IN OUR MUSEUM: A monthly writeup from an artifact located in the Van Zandt County Veterans Museum in Canton, Texas. This week we visit Calvin Graham (case #16), the youngest U.S. serviceman to serve and fight during World War II. He was 12 years old.
Calvin Graham was born on April 3, 1930 in Canton, Texas and died November 6, 1992 in Fort Worth. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Calvin enlisted in the United States Navy in Houston on August 15, 1942. He was 12 years old. At 5-foot-2 and just 125 pounds Calvin showed up at his induction wearing his brother’s suit and disguising his voice.
He was assigned as a gunner to the battleship, USS South Dakota and went on to earn a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery and actions during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on November 14-15, 1942.
Severely wounded from shrapnel, his true age came to light and was sent to a brig in Corpus Christi, Texas. He sat behind bars for almost three months. An angry sister threatened to tell his story and go public. The military gave him a dishonorable discharge from the Navy on April 1, 1943.
At age 17 the Selective Service came calling. Calvin enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corps from 1948-51. While in the Marines he broke his back and was given a disability. In 1988 Graham was awarded benefits and pay for his service in the Navy. President Ronald Reagan gave him full disability benefits.
Calvin later sold rights to his story for the movie, “Too Young The Hero.” Ricky Schroder played the real-life Calvin in the “CBS Sunday Movie.”
Nearly two years after his death, Calvin Graham was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for his service in the U.S. Navy – to his family.
Excerpts from smithsonianmag.com December 19, 2012
The VZC Veterans Memorial Museum is opened (during COVID) Tuesday thru Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission is FREE.