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First Name: Charles

Last Name: McGaha

Birthplace: Cosby, TN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Knoxville, TN
Middle Name: L.

Date of Birth: 26 February 1914

Date of Death: 08 August 1984

Rank: Major

Years Served:
Charles L. McGaha

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Charles L. McGaha

Major, U.S. Army

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Major Charles L. McGaha (26 February 1914 - 8 August 1984) was a U.S. Army officer and a recipient of the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in World War II.

Charles L. McGaha was born on 26 February 1914 in the small town of Cosby in Eastern Tennessee, to Laura McGaha. His family had a long history of service in the U.S. military. In October 1937, at age 23, he traveled to Asheville, NC, hoping to enlist in the U.S. Navy. The Navy recruiter, not needing any more enlistees, turned him away, so McGaha left for Knoxville and joined the Army instead.

In 1941, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI, with Company G of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was there when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941, precipitating the United States' entrance into World War II.

McGaha fought in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the northern Solomons before participating in the campaign to recapture the Philippines from Japanese control. On 7 February 1945 he was serving as a Master Sergeant during the Battle of Luzon. Near Lupao, Luzon that day, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to aid wounded soldiers, led his platoon after the platoon leader was wounded, and deliberately drew Japanese fire onto himself so that others could escape to safety. For these actions, he was nominated for the Medal of Honor and given a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. McGaha was then discharged from the Army, but soon re-enlisted as a Master Sergeant and was stationed at Fort Benning, GA. His nomination for the Medal of Honor was approved a year after the battle, on 2 April 1946.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Master Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company G, 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Lupao, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 7 February 1945.

Citation: He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. His platoon and 1 other from Company G were pinned down in a roadside ditch by heavy fire from 5 Japanese tanks supported by 10 machineguns and a platoon of riflemen. When 1 of his men fell wounded 40 yards away, he unhesitatingly crossed the road under a hail of bullets and moved the man 75 yards to safety. Although he had suffered a deep arm wound, he returned to his post. Finding the platoon leader seriously wounded, he assumed command and rallied his men. Once more he braved the enemy fire to go to the aid of a litter party removing another wounded soldier. A shell exploded in their midst, wounding him in the shoulder and killing 2 of the party. He picked up the remaining man, carried him to cover, and then moved out in front deliberately to draw the enemy fire while the American forces, thus protected, withdrew to safety. When the last man had gained the new position, he rejoined his command and there collapsed from loss of blood and exhaustion. M/Sgt. McGaha set an example of courage and leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the service.

During a ceremony at the White House on 27 March 1946, President Harry S. Truman formally presented McGaha and Navy Commander Richard O'Kane, with their Medals of Honor.

In December 1949, McGaha married Jeanette Large.

McGaha again became a commissioned officer and reached the rank of Major before retiring from the Army.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart (4)
Good Conduct Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with 4 Bronze Battle Stars
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with 1 Star
American Service Ribbon with 1 Star

Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge and Star

Death and Burial

Major Charles L. McGaha died on 8 August 1984 at age 70, after being stabbed forty times in an apparent robbery attempt. He is buried at Union Cemetery in Newport, TN.

Honoree ID: 1527   Created by: MHOH




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