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George Vincent McGraw

"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people will through their righteous might win through absolute victory...with confidence in our armed forces with the unbounded determination of our people:we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Rachel was a coal mine and coal camp opened in 1917 by Consumers Coal Company. The mine produced 301,060 tons of coal in 1921 alone. This town was included in the "Fairmont Field," a nickname for the extensive coal mining region. In the 1920s, the region hit its peak production, but following the Great Depression in the 1930s, business became slower and many miners were left unemployed. After the beginning of World War II, however, the mining industry picked back up, and the Fairmont Field was as prosperous as ever. ("Fairmont City," Living Places, accessed 31 May 2017, Although few people call this small town home now, this was the place where George Vincent McGraw grew up.

George was born around 1916 in Rachel, West Virginia, to mother Mary McGraw and father J. A. McGraw, who worked in the coal mines near the home. George grew up in a large family, typical of the time. According to U.S. Federal Census records from 1920, 1930, and 1940, his siblings included Catharen, James, Walter, Earnest, Anna, and John P. He completed the first two years of high school, was able to read and write, and went on to enlist in the Navy on September 14, 1940. At the time, he was working in the coal mines like his father and was living with his older brother Earnest. McGraw was ranked as a fireman first class (F1c) during the time he served. He was first received on board the USS California (BB-44) on November 20, 1940. McGraw did not have much military experience at all before he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Before 8:00 A.M. on December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese forces. Many of the U.S. battleships were lined up, unsuspecting of an attack, and were fired upon before American forces could do much to stop it. At this time, many of the sailors were just waking up and getting ready for the day. Most say that a Japanese attack on the United States was bound to happen, but nobody was sure when or where the attack would take place. The majority of American citizens were frightened by hearing about the Pearl Harbor attacks. Soon people began donating food, clothing, tires, etc., to the military to give any support possible. More than 2,400 lives were lost on this day, many of whom were never found or identified.
USS California

Tugs and other ships try to keep USS California (BB-44) afloat soon after the Japanese torpedoed and bombed her at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. Official U.S. Navy photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command, photo # NH 64474

The USS California was first hit by two Japanese torpedoes in the very beginning of the raid on Pearl Harbor. The battleship was then hit by a bomb, which put it in a poor state, although the ship was designed to sustain underwater damage. After the hits, it was clear that the ship could not sustain the effects of the torpedoes. The ship was ready to move on when a mass of burning oil drifted toward the ship, forcing the crew members to abandon ship. The crew, McGraw included, came back on board later, but the flooding was too much to control. The ship sank and finally settled to the bottom on December 10, 1941. The ship lay there underwater until March 1942, when it was raised and repaired, lasting until 1944 when the ship was finally set to rest.

Courts of the Missing

F1c George V. McGraw is memorialized in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Courtesy David Blewster Knight, Find A Grave

George Vincent McGraw and many others aboard the USS California battleship were never found and declared to have died on the day of the Pearl Harbor Attacks, December 7, 1941. McGraw's name is inscribed at the Tablets of the Missing in Honolulu, Hawaii. For his service, in which he lost his life, George McGraw was awarded with the Purple Heart.
Honolulu Memorial

The steps, flanked by the Walls of the Missing, lead to the chapel at the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Article prepared by Kaitlyn Hayes, George Washington High School Advanced Placement U.S. History


George Vincent McGraw

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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