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Calvin Leon Graham
Calvin Graham
Seaman First Class Calvin Graham in May 1942
Born (1930-04-03)April 3, 1930
Died November 6, 1992(1992-11-06) (aged 62)
Place of birth Canton, Texas
Place of death Fort Worth, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942-1943, 1948-1951
Rank Seaman First Class - USN
Corporal - USMC[1]
Unit USS South Dakota
Battles/wars World War II
*Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
Awards Bronze Star
Purple Heart

Calvin Leon Graham (April 3, 1930–November 6, 1992) was the youngest U.S. serviceman, during World War II.[2] Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy in May 1942, at the age of 12. He was wounded at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, while serving aboard the USS South Dakota. During the battle, he helped in the fire control efforts aboard the South Dakota, but suffered fragmentation wounds in the process. For his actions he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. However, his mother later revealed his age. For lying about his age he spent three months in a brig (he was not released until after his sister threatened to contact the newspapers) and was dishonorably discharged in May 1943, thereby losing disability benefits.[3] The South Dakota's gunnery officer, who was involved in handling his case, was Sargent Shriver. Graham later joined the United States Marines at age 17, but his service ended about three years later when he fell from a pier and broke his back.[4]

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. His story came to public attention in 1988, when his story was told in the TV movie, Too Young the Hero. He was played by Rick Schroder.[5] He received disability and back pay in 1988 after President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917 and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills, contingent on receipts for the medical services.[5][6] 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 the money for the rights to his story for the movie, Too Young The Hero amounted to $50,000, 50% went to two agents and 20% went to a writer of an unpublished book about Graham. He and his wife only received $15,000 before taxes.[7] His Purple Heart was finally reinstated and presented to his widow, Mary, nearly two years after his death[4] in 1992 from heart failure.

Graham's U.S. military honors —as finally settled circa 1994 after intervention by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton:

Bronze Star ribbon Purple Heart BAR

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon World War II Victory Medal ribbon National Defense Service Medal ribbon

Bronze Star ribbon Bronze Star Medal with bronze V for Valor device
Purple Heart BAR Purple Heart
National Defense Service Medal ribbon National Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze Battle Star device
World War II Victory Medal ribbon World War II Victory Medal


  1. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£. "Veteran Tributes". Veteran Tributes. Retrieved 2012-03-10. 
  2. Fontaine, Scott (November 18, 2008). "Meet the youngest surviving WWII veteran". Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  3. Breyer, Rick (2005). The Greatest War Stories Never Told. New York: Collins. pp. 160–161. ISBN 0-06-076017-6. OCLC 58985926. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Saxton, Michelle (November 3, 2003). "Decades later, military veterans admit being underage when they enlisted". Northwest Indiana Times. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Diane Diekman Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (November 1, 1995). "Navy Memorial". Clear Lake Courier. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 
  6. Ronald Reagan Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (November 10, 1988). "Statement on Signing a Bill for the Relief of Calvin L. Graham". Retrieved 2011-04-03.  H.R. 610, "An Act Graham is a veteran of Navy and Marine for the relief of Calvin L. Graham, " assigned Private Law No. 100-44.
  7. Veterans of Underage Military Service

External links[]

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