The youngest American serviceman in World War Two was 12-year-old Calvin Graham, U.S. Navy. He was wounded during the battle of Guadalcanal, and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age to enlist. His veterans benefits were later restored by an act of Congress.
Calvin Leon Graham (April 3, 1930–November 6, 1992) was the youngest U.S. serviceman, during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Navy in May 1942, at the age of 12. He was wounded at the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, while serving aboard the USS South Dakota. During the battle, he helped in the fire control efforts aboard the South Dakota, but suffered fragmentation wounds in the process. For his actions he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
However, his mother later revealed his age. For lying about his age he spent three months in a brig (he was not released until after his sister threatened to contact the newspapers) and was dishonorably discharged in May 1943, thereby losing disability benefits. The South Dakota’s gunnery officer, who was involved in handling his case, was Sargent Shriver. Graham later joined the United States Marines at age 17, but his service ended about three years later when he fell from a pier and broke his back.
Although serving in the Marines qualified him as a veteran, he would spend the rest of his life fighting for medical benefits and a clean record. In 1978, he was finally awarded an honorable discharge, and after writing to Congress and with the approval of President Jimmy Carter, all medals but his Purple Heart were reinstated. His story came to public attention in 1988, when his story was told in the TV movie, Too Young the Hero. He was played by Rick Schroder. He received disability and back pay in 1988 after President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917 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. While the money for the rights to his story for the movie, Too Young The Hero amounted to $50,000, 50% went to two agents and 20% went to a writer of an unpublished book about Graham. He and his wife only received $15,000 before taxes. His Purple Heart was finally reinstated and presented to his widow, Mary, nearly two years after his deatn in 1992 from heart failure.