Calvin Graham By: Sue Eckhoff Grundy County Heritage Museum
February 14, 2014
Calvin Graham was the youngest U.S. Serviceman during World War II. He enlisted in the Navy in May 1942 at the age of 12! He had an active role in the battle of Guadalcanal, serving on board the U.S.S. South Dakota. During the battle he helped in fire control efforts aboard the ship, but suffered fragmentation wounds in the process, something that earned him the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. His mother later revealed his age, and he spent three months in the brig. He was released only when his sister threatened to tell the newspapers. He was released, and dishonorably discharged for lying about his age. His medals were taken from him. Graham later joined the U.S. Marines at age 17, but his service ended about three years later when he fell from a pier and broke his back. Although serving in the Marines qualified him as a veteran, he would spend the rest of his life fighting for medical benefits and a clean record. In 1978 he was finally awarded an honorable discharge and after writing to Congress and with the approval of President Jimmy Carter, all medals but his Purple Heart were reinstated. In 1988 his story7 came to the public’s attention when it was told in the TV movie “Too Young the Hero”, his part played by Rick Schroeder. He received disability and back pay in 1988, after President Reagan signed legislation that granted him full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917, and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills. By this time some of the doctors who treated him had died and many medical bills were lost. He received only $2,100 of the possible $18,000. While money for the rights of his story for the movie amounted to $50,000, 50% went to two agents, 20% went to a writer of a book about Gram, and he and his wife only received $15,000 before taxes. Graham died in 1992 from heart failure. His purple heart was finally reinstated and presented to his widow 2 years later. Graham’s military honors include the Bronze Star; the Purple Heart; National Defense Service Medal; Asian Pacific Campaign Medal, and WW II Victory Medal.
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