Sixty years ago today, on the evening of November 30, 1952 near Songnae-dong, Korea, Charles George, a young Cherokee Army soldier, threw himself on an enemy grenade, saving the lives of two of his company mates. Posthumously, George was awarded the Medal of Honor for his selfless act of heroism.
“His heroic acts will always be passed from generation to generation,” George’s niece Patty Buchanan wrote in a letter describing her feelings for her uncle, as reported by Cherokee One Feather. “My grandfather would show the Medal to anybody who came to our house and asked to see it. It was beautiful, and if you wanted to hold it, you could. My Uncle Charles probably was looking down and smiling when his mother and father would do that.”
Buchanan related in her letter that her grandparents went to Washington, D.C. to receive Pfc. George’s Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman.
“They were proud, but I’m sure, like any other parent would have preferred to have their son back alive, Buchanan wrote.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers this introduction to Pfc. George:
Charles George was born in the Birdtown community of Cherokee, North Carolina on August 23, 1932. A full-blooded Cherokee and member of the Bird Clan, Charles George (Charlie) grew up alongside the Oconaluftee River with his family, living a simple mountain life. Charlie attended the Indian School in the Qualla Boundary of Western North Carolina, and he spent most of his free time hunting and fishing.
At age 18 and with the Korean War raging, Charles George enlisted in the United States Army. Beginning his military service in March 1951, Charlie attended basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC, infantry training at Ft. Benning, GA, and advanced combat training in Japan before arriving in Korea in September 1951. Assigned to Company C, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division spent over a year fighting in the Korean War.
On November 30, 1952 Charles George displayed conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty by giving his life to defend his nation, complete his mission, and save his friends.
For more about the life of George, click here.
Here is the citation for Pfc. Charles George’s Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor Citation
Rank and Organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. Place and Date: Near Songnae-dong, Korea, 30 November 1952. Entered Service at: Whittier, NC. Born: 23 August 1932, Cherokee, NC, G.O. NO: 19, 18 March, 1954.
Pfc. George, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy on the night of 30 November 1952. He was a member of a raiding party committed to engage the enemy and capture a prisoner for interrogation. Forging up the rugged slope of the key terrain feature, the group was subjected to intense mortar and machine gun fire and suffered several casualties. Throughout the advance, he fought valiantly and, upon reaching the crest of the hill, leaped into the trenches and closed with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. When friendly troops were ordered to move back upon completion of the assignment, he and 2 comrades remained to cover the withdrawal. While in the process of leaving the trenches a hostile soldier hurled a grenade into their midst. Pfc. George shouted a warning to 1 comrade, pushed the other soldier out of danger, and, with full knowledge of the consequences, unhesitatingly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the full blast of the explosion. Although seriously wounded in this display of valor, he refrained from any outcry which would divulge the position of his companions. The 2 soldiers evacuated him to the forward aid station and shortly thereafter he succumbed to his wound. Pfc. George’s indomitable courage, consummate devotion to duty, and willing self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself and uphold the finest traditions of the military service.