Junior J. Spurrier
Junior James Spurrier
|Born||December 14, 1922|
Castlewood, Russell County, Virginia
|Died||February 25, 1984 (aged 61)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1940-1945 |
|Unit||Company G, 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division|
|Spouse(s)||Velma Kathleen "Kathy" Spurrier (née Romano)|
|Relations||4 siblings (one brother and three sisters)|
Junior James Spurrier, born James Ira Spurrier, Jr., was a United States Army soldier who received the United States' two highest military decorations for valor—the Medal of Honor and Distinguished Service Cross—for his heroic actions in World War II.
Early life and education
Spurrier was born on December 14, 1922, in the Castlewood area of Russell County, western Virginia to railroad employee James I. Spurrier, one of five children. The family suffered due to the Great Depression, moving frequently, and the younger Spurrier dropped out of school in the seventh grade to assist them by working on a farm. He eventually went to Bluefield, West Virginia to work in a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. His mother died in the summer of 1940, and he decided to enlist in the Army.
By the fall of 1940, Spurrier was living in Wise County, Virginia. On September 25, 1940, he voluntarily enlisted into the United States Army from Richmond, Virginia. Spurrier filled his name in the wrong blanks in his enlistment paperwork, and became known to the Army throughout his time in service as "Junior J. Spurrier."
Sent overseas on April 20, 1942, he first served in the infantry in the Pacific Theater. Injured in New Guinea in late 1943, he was returned to the United States for medical treatment, first to Camp Carson, Colorado, then to San Francisco, California. Deemed fit for duty, Spurrier was sent overseas again in June 1944. He was eventually assigned to Company G of the 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, as a replacement private on July 19, 1944. On July 26, 1944, he was promoted to staff sergeant and became a messenger and scout. On September 16, 1944, near Lay-Saint-Christophe, France, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for spearheading an assault on a stubbornly-defended hill position. While twice positioning himself on an American tank destroyer, Spurrier used its .50 caliber machine gun to kill over a dozen German soldiers and force the surrender of twenty-two others. While fighting on the ground, he personally destroyed two enemy dugouts with grenades. Spurrier was awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded in action on September 21, 1944.
Medal of Honor actions
On November 13, 1944, Spurrier singlehandedly attacked and fought Germans in the village of Achain, France. Spurrier repeatedly returned to his company's command post with prisoners, and replenished his ammunition from both American and enemy weapons to continue his attack on the occupied village. Spurrier earned the Medal of Honor for nearly single-handedly capturing the village of Achain that day; the medal was presented to Spurrier by Lieutenant General William Hood Simpson, commander of the Ninth United States Army, during a ceremony on March 6, 1945.
Staff Sergeant Junior J. Spurrier's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy at Achain, France, on 13 November 1944. At 2 p.m., Company G attacked the village of Achain from the east. S/Sgt. Spurrier armed with a BAR passed around the village and advanced alone. Attacking from the west, he immediately killed 3 Germans. From this time until dark, S/Sgt. Spurrier, using at different times his BAR and M1 rifle, American and German rocket launchers, a German automatic pistol, and handgrenades, continued his solitary attack against the enemy regardless of all types of small-arms and automatic-weapons fire. As a result of his heroic actions he killed an officer and 24 enlisted men and captured 2 officers and 2 enlisted men. His valor has shed fresh honor on the U.S. Armed Forces.
Spurrier was wounded again on December 9, 1944, receiving a second Purple Heart. He was transferred to Company K of the 134th Infantry Regiment on April 24, 1945, and returned to the United States soon after. He was discharged from the U.S. Army on June 19, 1945. Spurrier had a younger brother, George, who also served in the Army and was killed in action in France on July 28, 1944.
Later life and death
Spurrier was noted as an extraordinarily brave and independent prankster who often clashed with his commanders, and went absent without leave several times during his service. Discharged after World War II, he re-enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1947. He had a severe problem with alcohol, and was demoted to the rank of private in 1950; Spurrier deserted his post during the Korean War and the Army gave him a general discharge in 1951. Spurrier had a turbulent and remarkable life after the military. He had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life, possibly due to posttraumatic stress disorder, and had several run-ins with the law in Virginia and Maryland. He eventually served three jail sentences, including one for attempted murder, being released for the last time in 1969. Spurrier became a teetotaler, ran a radio and television repair business, and retired to a cabin in eastern Tennessee, where he died in relative obscurity on February 25, 1984, at the age of 61. He is buried in Mountain Home National Cemetery, in Johnson City, Tennessee.
A memorial to Spurrier was dedicated at the Mercer County War Museum on July 2, 2006. Several of Spurrier's original awards were believed lost, but were located in November 2011 by Granville, West Virginia, police chief Craig Corkrean, in a safe belonging to his late father. Spurrier's Medal of Honor and other medals were presented to his two surviving sisters in a ceremony held on December 2, 2011.
Awards and decorations
|Combat Infantryman Badge|
|Medal of Honor||Distinguished Service Cross|
|Legion of Merit||Bronze Star Medal with one "V" device and one oak leaf cluster||Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster|
|American Defense Service Medal||American Campaign Medal||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with arrowhead device|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver campaign star||World War II Victory Medal||French Croix de Guerre 1939-1945|
|Belgian Croix De Guerre of 1940||Distinguished Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster||Meritorious Unit Commendation|
- 1.^ Conflicting information exists as to Junior J. Spurrier's early life and his date and place of enlistment into the military. Official United States Army enlistment records state that Spurrier's place of residence in September 1940 was Wise County, Virginia and that he voluntarily enlisted at Richmond, Virginia, on September 25, 1940. General orders from the 35th Infantry Division for the award of Spurrier's two Purple Hearts likewise say that he "entered military service" from Virginia. Conversely, Spurrier's Medal of Honor citation says that he was born in Russell County, Kentucky, and "entered service" at Riggs, Kentucky.
- 2.^ One Bluefield Daily Telegraph article lists his service in the Pacific as twenty-two months, while another says thirty-one months; the latter may be his service in the Army as a whole up to the point when he returned to the United States.
- Willbanks, James (2011). America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan. ABC-CLIO. p. 320. ISBN 9781598843934.
- Willbanks, 321
- Denardo, Tom. "SSGT Junior James "Junior" Spurrier". Find A Grave. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
- Willbanks, 320
- Murphy, Edward (1991). Heroes of WWII: True Stories of Medal of Honor Winners. New York City: Ballantine Books. p. 206. ISBN 9780345375452.
- "Junior Spurrier, Bluefield's 'One Man Army' Is Given DSC". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Bluefield. 1945-01-06. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
- Archer, Bill (2011-11-27). "Staff Sgt. Spurrier's Medal of Honor returning to Mercer". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Bluefield. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
- "Sgt. Spurrier Re-Enlists In U.S. Army". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Bluefield. 1947-07-15. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- Wilbanks, James H. America's Heroes: Medal of Honor Recipients from the Civil War to Afghanistan. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 320–321. ISBN 9781598843934.
- Bill Archer (2011-11-25). "Museum immortalizes service of Staff Sgt. Junior Spurrier". Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Bluefield. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
- "Police chief finds soldier's Medal of Honor". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Charleston. 2011-11-25. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
- "W.Va. police chief finds Bluefield soldier's Medal of Honor". WVVA. Bluefield. 2011-11-25. Retrieved 10 February 2018.