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This Day in History: Gordon Craig, American Hero

On this day in 1951, a hero receives the Medal of Honor. Corporal Gordon Craig’s sacrifice saved four men, but it did far more than that. His sacrifice still lives on today in a way that the young soldier doubtless never envisioned.

After Craig was awarded the Medal, leaders in his community made a memorial at his old high school. His portrait, Medal of Honor, and Purple Heart have been hanging near the school entrance for decades, inspiring future generations.

“It is the first thing you see when you enter the school,” East Bridgewater High alum Joel Gibson told a journalist. “It’s really inspiring.’’ Gibson joined the Army after he graduated in 1999.

The memorial is simple, but perhaps it reminds us that many American heroes are just regular people. They come from every walk of life. A hero can be the quiet kid at school who always has his nose in a book. Or the person standing in line at the grocery store. Or the person who lives across the street. Most American heroes didn’t set out to be heroes. They simply stood up and did the right thing when called upon to do so. They weren’t big names before their heroism—and they didn’t become household names afterwards.

Craig was among these.

He grew up in a small Massachusetts town. He played baseball and sang in the chorus. His friends called him Buddy. “Buddy always played to win,” high school principal Emery Loud recollected. “He was a good sportsman. I can remember him playing basketball in my Boy Scout Troup. He would just go all out.”

This all-American boy joined the Army after he graduated from high school in 1948. He couldn’t know what would eventually be asked of him. World War II was over. Indeed, his first assignment was a long stint in Japan.

Then, the Korean War started.

Within a matter of weeks, Craig was with the 1st Cavalry Division, fighting in the Battle of Ka-san, one of the many engagements that made up the larger Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

His heroism came on September 10, 1950. He was only 21 years old.

Craig was with his company, advancing up a hill held by the enemy. Meanwhile, an enemy machine gun nest was raining intense fire down on our men. Craig and four other soldiers moved forward, working to eliminate that nest. Just then, one of the enemy threw a grenade down the hill. Craig threw himself on it, “without hesitating,” as his Medal citation describes.

He’d given his life for his fellow soldiers. That sacrifice inspired them in a way that little else could have done. They immediately turned and attacked the machine gun nest “with such ferocity,” as Craig’s citation concludes, “that they annihilated the enemy machine-gun crew.” It cleared the way for the rest of the company to continue its mission.

Craig's mother would receive his Medal on his behalf on April 3, 1951. Her son had exhibited bravery, fortitude, and self-sacrifice. How AMERICAN.

Rest in peace, Sir.

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