in 1976 when a major cheating scandal engulfed West Point, with 152 cadets eventually expelled for violating the academy's code of honor. The scandal particularly pained Gen. Berry, a member of West Point's Class of 1948 and a former history instructor at the academy.

"I've never been in more of a combat situation than I am now," Berry told Time in 1976.

A few months after the scandal broke, the first female cadets arrived on the campus. Gen. Berry initially opposed the appointment of women to the academy.

Davenport said her father, ever the professional soldier, eventually got with the program, then worked to make develop accommodations for the women, including overseeing the designing of new uniforms for the female plebes, West Point's term for freshmen.

Gen. Berry was born on Feb. 10, 1926, in Hattiesburg, Miss. He accepted an appointment to West Point rather than enlist during World War II. A year after graduating from the academy, he married Anne Florine Hayes, a member of a Quaker family whose ancestors settled in Chester County in the early 1700s.

He was assigned to the 35th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division, and his unit was headed to Japan for training when the Korean War broke out in June 1950. Sent to South Korea instead, the young second lieutenant's company was in the thick of the fighting for weeks.

Berry was awarded two Silver Stars in Korea, where he received battlefield promotions to captain and then major. He earned two more in Vietnam, where he commanded combat units in the First Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Gen. Berry is survived by another daughter, Lynne Bonner; a son, Bryan; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Davenport said a memorial service would be held Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Romansville Friends Meeting House, Strasburg and Shadyside Roads, West Bradford. Inurnment was at a Romansville cemetery.

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