|MOH “Junior” Spurrier & Gen. Simpson|
Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Fairmont (WV) native who is the only living West Virginian who is a Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, plans to attend the ceremony at 2 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 2, at the For Those Who Served Museum in the Mercer County War Memorial in Princeton, (WV) as the Medal of Honor presented to Staff Sgt. James “Junior” Spurrier, returns to Mercer County (WA).
“This may be the biggest thing that’s happened all year,” Tony Whitlow said. Whitlow is president of the For Those Who Served Museum. “Everywhere I go, people tell me they are amazed. Junior’s medal has been missing since at least 1950. That’s more than 60 years.”
The long lost medals of WWII Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt. James “Junior” Spurrier, — including the Medal of Honor were found by Craig Corkrean, chief of police of Granville, W.Va., who discovered the medals about two weeks ago when he was looking into a safe that contained his father’s personal effects.
“My dad died in 2006,” Corkrean said. “He had kept a safe in his closet, and after his death, I got a locksmith to open it so I could get some papers out of it. It is too big to be moved. I didn’t really look at what was inside at that time, but I left the door ajar.”
About two weeks ago, he looked inside the safe again and came across a Bronze Star, a combat infantryman’s badge and the Medal of Honor. “My grandfather served in World War II, but I already had his medal,” Corkrean said. “I brought them to work with me on Tuesday, and showed them to Sgt. Matt Allen. He’s an Army veteran and works with veterans’ issues up here. He looked on the back of the Medal of Honor and saw the name: ‘Staff Sgt. Spurrier etched on the back.
After looking online, Allen did a news story on a local television station hoping to find members of Spurrier’s family.
Tony Whitlow, president of the For Those Who Served Museum has been searching for Spurrier’s medal for several years. “We wanted to get it to include in the display we have honoring Junior,” Whitlow said. “When we dedicated the display a few years ago, we got permission from Washington, D.C., to display a replica of the medal. We made contact with a living recipient of the Medal of Honor who now lives in Florida who was going to use his contacts in the FBI to help search for his medal.”
Whitlow said he has heard several different stories about where and when the medal disappeared. “None of that matters,” he said. “I just can’t believe that someone has found Junior’s medals. I thought we never would have found this.”
Whitlow contacted Spurrier’s former wife, Kathy Cox, as well as Spurrier’s oldest surviving sister, Lee Sneed, both of whom recommended that the medal should go to the museum.
Word of the discovery traveled quickly through the military community. Ed Simmons of Bluefield called his close friend, Gary Littrell, past president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society who had been working on a search for the medal.
“The people who Gary was working with kept coming up blank,” Simmons said. “He couldn’t believe it had been found. This has been a very emotional day for all of us.”
Whitlow said the public is invited to attend the ceremony on Dec. 2.
The capture of Achain was credited to one man: S/Sgt. James J. Spurrier, of Bluefield, W. Va., a former farmer and Co. G, 134th, squad leader. When 2nd Bn. Attacked Achain on Nov. 14, 1944, the 22-year-old sergeant entered the town alone from the west while his company drove in from the east.
Spurrier shot the first three Nazis with his M-1. Then, picking up BARs, Yank and German bazookas and grenades wherever he found them, he systematically began to clean out the town. He crumbled one stronghold with bazooka shells, killed three more Nazis with a BAR, captured a garrison commander, a lieutenant and 14 men.
Another defense point was silenced when he killed its two occupants. Out of ammunition and under fire from four Nazis, Spurrier hurled a Nazi grenade into the house, killing the four Germans.
That night, the one-man army had charge of an outpost. While checking security, he heard four Germans talking in a barn. He set fire to the supply of oil and hay, captured the four as they ran out.
Spurrier killed 25 Germans, captured 20 others.
Junior J. Spurrier earned the Medal of Honor for nearly single-handedly capturing the village of Achain that day. He received the Medal of Honor on March 6, 1945 from Lt. Gen. William Hood Simpson.
Photo credit: “Task Force” Staff Sergeant Junior J. Spurrier being presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by General Simpson.
Resources: War hero’s medals found by Bill Archer, Bluefield Daily Telegraph