PFC Charles George exhibit opens at Museum of the Cherokee Indian

by May 28, 2018Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da

UNVEILING: Members of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 unveil the new PFC Charles George exhibit at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)





PFC Charles George, an EBCI tribal member, received the Medal of Honor posthumously after throwing himself on a grenade to save two fellow soldiers during the Korean War.  George passed away from his injuries on Nov. 30, 1952 near Songnae-dong, Korea.  An exhibit at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian honoring the heroism of George opened officially on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.

“To honor this young man, I think it’s significant, especially on this Memorial Day, because so many of our brothers and sisters have lost their lives serving their country,” said Lew Harding, Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 commander, at Monday’s event.  “Few, a very few, receive the honor that this young man did.  We are so proud of him as Eastern Cherokee, and we’re so happy that you’re here to witness this event to honor PFC Charles George, United States Army.”

The main focal point of the exhibit is a bronze bust of George which was made from the mold formed and created by the late James Spratt, a U.S. Navy veteran who made the life-size bronze statues of George that stand proudly at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville and the Cherokee Veterans Park.  Also included in the exhibit is the U.S. flag they draped over George’s coffin at his funeral, his medals including the Medal of Honor, and the entire text of his Medal of Honor citation.  The display case itself was made by Jay Cooke of Sylva.

During the event, a final roll call ceremony and a Cherokee Challenge call were done, and the Warriors of Anikituhwa did the Cherokee Warrior Dance.

EXHIBIT: Gregory Hunt (foreground), a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, looks at the newly-opened PFC Charles George exhibit at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.

FAMILY: Patty George Buchanan, an EBCI tribal member from the Yellowhill Community and the niece of Charles George, speaks during Monday’s event.

Warren Dupree, a member of Post 143, served on the Charles George Memorial Fund Project Committee which served to have the two statues and one bust made.

“When that Chinese hand grenade came into the trench, Charles saw what was happening, and he only had seconds to react,” Dupree noted.  “He knew what he had to do.  He shoved Marion Santo with so much force that Marion Santo later recalled, ‘I thought the grenade had detonated and I had been hit’.  As he shoved Santo out of the way with a violent thrust, he yelled to Armando Ruiz, the other soldier, to get out of the way.  Then, Charles turned and threw his body on the hand grenade to receive the full blast to his body.”

Dupree continued, “Charles was not thinking of himself that day.  He was thinking of his brothers in arms.  Again, thinking of others knowing full well that his life was at an end, but he thought of his brothers in arms, and he wanted to give his life for them so they would live.”

WARRIORS: Sonny Ledford, a member of the Warriors of Anikituhwa, performs the Cherokee Warrior Dance in honor of PFC Charles George.

Col. (Ret.) Bob Blankenship spoke of George’s early life stating he was born on Aug. 23, 1932 in Cherokee to Jacob George and Nola Squirrel George.  “We know from his record that he was inspired by the heroic military service of our Cherokee people.  He knew of the pride the Cherokee had for service in the military of their people.  It was this pride that on Nov. 30, 1952, the son of Jacob and Lola George found himself in the service of his country in a violent war battle on a hilltop near the tiny village of Songnae-dong, Korea.”

He continued, “Songnae-dong lies a short distance, midpoint from Seoul and Inchon, Korea.  This was the famous Inchon landing area of the war and is also very close to what has been known as the demilitarized zone, since that is where the truce was signed to cease the battle.  It was here that Charles George gave his all in the service of his country, thereby bringing the highest honor on his own military service, his family, his country, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

Bo Taylor, Museum of the Cherokee Indian executive director said, “First off, I want to thank the men that don these uniforms…a lot of people today are sitting around, grilling, and they’re having fun, but you’re here.  I want to thank the people that are sitting here today that came out to honor Charles George.  Without these men and women that have served their country, we would not have the grills and the races and all this stuff that we have…some gave it all.”

Following is the full Medal of Honor citation for PFC George:


Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company C, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Songnae-dong, Korea, 30 November 1952.
Entered service at: Whittier, N.C.
Born: 23 August 1932, Cherokee, N.C.
G.O. NO.: 19, 18 March 1954.

Citation: Pfc. George, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy on the night of 30 November 1952. He was a member of a raiding party committed to engage the enemy and capture a prisoner for interrogation. Forging up the rugged slope of the key terrain feature, the group was subjected to intense mortar and machine gun fire and suffered several casualties. Throughout the advance, he fought valiantly and, upon reaching the crest of the hill, leaped into the trenches and closed with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. When friendly troops were ordered to move back upon completion of the assignment, he and 2 comrades remained to cover the withdrawal. While in the process of leaving the trenches a hostile soldier hurled a grenade into their midst. Pfc. George shouted a warning to 1 comrade, pushed the other soldier out of danger, and, with full knowledge of the consequences, unhesitatingly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing the full blast of the explosion. Although seriously wounded in this display of valor, he refrained from any outcry which would divulge the position of his companions. The 2 soldiers evacuated him to the forward aid station and shortly thereafter he succumbed to his wound. Pfc. George’s indomitable courage, consummate devotion to duty, and willing self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself and uphold the finest traditions of the military service.

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