Hector A. Cafferata Jr.

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Hector A. Cafferata Jr.
Cafferata korea moh.jpg A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
Hector A. Cafferata, Medal of Honor recipient
Birth name Hector Albert Cafferata Jr.
Born (1929-11-04)November 4, 1929
New York, New York
Died April 12, 2016(2016-04-12) (aged 86)
Venice, Florida
Place of burial Quantico National Cemetery
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1948–1951
Rank Private First Class
Unit Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 7th Marines
Battles/wars Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon

Hector Albert Cafferata Jr., USMCR (November 4, 1929 – April 12, 2016) was a United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. In November 1950, Private First Class Cafferata single-handedly held off a regimental-strength enemy and saved wounded Marines by hurling away a live grenade that had landed in their midst, at the cost of serious personal injury.[1]

Early life[edit]

Hector Cafferata was born November 4, 1929, in New York City to Mr. and Mrs. Hector A. Cafferata Sr. of Montville, New Jersey. He attended elementary school at Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey and high school at Boonton, New Jersey. Starting as a sophomore in high school, he played football for three years, and following graduation, he continued as a semi-pro. In 1943, he was employed for the Sun Dial Corporation of Caldwell, New Jersey.

Military service; Korean War[edit]

Cafferata enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on February 15, 1948. He was a member of the 21st Reserve Infantry Battalion at Dover, New Jersey, until he was called to active duty on September 6, 1950.

Cafferata shaking hands with President Barack Obama.

After additional training at Camp Pendleton, California, Pfc Cafferata embarked for Korea in October 1950, joining the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.

Medal of Honor

Cafferata distinguished himself during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, single-handedly holding off a regimental-sized enemy force and "annihilating two enemy platoons" after most of his comrades had fallen. His actions in contact with the enemy started in the early morning and lasted over five hours. During the battle, Cafferata fought the enemy without either his coat or his boots, neither of which he could locate in the early morning darkness.[1]

"For the rest of the night I was batting hand grenades away with my entrenching tool while firing my rifle at them. I must have whacked a dozen grenades that night with my tool. And you know what? I was the world’s worst baseball player[1]

When a live grenade fell into the shallow entrenchment occupied by his wounded fellow Marines, he grabbed the grenade and hurled it away — saving the lives of many, but suffering severe wounds.[2][1] For these heroic actions, he would later be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was evacuated to Japan in December 1950. Cafferata returned to the United States in January for treatment at the U. S. Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York. He was placed on the medically retired list on September 1, 1951.

On November 24, 1952, Marine Pfc received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman during ceremonies at the White House.[1]

Military decorations and awards[edit]

Cafferata's military awards include:

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze star
Bronze star
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 service star National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal w/ 1 service star Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Korea Medal

Public namings[edit]

  • The Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary School in the Lee County School District, Cape Coral, Florida, named in Cafferata's honor, is the first school in Florida to be named after a living Medal of Honor recipient.[3]
  • Marine Hector Cafferata Jr. Congressional Medal of Honor Highway, Interstate 287 from milepost 30.17 to milepost 53.89.
  • Hector Cafferata Jr also has a street named for him in Montville, Cafferata Ct.[4]

Medal of Honor[edit]

Head and shoulders of a gray-haired white man wearing glasses, a suit and tie, and a star-shaped medal hanging from a blue ribbon around his neck.
Cafferata in 2010

Cafferata's Medal of Honor citation reads:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman with Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 28 November 1950. When all the other members of his fire team became casualties, creating a gap in the lines, during the initial phase of a vicious attack launched by a fanatical enemy of regimental strength against his company's hill position, Private CAFFERATA waged a lone battle with grenades and rifle fire as the attack gained momentum and the enemy threatened penetration through the gap and endangered the integrity of the entire defensive perimeter. Making a target of himself under the devastating fire from automatic weapons, rifles, grenades and mortars, he maneuvered up and down the line and delivered accurate and effective fire against the onrushing force, killing fifteen, wounding many more and forcing the others to withdraw so that reinforcements could move up and consolidate the position. Again fighting desperately against a renewed onslaught later that same morning when a hostile grenade landed in a shallow entrenchment occupied by wounded Marines, Private CAFFERATA rushed into the gully under heavy fire, seized the deadly missile in his right hand and hurled it free of his comrades before it detonated, severing part of one finger and seriously wounding him in the right hand and arm. Courageously ignoring the intense pain, he staunchly fought on until he was struck by a sniper's bullet and forced to submit to evacuation for medical treatment. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private CAFFERATA, by his fortitude, great personal valor and dauntless perseverance in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines and contributed essentially to the success achieved by his company in maintaining its defensive position against tremendous odds. His extraordinary heroism throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[5]



Cafferata died on April 12, 2016 at a hospice in Venice, Florida.[1][6]

At the time of his death, survivors included his wife of more than 50 years, the former Doris Giblock of Venice, four children, Lynn D. Cafferata Coovert and Deborah Cafferata-ReFalo, both of Charlotte, North Carolina; Dale W. Cafferata of Pinellas Park, Florida, and Heather A. Cafferata of Budd Lake, New Jersey; a brother; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.[1]

Although Cafferata occasionally attended Medal of Honor ceremonies, he was reluctant to speak about his own wartime experiences.[1]

"I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”[1]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Schudel, Matt (April 17, 2016) "Waged one-man battle during Korean War”, The Washington Post, page C9[1] Retrieved August 6, 2016
  2. ^ Russ Breakout, p.182-3.
  3. ^ Seman, Rob (February 2005). "Ex-Morris vet's name to grace Florida school". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 2005-12-18. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  4. ^ "Cafferata Ct". Google Maps. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  5. ^ "PVT Hector A. Cafferata Jr., Medal of Honor", Marines Awarded the Medal of Honor.
  6. ^ PR Newswire. "Medal Of Honor Recipient Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Passes Away At 86". TheStreet. 


  • Russ, Martin (1999). Breakout" – The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-029259-4. 
  • Smith, Larry (2003). Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words : Extraordinary Stories of Courage from World War II to Vietnam. New York: Norton. ISBN 039305134X. 


External links[edit]