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Date 18, 2002

 

 

Craft's Heroics, Service Recalled in Dedication

Plaque Placed in Post Office Named for Medal of Honor Winner

By Jeff Niese
The Morning News/NWAonline.net • jniese@nwaonline.net

 

FAYETTEVILLE -- Clarence B. Craft's heroics on the battlefield were surpassed only by his commitment to fellow veterans and the life he lived in volunteerism, officials said Friday at a dedication ceremony in his honor.

The U.S. Post Office at 1590 Joyce Boulevard was named after the Medal of Honor recipient during a ceremony that featured patriotic songs and the presentation of the flag by an honor guard.

"The person we're honoring was truly a genuine hero," said U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-3rd District. "It is appropriate to name this facility after him. Kids young and old will say 'who was this guy,' and we can revisit the story of Clarence Craft."

Craft died in March at the age of 80.

The 188th Fighter Wing lowered an American flag and raised another along with a POW-MIA flag in front of the post office that opened last year. After folding the first flag, the color guard handed the flag to Boozman, who then presented it to Tamae Craft, Craft's widow.

The 30-mph wind whipped the flag back and forth on the pole. Later, the Bella Vista Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9063 Honor Guard fired three shots in the air above the post office.

"He was a hero for the way he lived," Boozman said of Craft.

Craft was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor in combat on May 31, 1945. Craft was a private first class and rifleman in Company G of the 283rd Infantry, 96th Division, when his platoon spearheaded an attack on Hen Hill, a tactical position held by the Japanese army on the island of Okinawa. The island was described as the hinge for the entire Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru line of the Japanese defense in the Ryukyu Islands.

With five fellow soldiers, Craft was dispatched in advance of Company G to inspect enemy resistance. The group proceeded only a short distance up the slope when rifle and machine-gun fire, coupled with grenades, wounded three and pinned down the others.

Against odds, Craft launched a remarkable one-man attack. He stood up in full view of the enemy and began shooting with deadly marksmanship wherever he saw a hostile movement. He advanced up the hill, killing Japanese soldiers with rapid fire, driving others to cover. He reached the crest of the hill and started throwing grenades at short range into enemy positions, according to Craft's citation.

The war hero served a second tour in Korea.

But his service didn't end when the war did. Craft logged more than 9,300 hours of volunteering in 10 years at the Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

George McCleland, Craft's son, who works for the VA, said his father would push patients in wheelchairs, take them to the X-ray rooms and just visit with others.

"It was the one way he could help veterans and help his fellow soldiers," McCleland said.

Another of Craft's sons, Richard McCleland of San Antonio, said his father would have been pleased with the ceremony.

"He would have been very proud and honored," McCleland said. "It's a shame he didn't survive long enough to see this dedication."

The post office was dedicated in Craft's honor June 18 with Public Law 107-184. A plaque naming the post office in Craft's honor was unveiled Friday. It's the first post office in the state to be named after someone, officials said.

© 2002, by The Stephens Media Group
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

NWAnews.com

Lasting tribute 

BY SARAH TERRY Northwest Arkansas Times
Saturday, November 9, 2002

The U.S. Post Office on Joyce Boulevard was officially renamed Friday to honor a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and Fayetteville resident who died in March.

Clarence Craft was awarded the nation’s highest military honor for valor and bravery in combat during World War II, but his recognition at the post office honors a lifetime of service, said 3 rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. John Boozman of Rogers. Boozman introduced a bill to rename the post office in May. "He was a hero in every sense of the word," Boozman said. "He was a hero because of the way he lived. We have to remember his deeds, but we also have to remember the man."

After the bill passed the House of Representatives, U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Bentonville sponsored the measure in the Senate.

In June, the U.S. Senate approved the proposal to name the post office in Craft’s honor.

The postal facility will be named the Clarence B. Craft Post Office Building. The branch, which opened in August 1999, is the first post office in the state of Arkansas to honor a citizen.

About 100 people gathered outside the post office on Friday morning for the ceremony, which included the presentation of the flag by the 188 th Fighter Wing and the rendering of honors by Bella Vista VFW Post 9063.

Craft was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for staging a one-month attack on the Japanese at Hen Hill, Okinawa, during World War II.

On May 31, 1945, the 23-year-old soldier — a rifle- man with Company G, 383d Infantry, 96 th Infantry Division — killed 25 Japanese soldiers at Hen Hill and led his battalion to break enemy lines.

According to Craft’s biography, Hen Hill was a tactical position for the entire Japanese defensive line at Okinawa. Craft, along with five fellow soldiers, was dispatched to the area to uncover any enemy resistance.

The group had proceeded only a short distance when rifle, machine gun fire and a barrage of grenades wounded three and pinned down the others. Craft stood up in full view of the enemy and began shooting with expert marksmanship wherever he saw the enemy.

When he reached the crest of the hill, Craft threw grenades at short-range into the enemy position. His actions allowed members of his platoon to advance and pass him more grenades.

With a chain of his comrades supplying him while he stood atop the hill, he hurled a total of two cases of grenades into a main trench and other positions on the reverse slope below him. Craft left the position, where grenades from both sides were passing over his head, and attacked the main enemy trench.

With rifle fire and a grenade, Craft wiped out the position. At one point, he continued down the central trench to the mouth of a cave where many of the enemy had taken cover. A satchel charge was given to him, and he tossed it into the cave. When it failed to explode, Craft retrieved the charge from the cave, relighted the fuse and threw it back, sealing up the entrance.

After his heroics in World War II, Craft served a second tour in Korea.

Upon his retirement, Craft continued to serve his country by volunteering at the Fayetteville Veterans Administration Medical Center and VA National Cemetery. He logged more than 9,300 hours in only 10 years helping fellow veterans who were hospitalized. The Clarence B. Craft Primary Care Center on the Fayetteville VAMC campus was named in his honor.

Craft was also an active member of Fayetteville American Legion Post No. 27 for 56 years.

 

© 2002, by The Northwest Arkansas Times
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

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