Charles L. McGaha

McGaha was born and entered service at Cosby, TN, where his family had a long history of military service. In 1937, at age 23, he traveled to Asheville, NC, to enlist in the U. S. Navy, but the Navy recruiter had a full slate of enlistees. Instead, McGaha left for Knoxville and joined the Army. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI, with Company G of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and was there when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. McGaha also fought in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Solomon Islands before the campaign to wrest the Philippines from Japanese control.

On February 7, 1945,during the Battle of Luzon, McGaha’s 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. He unhesitatingly crossed the road under a hail of bullets to move a wounded man to safety. Suffering a deep arm wound, he still returned to his post. Finding the platoon leader seriously wounded, he assumed command and rallied his men. Once more he braved enemy fire to aid a wounded soldier. A shell exploded in their midst, wounding him again and killing two. He carried the remaining man to cover and moved out in front deliberately to draw the enemy fire while the protected forces withdrew to safety. When the last man had reached safety, he rejoined his command and there collapsed from blood loss and exhaustion.

In December 1949, McGaha married Jeanette Large and again became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He reached the rank of major before retiring. A full list of his decorations includes the Medal of Honor, four Purple Hearts, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with four Bronze Battle Stars, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with star, American Service Ribbon with star, Combat Infantryman Badge, Good Conduct Medal, and Master Paratrooper Wings and Star.

He died at age 70, after being stabbed in an apparent robbery attempt in Columbus, GA, and was buried in Union Cemetery, Newport, TN.