The Youngest Decorated World War II Soldier Was Just 12 Years Old

“Green Boys” was a term given to soldiers who enlisted in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. Eager to fight for their country, these men had no concern about what they would face when they made it to the front lines. One of these “Green Boys” was a young man named Calvin Graham. At the tender age of 12, he lied his way into the U.S. Navy, telling his mother he was going to visit relatives, but instead boarding the USS Dakota, which was headed into the Pacific. The USS Dakota became famous because of a brutal battle with the Japanese and the incredibly brave men aboard who would bring it home. Graham received a serious jaw injury from shrapnel during the battle, but the courageous young man didn't miss a beat in helping his fellow injured soldiers with whatever they needed. Upon returning home, Graham received a Bronze Medal and a Purple Heart for his injuries. However, they were stripped from him and he was given a dishonorable discharge once his mother revealed his actual age to the Navy. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a bill to give Graham, then 48, an honorable discharge. All of his medals except the Purple Heart were reinstated. In 1988, he received disability benefits and back pay for his service in the Navy after President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4,917 and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills, contingent on receipts for the medical services. By this time, some of the doctors who treated him had died and many medical bills were lost. He received only $2,100 of the possible $18,000. Graham's Purple Heart was finally reinstated, and presented to his widow, Mary, on June 21, 1994, nearly two years after his death from heart failure.