Lives Limited to a Line
by Cate Murway
WHITE GRACEON HSFCARMYBUCKSPENNSYLVANIA10 Jul 1952KILLED IN ACTION
“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
SFC Graceon H. White, Jr., BHS ’50 is just one of the 45,360 American casualties of the Korean War, but he is believed to have been the only Bristolian killed in action. Graceon served as squad leader with the 7th Infantry Division, 17th Infantry Regiment in the US Army and he lost his life 7.10.52 while on patrol duty at the age of twenty.
North Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the same month that “Gray” of 315 Washington Street graduated from High School.
His life was destined to be history after this phone call: On Saturday, June 24, 1950, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson informed President Harry S. Truman by telephone, "Mr. President, I have very serious news. The North Koreans have invaded South Korea."
The Korean War (1950-53), one of the first efforts to successfully integrate the armed forces, was a military conflict between the Republic of Korea, supported by the United Nations; and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and People's Republic of China, with air support from the Soviet Union. Twenty-two countries in all supported the action against the North Koreans and its then allies China, and Russia at the pre-conflict 38° latitudinal border line. The war ended in pretty much a stalemate. Korea is divided, militarized and volatile. To this day the south at the “38th Parallel” is a free and democratic country. The north is still communist run.
BHS varsity football player Graceon lived with his paternal grandmother, Mrs. Lucy White as his widowed dad worked out of town quite often. After graduation, he took a job in the borough at Leedom’s Carpet Mill on Beaver Street before he enlisted in the Army in March, 1951.
The quote under his yearbook picture reflects the feelings of all who knew him.
“Gray is friendly in every way. We hope he never goes away.”
At the time of his death, his father, Graceon H. White, Sr. and his stepmother, Mildred White and his only sibling, Marie White, survived him. He also left behind his future wife, [Willie] May Daughtrey, BHS ’51. This Wednesday’s child was truly “full of woe”.
Graceon, in his short life of 2 decades, was unable to leave a lot of history but he left a lot of heart. He gave his all in what has been termed "The Forgotten War".
Graceon served with Corporal Fred Bernerd McGee, Sr. U.S. 52146660, Infantry, United States Army, a member of Company K, 17th Infantry, who distinguished himself by gallantry in action near Tang-Wan-Ni, Korea, on 16 June 1952, during an assault on enemy fortified positions on Hill 528. He was born in Steubenville on Memorial Day, in the midst of the Great Depression, to Spanish and Perrie Dalton McGee.
Happy 80th Birthday, Cpl. Fred!
According to Corporal Fred, he and Graceon and their other buddy, the late Captain Charles “Sonny Boy” Simpson III were “real fast friends and looked like brothers”.
As the gunner on a light machine gun in a weapons squad, Corporal McGee delivered a heavy volume of supporting fire from an exposed position, despite intense enemy machine gun and mortar fire directly on his position. One particular combat was a “very bad battle, a bloodbath”. Fred was shot in the face and the leg. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor and a Battlefield Commission by his West Point commanding officer, but this was pre-Civil Rights America. When the medals were distributed, he received a lesser medal, the Silver Star.
Cpl. McGee’s heroic actions and decisive thinking saved many on that bloody battlefield but a few months later, he was unable to dissuade Graceon from participating in the battle that claimed his life. “I’m not worried”, Graceon responded. He was determined to make “Master Sergeant and go home and get married.”
The “good guy who never smoke or drank” was killed that night and lay on the road among several other bodies under the makeshift shelters. Fred refused to look at his friend for the last time.
Graceon’s grandmother had baked and sent homemade cookies for the three of them as they were unselfishly enduring the harsh environment and remaining focused to their cause of freedom. Fred made a trip to Bristol in the 80’s but was unsuccessful in locating any of Graceon’s family.
BHS softball/basketball athlete May and Graceon had exchanged letters every day. She was engaged in 1950 to the “very handsome, very nice, and a lot of fun” soldier.
“Everyone seemed to love him. He was a genuine good person.”
As high school sweethearts, they swam and ice skated together at Silver Lake and played co-ed softball. In the last letter she received, he had written, “I’m gonna go on my last patrol and be home soon.” Cpl. McGee reminisced, “Graceon loved that girl May.”
She shed many tears as she walked around Silver Lake in the evenings after she lost him.
California resident W. May Guillory has three daughters and 2 granddaughters. She has never forgotten him, especially every July 10th.
His close friend, Sidney Lawrence Taylor, BHS ’53 was especially impacted by Graceon’s death because “his life was cut so short”. According to Sid, “He was smart; a very bright kid. He was born to be a hero. It was the way he was.”
Sid recalls him as a very good football/baseball athlete, “He played hard. He would get knocked out cold.” Graceon gave his own dark blue Elks baseball cap to Sid as a keepsake when he left for the service. Sid remembers their last car ride when he drove to Fort Dix with Graceon, his father and his girlfriend, May.
Sid paused for a few moments. With compassion, he shared, “He gave all he had for his country.” Graceon White made the supreme sacrifice.
Retired L.P.N., Irene Anna [Larrisey] Hems, BHS Class of ’52 began the research regarding Graceon when she started investigating war data with Internet searches. She benevolently shared her information, facts finds and the pictures that she has diligently secured. Irene sadly recalls the street full of gathered mourners as Graceon’s flag covered coffin passed her home on Wood Street on the way to the Bethel AME Church.
On Saturday, November 16, 1957 at 1:50 P.M, the US Army Reserve Center of 1427-31 Radcliffe Street hosted a dedication to the memory of SFC Graceon H. White of Bristol, killed in action in Korea.
Take advantage of your opportunity as a patriotic American to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.
Starting at 10:30 A.M. on May 31, the Robert W. Bracken American Legion Post #382 will host the borough’s first parade in many years, according to Arthur J. Younglove, a member of the Legion Post and also the parade coordinator. “We want to reinitiate the parade and try to awaken young people about the day. It’s not about picnics and parties, but something else,” Art said.
The BHS Band, the Bracken Cadets Alumni Drum and Bugle Corps., local Scout troops, fire, police and rescue squads will take part in the parade.
For more information, call 856.824.9144.
The Bottom Line: It is through the veterans’ sacrifice that we are able to enjoy the freedoms we have at home. We must remember the American soldiers of "The Forgotten War", and the men and woman who serve us today.
Happy [and safe!] Memorial Day!
“It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the veteran, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the veteran, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the veteran, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.”
Recommend a “Spotlight”: e-mail email@example.com
SFC GRACEON H WHITE
17TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
K CO 3 BN
HOSTILE, DIED (KIA)
DATE OF LOSS: JULY 10, 1952
SERVICE NUMBER: RA13398299
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1932
HOME OR PLACE OF ENLISTMENT
BRISTOL, PENNSYLVANIA BUCKS COUNTY
LOCATION OR BATTLE ZONE: KUMHWA
BURIAL LOCATION BRISTOL CEMETERY, BRISTOL, PA
KOREAN WAR PROJECT KEY NO: 32184
"My name is Domenic Conti. I met Graceon White in first grade and we became fast friends. I heard about his death after my time in service and have been looking for some family member of friend ever since. My family lived on Dorrance Street and Graceons family lived on Washington Street in Bristol. I would love to hear from a member of his family and meet with them if possible. He was a dear friend. I refused to attend our 1950 class trip to Washington DC when I found out that he could not stay in the same hotel as whites, but he was considered a good enough American to defend and die for our country. I still miss him."
"I am stunned beyond belief to learn that Graceon White paid the ultimate price for defending our great nation. Graceon and I took basic training together at Schofield Barracks Hawaii-April to July,1951. He was undoubtedly one of the nicest individuals that I have ever had the privelege of knowing. we became very close friends. After basic we were among a contingent of about 160 soldiers selected to return to the mainland to attend an Advanced infantry Leadership School,prior to heading to Korea. Our destination was Indiantown Gap, Pa.So together we travelled by boat(5days and nites)and by train(5 days) across country. to Pa.Somewhere in Pa. we went our seperate ways to our homes for 10 day furloughs,before school commenced. I went to DC and Graceon went to York- I believe that was his hometown. During our 8 weeks of training we saw each other as often as we could. After training in mid- November, I eft for Korea and i never saw him again. Sadly it was not until I fortuitously found his name on the net did I know that he had lost his life in Korea. I noted that Mr. Fred McGee made several Remembrance Entries.Obviously, he and Graceon were great friends too. Perhaps I can get in contact with him and hopefully learn more about Graceon's hometown and family-and even communicate and if possible visit them." Ralph Hodge