Charles L McGaha MOH

b. 26/02/1914 Cosby, Tennessee. d. 08/08/1984 Columbus, Georgia.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 07/02/1945 Lupao, Luzon, Philippines.

Charles L McGaha MOH

McGaha was born in the small town of Cosby in eastern Tennessee to Laura McGaha. His family had a long history of service in the United States military. In October 1937, at age 23, he travelled to Asheville, North Carolina, hoping to enlist in the United States Navy. The navy recruiter, not needing any more enlistees, turned him away, so McGaha left for Knoxville and joined the United States Army instead. 

In 1941, McGaha was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with Company G of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was there when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 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 February 7, 1945, he was serving as a master sergeant during the Battle of Luzon. On that day, near Lupao, Luzon, 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, Georgia. His nomination for the Medal of Honor was approved a year after the battle, on April 2, 1946. During a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 1946, President Harry S. Truman formally presented McGaha and another man, Navy Commander Richard O’Kane, with 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. McGaha died at age 70, after being stabbed forty times in an apparent robbery attempt, and was buried in Union Cemetery, Newport, Tennessee.



He displayed conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. His platoon and one other from Company G were pinned down in a roadside ditch by heavy fire from five Japanese tanks supported by 10 machine guns and a platoon of riflemen. When one 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 two 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. MSgt. McGaha set an example of courage and leadership in keeping with the highest traditions of the service.