two Camden natives to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, this monument
to Francis X. McGraw is located on New Jersey Road, just south of
Collings Avenue in the Fairview section of Camden. This monument to
Francis X. McGraw was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1982. The
monument was donated by the Fairview Village Lions Club and the
Independent Citizens Athletic Club of Fairview. The bronze plaque on the
monument was donated by officers and men then serving in his old unit, the
26th Infantry Regiment who were then serving in the Federal
Republic of Germany.
comment on this web-page,
Camden Courier-Post * May 28, 2007
War hero's monument neglected
By CAROL COMEGNO
Outnumbered by the enemy and already seriously wounded, hometown soldier Francis X. McGraw had a life choice to make.
He could abandon his position and get medical aid or he could stay with his machine gun at his foxhole and keep firing.
In what would be his last stand of World War II, the Army private first class chose to fight, repelling advancing Nazi troops in a German forest, single-handedly silencing their machine guns while exposing himself to fire and killing many until he was wounded again, this time fatally. He died on that day -- November 19, 1944 -- but the heroics of the 26-year-old inspired his unit to victory at the start of the Allied march to Cologne and the Rhine River.
For McGraw's actions, President Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest honor for military heroism.
On Memorial Day, a monument to the local hero sits near his boyhood home in Fairview at Merrimac and New Jersey roads. The site is obscured and on a neglected, overgrown plot of city-owned ground behind a parking lot and near city tennis courts. Railroad ties, intended for landscaping, are in disarray after being moved by construction workers at an adjacent housing redevelopment project.
"The city should be taking care of the grounds," said Francis Pike of Glassboro, president of the athletic club. The club moved to Gloucester City after being forced out of its Collings Road clubhouse because of redevelopment by the city and RPM Development.
He said the city used to at least cut the grass.
"We never had responsibility for the little park because it's on city ground next to the tennis courts," said Pike, who acknowledged knowing little about McGraw as a newer club member.
He said the monument perhaps could be moved to a more visible location in Fairview now that there is a new apartment building in front of it that is part of the Fairview Village II redevelopment phase.
McGraw's closest living relative, brother Thomas McGraw, laments the property's condition.
"There's not much I can do about it. I think Fairview is not what it used to be, but it would be nice if someone could take care of it," McGraw, 85, said.
Patrick Keating, the city's public works director, and an assistant went to the site late Friday and tended to some of the bushes after an inquiry by the "Courier-Post."
He agreed with others that moving the monument to another site would be desirable. The monument was erected on Memorial Day 25 years ago by the Independent Citizens Athletic Club of Fairview and the Fairview Village Lions Club, which is now defunct.
"We take care of other monuments, but I didn't even know this one existed," Keating said.
City workers will return next week to complete the cleanup.
McGraw described his brother, a 1937 graduate of Camden Catholic High School who worked at the Campbell Soup Co. factory before the war, as a "genteel" man who never picked a fight but who could defend himself.
"I think about him a lot and go through his every agonizing moment of his last day. I would not have been that brave," he said.
An elementary school across town in East Camden was named for him -- the Francis X. McGraw School at Fremont Avenue and Dudley Street. In Europe, the U.S. Army headquarters in Munich -- McGraw Kaserne -- was also named in his honor after World War II until it closed in 1990 due to U.S. military downsizing.
At least two portraits of McGraw hang in Camden -- one in the public school and one in Malandra Hall in Fairview.
The Medal of Honor citation signed by Truman said McGraw initially halted the enemy advance at the Battle of Hurtgen Forest near Schevenhutte, Germany. When the Germans brought up machine guns to counterattack him, he lifted his machine gun atop a log, stood up in his foxhole and destroyed both of their guns.
After his own machine gun was hit and then splattered by mud from rocket attacks, he remounted it and even cleaned it so he could continue using it. He was severely wounded while making several trips across the battlefield to retrieve more ammunition.
After exhausting even that ammunition, he grabbed a carbine and shot several more soldiers before being killed.
"The extraordinary heroism and intrepidity displayed by Private McGraw inspired his comrades to great efforts and was a major factor in repulsing the enemy attack," the citation concludes.
He also was awarded a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and other medals for taking part in five major battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy and invasions of North Africa and Sicily.
Joseph DiFante of Haddon Township, a longtime Fairview resident and active military veteran who is still a member of American Legion Post 71 in Fairview, said the monument site looks a "mess" and proposed the stone be moved so it would be more visible, perhaps to Yorkship Square.
Camden Courier-Post - June 6, 2007
Camden spruces up Medal of Honor winner's monument
The long-neglected and forgotten monument to a local World War II hero and D-Day veteran is attracting much-needed attention.
The city and two nonprofit Fairview organizations have committed themselves to maintaining the mini-park that is home to the stone monument honoring Pfc. Francis X. McGraw, a Medal of Honor recipient from Fairview.
A city public works crew has been out several times, including Tuesday, sprucing up the park since its deplorable condition was reported by the "Courier-Post" on Memorial Day weekend.
The Fairview Village Association, a homeowner and tenant group, and the Fairview Historical Society want to help care for the monument placed on the city-owned grounds 25 years ago.
The park, a little-noticed plot at Merrimac and New Jersey roads tucked away from the main thoroughfare of Collings Road, was littered with trash and debris from an adjacent construction site. Those walking by could not see it because it was blocked by overgrown or dead weeds, bushes and trees.
"The newspaper article brought to light something that many of us in Fairview never knew -- not only that the memorial is there, but that the hero it honors was a hometown Fairview (resident)," said Adam Greenman, president of the village association.
Greenman said he is exploring the possibility of moving the monument to a more visible location.
McGraw, who lived at 3110 Merrimac Road in Fairview, was inducted into the Army at Fort Dix and became a machine gunner in the 26th Infantry Regiment, dubbed the Blue Spaders. He fought in five major battles from North Africa to Sicily and Germany.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 63 years ago today, McGraw and his unit landed on the Normandy coast of France. He was not awarded the medal for action there. He was not in the first wave of troops.
The regiment had sailed to England in October 1943 to train for D-Day after their role in the Invasion of Sicily.
D-Day led to the allied march across the Rhine into Germany and to the eventual defeat of the German army of Nazi Adolf Hitler.
Five months later in a German forest known as Hurtgen, McGraw's one-man stand against advancing German soldiers led to his death from enemy fire at age 26 -- but not until he had killed a countless number of the enemy. He stood with his gun atop a log above his foxhole, exposed himself to fire, and then risked his life even further to resupply himself with ammunition several times. His heroics inspired his unit to repel the attack, according to his Medal of Honor citation.
President Harry S. Truman honored him posthumously with the Medal of Honor -- the nation's highest military award. McGraw is buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.
Pat Keating, city public works director, said his men pulled out stumps of dead bushes Tuesday and trimmed other bushes. He said he also wants to plant some new shrubs there.
Keating personally went to the site with his assistant just before Memorial Day to pull weeds and start the cleanup after being contacted for a comment.
"I think if we repositioned it to face the street and set it far enough away from the fence and removed the construction debris, it will be a lot better."
Kevin Friel, recording secretary of the Fairview Historical Society, said his group would like to plant flowers and work with the village association.
"Because I am new resident, I didn't even know the monument was there," Friel said. "We are really sorry the memorial got neglected for so long, but now that we know about it, we're stepping up to the plate to see our servicemen are honored."
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