Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Charles

Last Name: Gilliland

Birthplace: Colfax, AR, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Yellville, AR
Middle Name: Leon

Date of Birth: 24 May 1933

Date of Death: 25 April 1951 (Official)

Rank: Corporal

Years Served: 1950 - 1951
Charles Leon Gilliland

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Charles Leon Gilliland
Corporal, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
Korean War

Charles Leon Gilliland was born on 24 May 1933 in the community of Colfax near Mountain Home, AR. Gilliland was the second of nine children of Leon Carl and Evangeline Margarite "Martin" Gilliland. His father was a farmer and construction worker and his mother worked as a nurse's aide. His family moved to nearby Marion County when he was a teenager. Throughout his childhood, Gilliland showed a strong interest in the military and law enforcement, enjoyed hunting and fishing, and in his teenage years was a fitness enthusiast. He attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps at sixteen, but was turned away and advised to continue his education. After much convincing, his parents agreed to let him enlist in the U.S. Army on his 17th birthday, 24 May 1950.

After joining the Army in Yellville, he attended basic training at Fort Riley, KS. The Korean War began one month after his enlistment, and by the end of the year he had been sent to East Asia. During his deployment in Korea, he was wounded and, in one instance, carried to safety a fellow soldier who had lost both his legs.

By 25 April 1951, he was a Private First Class serving with Company I of the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. On that day, near Tongmang-ni, his company came under attack from a numerically superior Chinese force. From his defensive position, Gilliland had a clear view of the defile through which many of the attackers were approaching. Using his automatic rifle, he fired continuously into the defile, even after suffering a severe head wound while chasing down two Chinese soldiers who had breached the defensive line. When orders came to pull back, he voluntarily stayed behind and provided covering fire so that the rest of his unit could withdraw. He was never seen again.

He was subsequently promoted to Corporal and in 1952, recommended for the Medal of Honor. Believing that Gilliland may have been captured by the Chinese, the Army delayed the announcement of the award for fear that he would be punished if his captors learned of his deeds. In 1954, after hostilities had ceased and no sign of Gilliland was found, he was declared dead. The Medal of Honor was formally presented to his family in December of that year during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Corporal (then Pfc.), U.S. Army, Company I, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division

Place and date: Near Tongmang-ni, Korea, 25 April 1951

Gilliland's official citation reads:

Cpl. Gilliland, a member of Company I, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. A numerically superior hostile force launched a coordinated assault against his company perimeter, the brunt of which was directed up a defile covered by his automatic rifle. His assistant was killed by enemy fire but Cpl. Gilliland, facing the full force of the assault, poured a steady fire into the foe which stemmed the onslaught. When 2 enemy soldiers escaped his raking fire and infiltrated the sector, he leaped from his foxhole, overtook and killed them both with his pistol. Sustaining a serious head wound in this daring exploit, he refused medical attention and returned to his emplacement to continue his defense of the vital defile. His unit was ordered back to new defensive positions but Cpl. Gilliland volunteered to remain to cover the withdrawal and hold the enemy at bay. His heroic actions and indomitable devotion to duty prevented the enemy from completely overrunning his company positions. Cpl. Gilliland's incredible valor and supreme sacrifice reflect lasting glory upon himself and are in keeping with the honored traditions of the military service.

One month short of his 18th birthday when he earned the award, Gilliland was the youngest Medal of Honor recipient of the Korean War.

Other Medals

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Gilliland was awarded the Purple Heart.


On what would have been his 64th birthday, 24 May 1997, the U.S. Navy christened a transport ship in his honor, the USNSĀ Gilliland (T-AKR 298).


After 25 April 1951, Gilliland was never seen again and he was officially declared dead in 1954. His name appears on the Tablets of the Missing at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, HI.

Honoree ID: 1161   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image