Thank you for your inquiry concerning our unique organization, the Veterans of Underage Military service. We have only one requirement for full membership; U.S. military service under the age of 17 ( under 16 for World War II Merchant Marine vets and under 20 years of age for women veterans of World War II )
If you meet this single requirement, you may join us now. Our members have experienced many of the same problems and joys as you did in the military but at an age when most kids were still dreaming of high school proms. Indeed, some of our members joined too young even to have attended high school!
One of our deceased members served, in combat, at the age of 12, twenty-nine active members first served at age 13, while most were between 14 and 16 years of age. (as of 18 Dec 2007)
One of our youngest members who served in ww11 was 12 year old Calvin L Graham, USN.
In 15 August 1942 Calvin was sworn into the Navy. He was 12 years, 4 months and 12 days old. He was the youngest individual to enlist in the U S Military service since the Civil War.
After boot camp, Calvin went to Pearl Harbor where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. They were soon in the South Pacific. During their first battle, Calvin's gun crew accounted for seven of the twenty- six enemy aircraft that the ship shot down.
A short time later, in November 1942, during the battle of Guadalcanal, the South Dakota was hit forty-seven times by enemy fire. One explosion threw Calvin down three decks of stairs. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel that tore through his jaw and mouth. In spite of his injuries, he helped pull fellow sailors from danger. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Navy Unit Commendation medal.
The ship's captain received a letter, from the Navy Department, stating that his mother said he was only 12 years old. Calvin asked the captain to let him stay in the navy but the captain said "that he did not want a 12 year old on his ship." He was later thrown into the brig and stripped of his medals. On I April 1943, he was kicked out of the navy without an Honorable Discharge and without veterans benefits. He did not receive any discharge papers at the time.
He wrote to congressmen and presidents and finally, in 1978, the Navy reinstated all of his medals with the exception of the Purple Heart. He was awarded $337 in back pay but was denied health benefits except for disability status for one lost tooth. Calvin maintained that it wasn't the money but his pride and self respect that he wanted restored.
In 1988, President Reagan signed legislation that granted Calvin full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917, and allowed $18,000 for past medical bills, contingent on receipts for the medical services. By this time, some of the doctors who treated him had died and many medical bills were lost. Calvin received only $2,100 of the possible $18,000. The money for the rights to his story for the movie, ''Too Young The Hero" amounted to $50,000, but 50% went to two agents, and 20% went to a writer of an unpublished book about Calvin. Calvin and his wife received $15,000 before taxes. Calvin Graham died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas on 6 June 1992 at the age of 62.
Eighteen months later, on 21 June 1994, his Purple Heart was presented to his widow Mary by the Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton, at a ceremony in Arlington, Texas.
This above account was partially compiled from the following sources: conversations and correspondence with Mary L. Graham; Fort Worth Star Telegram, on November 1992; The Dallas Morning News, on 10 November 1992; News release, Congressman Martin Frost, 24th District, Texas, 21 June 1994 and America's Youngest Warriors, volume 1 printed 1997; (Partial story) by VUMS Editors, Drs. Ray D. and Susan M. Jackson.
Our main purposes are: to establish and maintain contact with those who served in the armed forces while underage; to assure all underage veterans that there will be no retribution from the government because of their fraudulent enlistment; to enjoy the friendship of comrades through meetings/reunions and our newsletter and to record for history the unique experiences of yesterday's youngsters as underage veterans.
We are proud to be America's Youngest Warriors representing all of the military branches of service of the United States Of America.
Edited by Ralph Kleyla, LM 1200
National Commander 2016-2019