Charles L. McGaha
|Charles L. McGaha|
February 26, 1914|
|Died||August 8, 1984(aged 70)|
|Place of burial||Union Cemetery, Newport, Tennessee|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||from 1937|
|Unit||35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division|
|Awards||Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart (4)|
Charles L. McGaha (February 26, 1914 – August 8, 1984) was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.
McGaha was born in the small town of Cosby in eastern Tennessee to Laura McGaha. His family had a long history of service in the United States military. In October 1937, at age 23, he traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, hoping to enlist in the United States Navy. The Navy recruiter, not needing any more enlistees, turned him away, so McGaha left for Knoxville and joined the Army instead.
In 1941, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with Company G of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was there when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941, precipitating the United States' entrance into World War II.
McGaha fought in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the northern Solomons before participating in the campaign to recapture the Philippines from Japanese control. On February 7, 1945, he was serving as a Master Sergeant during the Battle of Luzon. On that day, near Lupao, Luzon, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to aid wounded soldiers, led his platoon after the platoon leader was wounded, and deliberately drew Japanese fire onto himself so that others could escape to safety. For these actions, he was nominated for the Medal of Honor and given a battlefield commission to second lieutenant. McGaha was then discharged from the Army, but soon re-enlisted as a master sergeant and was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. His nomination for the Medal of Honor was approved a year after the battle, on April 2, 1946. During a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 1946, President Harry S. Truman formally presented McGaha and another man, Navy Commander Richard O'Kane, with Medals of Honor.
In December 1949, he married Jeanette Large.
McGaha again became a commissioned officer and reached the rank of major before retiring from the Army. A full list of his decorations includes the Medal of Honor, four Purple Hearts, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with four Bronze Battle Stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with star, American Service Ribbon with star, Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal, and Master Paratrooper Wings and Star.
Medal of Honor citation
McGaha's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. His platoon and 1 other from Company G were pinned down in a roadside ditch by heavy fire from 5 Japanese tanks supported by 10 machine guns and a platoon of riflemen. When 1 of his men fell wounded 40 yards (37 m) away, he unhesitatingly crossed the road under a hail of bullets and moved the man 75 yards (69 m) to safety. Although he had suffered a deep arm wound, he returned to his post. Finding the platoon leader seriously wounded, he assumed command and rallied his men. Once more he braved the enemy fire to go to the aid of a litter party removing another wounded soldier. A shell exploded in their midst, wounding him in the shoulder and killing 2 of the party. He picked up the remaining man, carried him to cover, and then moved out in front deliberately to draw the enemy fire while the American forces, thus protected, withdrew to safety. When the last man had gained the new position, he rejoined his command and there collapsed from loss of blood and exhaustion. M/Sgt. McGaha set an example of courage and leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the service.
- Sources are inconsistent on McGaha's birth date. His government issued headstones give February 26, 1914 (see "Charles L. McGaha". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved January 24, 2009.), while the book "25th Infantry Division" gives February 27, 1914.
- McGaha's Medal of Honor citation incorrectly records his place of birth and enlistment as "Crosby", Tennessee.
- Murphy, Edward F. (1991). Heroes of WWII. Ballantine Books. pp. 296–297. ISBN 978-0-345-37545-2.
- Ent, Uzal (January 1997). 25th Infantry Division. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-56311-043-6.
- "Medal of Honor recipients - World War II (M-S)". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. July 16, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
- "Sub Skipper, Sergeant Get Highest Medal". The Washington Post. 1946-03-28. p. 4.