Richard Holman and Brenda Wright accepted the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for meritorious and heroic service and the WWII Victory Medal on behalf of their father, Charles Raymond Holman (1915-1993), Friday, May 24, from a representative of U.S. Congressman James Comer's office, Jenna Anderson, and Franklin Mayor Larry Dixon who presented the medal at the Boys and Girls Club of Franklin-Simpson.
"I congratulate Charles' family who I know has worked tirelessly to reach this milestone in their father's legacy," said U.S. Congressman James Comer in a statement. "With great respect and appreciation, on behalf of the 1st District of Kentucky I offer my sincerest congratulations to the late Corporal Charles Holman and the Holman family for receiving this well-deserved recognition of this American patriot."
While alive, Holman did not talk much about his WWII combat service in the Pacific. His only story of the war was about a Japanese banzai assault in Attu Alaska, where he had to "play dead" to avoid being bayoneted by a hoard of charging enemy troops.
Only recently did Holman's son, Richard, notice a website that contained several of the exact same photos his father had brought back from the war. The website was posted by Ed Nielsen from Kingsland, Georgia; whose father was a Sergeant in the same Army 17th Infantry regiment as Holman.
This motivated Richard and Brenda to dig deeper. As a result of inquiries to the National Archives, Corporal Charles Holman qualified for the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for meritorious and heroic service and the WWII Victory Medal. He was unaware of this while living.
"I am immensely proud to see the posthumous Army Bronze Star Medal and World War II Victory Medal awarded to World War II Veteran Charles R. Holman, Army 17th Infantry Regiment, Company F unit," Comer's statement said. "Knowing that such a courageous, bold war veteran hailed from our very own Franklin, Kentucky fills me with great admiration and pride."
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It turns out that Holman's WWII story was more challenging and bloodier than ever perceived by his wife Kathleen and surviving family.
In April 1943, his 7th Division, 17th Infantry Regiment secretly departed from California for Attu Island in Alaska. President Roosevelt had kept secret that nearly 3,000 Japanese troops occupied US territory in Alaska.
Holman's company was a critical lead unit in the first Army only amphibious assault of the Pacific Campaign, normally a task for the Marines; they were the "tip of the spear." Conditions were horrible, with 100 mph winds and ice-covered mountains.
Brenda uncovered from government provided medical records, that Holman fell on the mountain and broke his ribs early in the battle. He went on to fight for two weeks without medical attention.
Facing defeat, the final 700 Japanese troops stormed American lines on May 29, 1943 with hand grenades strapped to their heads and bayonets drawn, according to a book written by John Haile Cloe for the National Park Service. All but a few Japanese were killed in the final Banzai attack.
"The way Dad lived his life was likely profoundly affected by his WWII experience," Richard said. "Veterans who experienced this level of combat had to face adversity, persevere and move-on just to survive. This is how Dad lived his life. I believe this is a lesson for all of us."
Company F was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for their heroism on Attu. The 17th Regiment, Company F went on to fight in the Marshall Islands, recapture the Philippines with General Macarthur, and invade Okinawa. Charles received two battle stars for Attu and the Marshall Island Campaign. President Franklin Roosevelt formally reviewed the unit on Oahu in 1944.
"This has brought closure to the family about an unknown chapter in our father's and mother's lives," Brenda said.