Sunday, April 29, 2018

WW2 Hurtgen Forest Fallen - Medal of Honor hero Francis McGraw, 1st Infantry Division

Medal of Honor hero Francis McGraw was a machine-gunner in the 1st Infantry Division in the Hurtgen Forest.
Francis Xavier McGraw never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.

He was born on April 29, 1918 in Pennsylvania. His parents John and Mary were also both born in Pennsylvania. Three of his grandparents were born in Ireland. His father worked as a railroad yardmaster and later he moved his family to New Jersey where he worked a grocery store manager. Francis had two younger brothers and one younger sister. At least one brother also served in the army during WW2. By 1940 Francis had completed four years of high school and was working as a packer at the Campbell Soup Company while living at home. 

He was inducted into the army on February 25, 1942 and became a private first class in Company H, 2nd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, joining as an early replacement on December 26, 1942 while the 1st ID was in North Africa.

Pfc. McGraw participated in fighting at Ousseltia Valley, Kairouan Pass, Gafsa, El Geuttar, Beja, and Mateur. Next he was part of the 1st ID's invasion of Sicily. He landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, fought in the Normandy hedgerows and advanced across France to the Hurtgen Forest. The enemy was well positioned in this dense, dark forest. It would be a deadly battle for the American soldiers.

Pfc. McGraw's unit was part of a attack that began on November 16, 1944. The Americans took heavy casualties over the next three days, including McGraw's company commander. The Germans decided to counterattack on November 19. Pfc McGraw played a major roll in stopping the enemy attack. He was posthumously award the Medal of Honor.

His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:

He manned a heavy machine gun in a foxhole near Schevenhutte, Germany, on 19 November 1944, when the enemy launched a fierce counterattack. 

Braving an intense hour-long preparatory barrage, he maintained his stand and poured deadly accurate fire into the advancing foot troops, until they faltered and came to a halt. The hostile forces brought up a machine gun in an effort to dislodge him but were frustrated when he lifted his gun to an exposed but advantageous position atop a log, courageously stood up in his foxhole and knocked out the enemy weapon. A rocket blasted his gun from position, but he retrieved it and continued firing. 

He silenced a second machine gun and then made repeated trips over fire-swept terrain to replenish his ammunition supply. Wounded painfully in this dangerous task, he disregarded his injury and hurried back to his post, where his weapon was showered with mud when another rocket barely missed him. In the midst of the battle, with enemy troops taking advantage of his predicament to press forward, he calmly cleaned his gun, put it back into action and drove off the attackers. 

He continued to fire until his ammunition was expended, when, with a fierce desire to close with the enemy, he picked up a carbine, killed 1 enemy soldier, wounded another and engaged in a desperate firefight with a third until he was mortally wounded by a burst from a machine pistol. 

The extraordinary heroism and intrepidity displayed by Pvt. McGraw inspired his comrades to great efforts and was a major factor in repulsing the enemy attack

Pfc. McGraw died of his wounds the next day, November 20, 1944.

His grave is at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.

Thank you Francis for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Francis.

Last year on this date I profiled B-17 navigator Sidney Berk. You can read about Sidney here.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

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WW2 Fallen 100 is supported by

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