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Hector Albert Cafferata, Jr.
Hector A. Cafferata, Medal of Honor recipient
Born November 4, 1929(1929-11-04) (age 92)
Place of birth New York City, New York
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1948-1951
Rank Private First Class
Unit 2nd Battalion 7th Marines
Battles/wars Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

Hector Albert Cafferata, Jr., USMCR (Retired) (born November 4, 1929) is a United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic service at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. In November 1950, Pvt Cafferata single-handedly held off a regimental-strength enemy and saved the wounded Marines by hurling away a live grenade that had landed in their midst, at the cost of serious personal injury.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Hector Cafferata was born November 4, 1929, in New York City to Mr. and Mrs. Hector A. Cafferata, Sr. of Montville, New Jersey. He attended elementary school at Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey and high school at Boonton, New Jersey. Starting as a sophomore in high school, he played football for three years, and following graduation, he continued as a semi-pro.

In 1943, he was employed for the Sun Dial Corporation of Caldwell, New Jersey. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on February 15, 1948, and was a member of the 21st Reserve Infantry Battalion at Dover, New Jersey, until called to active duty on September 6, 1950.

Military service; Korean War[edit | edit source]

Cafferata shaking hands with President Barack Obama.

After training at Camp Pendleton, California, PFC Cafferata embarked for Korea in October 1950, joining the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. Cafferata distinguished himself during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, single-handedly holding off a regimental-sized enemy force and "annihilating two enemy platoons" after most of his comrades had fallen. When a live grenade fell into the shallow entrenchment occupied by his wounded fellow Marines, he grabbed the grenade and hurled it away — saving the lives of many, but suffering severe wounds.[1] For these heroic actions, he would later be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was evacuated to Japan in December 1950. Cafferata returned to the United States the following month for treatment at the U. S. Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York. He was placed on the retired list on September 1, 1951.

On November 24, 1952, President Harry S. Truman awarded the medal to PFC Cafferata during ceremonies at the White House.

Awards and honors[edit | edit source]

Cafferata's medals include:

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Bronze star
Bronze star
Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 service star National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal w/ 1 service star Korean Presidential Unit Citation United Nations Korea Medal
  • The Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary School in the Lee County School District, Cape Coral, Florida, named in Cafferata's honor, is the first school in Florida to be named after a living Medal of Honor recipient.[2]
  • Marine Hector Cafferata Jr. Congressional Medal of Honor Highway, Interstate 287 from milepost 30.17 to milepost 53.89.
  • Hector Cafferata Jr also has a street named for him in Montville, Cafferata Ct.[3]

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

Head and shoulders of a gray-haired white man wearing glasses, a suit and tie, and a star-shaped medal hanging from a blue ribbon around his neck.

Cafferata in 2010

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

PRIVATE HECTOR A. CAFFERATA, JR.
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman with Company F, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea on 28 November 1950. When all the other members of his fire team became casualties, creating a gap in the lines, during the initial phase of a vicious attack launched by a fanatical enemy of regimental strength against his company's hill position, Private Cafferata waged a lone battle with grenades and rifle fire as the attack gained momentum and the enemy threatened penetration through the gap and endangered the integrity of the entire defensive perimeter. Making a target of himself under the devastating fire from automatic weapons, rifles, grenades and mortars, he maneuvered up and down the line and delivered accurate and effective fire against the onrushing force, killing fifteen, wounding many more and forcing the others to withdraw so that reinforcements could move up and consolidate the position. Again fighting desperately against a renewed onslaught later that same morning when a hostile grenade landed in a shallow entrenchment occupied by wounded Marines, Private Cafferata rushed into the gully under heavy fire, seized the deadly missile in his right hand and hurled it free of his comrades before it detonated, severing part of one finger and seriously wounding him in the right hand and arm. Courageously ignoring the intense pain, he staunchly fought on until he was struck by a sniper's bullet and forced to submit to evacuation for medical treatment. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private Cafferata, by his fortitude, great personal valor and dauntless perseverance in the face of almost certain death, saved the lives of several of his fellow Marines and contributed essentially to the success achieved by his company in maintaining its defensive position against tremendous odds. His extraordinary heroism throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[4]

/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Russ, Martin (1999). Breakout" – The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-029259-4. 

Web[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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