About a boy

Veteran: Calvin Graham
Artist / Writer: Camille McMennamin

He was a sailor in the United States Navy. A loader for a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun on the battleship South Dakota. He was twelve. Had just finished 6th grade.

Calvin Graham’s father had died and his mother remarried. Not thrilled with the stepdad, he enlisted. Must have been a pretty good liar. And a pretty mature looking kid. Of course, in 1942, not many people had picture IDs. At least not twelve year olds.

In any case, he was to become the youngest U.S. serviceman to fight in World War II.

After boot camp in California, Pearl Harbor was next. October 26th. His first taste of war, the Battle of Santa Cruz. Ship and crew earned a Navy Unit Commendation. Must have made him proud.

Less than a month later, he was wounded in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Schrapnel. Yet he helped aid and rescue others, pulling them aboard to safety.

This earned him another Navy Unit Commendation, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

End of story, right? Nope. As they say, no good deed shall go unpunished.

Not long after the Dakota returned to the U.S., Calvin’s grandmother died. Who wouldn’t want to attend his grandmother’s funeral? The trouble was, he left base without permission. Got back the next day.

The Navy threw him in the Brig. Took away his medals. Benefits too.

They released him three months later. But only because his sister threatened to go to the newspapers and reveal the sailor boy’s true, tender age.

End of story: Calvin, kicked out of the Navy, never went back to school. Worked as a welder. Turned 17. Joined the Marines.

Broke his back and left the military for good. He spent the rest of his life fighting for and finally winning an honorable discharge, four of his five medals, a small amount of disability and back pay.

Two years after he died, his purple heart was reinstated and presented to his widow.