This interesting and unbelievable incident took place in Colorado. An Unassuming Janitor who never talked to anyone and for the same reason wasn’t even noticed by anyone at a school left each and every student in the school with a stutter. It even made the headlines of top newspapers and was all over the Television. Take a look at this exciting and thrilling story!
An Unassuming Janitor
One cannot say that the officers and cadets staying in the US Air Force Academy situated in Colorado Springs were wrong in considering William “Bill” Crawford who worked as the janitor there as unimpressive. As hardly anyone tries to even care of looking at a man in such low-key profession. But, William who was working in the Academy for years, was no ordinary janitor and had an unbelievable past.
Discreet and Diligent
Still, one thing that everyone praised William for was his dedication towards the work and the discipline he showed towards mopping the floors of the academy and collecting janitorial supplies.He was very silent and rarely could be seen talking to anyone. This was one of the major reasons for no one paying attention towards him. But, this was going to change completely soon.
An Enigmatic Presence
With the excessive amount of physical strain that Crawford had to go through in his earlier years led him to search for a job without much hassle post-retirement. He was born in Pueblo, Colorado in the year 1918. People in the academy had a perception of “a single old man working in a young person’s world,” towards him.
Not Just a Wallflower Janitor
When asked about William, Retired Air Force Col. James Moschgat, who used to be in the academy at the same time as Crawford described as a man who was extremely shy with the age gap acting between him and the cadets being the major barrier of communication.“The Academy, one of the premier leadership lab in the USA, kept us busy from dawn till dusk. And Mr. Crawford … well, he was just a janitor,” recalled Moschgat.
Ordinary or Extraordinary
As already told before, Crawford hardly talked with anybody in the family. This intensified the mystery-shrouded with his personal life even more. Though, one could judge from his looks and body structure that he was “retired military”. William’s only desire was to work dutifully and add to the benefits of his pension package.
Change in the Air
It was the rare instances of a cadet initiating the talk that people would witness Crawford uttering words from his mouth. One thing which was clearly evident was the fact that Crawford felt proud to be associated with the academy even if it was by working as a Janitor. It was the year 1976 that would prove to be revolutionary for the Academy.
A Dramatic Discovery
Moschgat who was a cadet at that time was reading a book about World War II and the Italian campaign carried out by the Allied ground when he came across something while going through the pages which made him curious. He instantly blurted out the words “Holy Cow!” and stated, “The words on the page leaped out at me,” in a book he wrote.
The Curious Connection
The reason was that the name “Private William Crawford” frequently popped up in the event he was reading about. He instantly realized that the janitor working in the academy and the man talked about in the book had some connection. He spread the news all over the class to which his friends turned a blind eye.
A Tale of Bravery
The lines,“ in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire…with no regard for personal safety… on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions,” which were being stated in US Army’s 36 Infantry Division’s encounter with the enemies near Altavilla in Italy were responsible for the developing interest of Moschgat.
An Unsung Hero
It gave the cadet goosebumps to even think of any possible connection between the person talked about and the janitor. He was dead set to unravel the truth.He wanted to find it anyhow. Eventually, his doubt was clarified when he witnessed Crawford running with the book that had initiated everything. The cadet was able to get hold of the old janitor after a puzzled chase.
The Reluctant Truth
Everyone present around the janitor was taken aback when he reluctantly replied,“Yep, that’s me” on being asked about the connection. He went on to say,“That was a long time ago and one day in my life”. Crawford was narrating the incident calmly but had no idea of it becoming the reason for increasing excitement in the hearts of the cadet.
Regaling the Past
Everyone now was aware of the fact that Crawford was no ordinary personality. The fact of him being serving the country after joining US Army in the year 1942 was now known to the whole campus. Crawford for against Italy while being a member of the 142nd Infantry Regiment 36 US Infantry Division. It was when his team found themselves facing enemy fire after attacking Hill 424 in Altavilla SilentinaSeptember 1943 that Crawford decided to come in action.
A Superhuman Display of Bravery
Crawford had a heart made of steel which didn’t allow him to sit like ducks facing deadly fires. This led him to take control of the situation and single-handedly destroying three German machine gun nests by throwing grenades at them. His superhuman display helped him to save numerous lives and rise above the dangerous situation.
From Daring to Danger
The relief proved to be short-lived for Crawford and his team as they were captured by the German troops after they got too close to enemy’s fortified area. The news of Crawford and his fellow mates being MIA spread across the nation. It was then that things again took an unbelievable turn.
Tragedy and Honor
On hearing, no news of Crawford and his team from the battlefield, the American government was forced to presume them dead. An announcement was also made in the year 1944 to award Crawford with The Medal of Honor “posthumously”. It was his father George who received the award on his behalf handed over to him by US Maj.- Gen Terry Allen in “a brief, impressive ceremony.” Everyone was totally unaware of the reality.
While Crawford was being awarded in his nation, he was left unaware of his felicitation in another country amidst enemies. But, everything changed once the news of them being free from German prison camps surfaced making William a rare survivor of German PoW internment camp. He was heading back home.
National Hero Returns Home
Crawford married Eileen Bruce in the year 1946 after returning to his home nation. But, the desire to serve the country was still in his heart which saw him working for the Army again for 20 years after he finally took retirement in 1967. Post-retirement he moved to Palmer Lake, Colorado to work as director of the Lucretia Vaile Museum where he conducted many museum events and later worked in the Air Force Academy as a janitor.
His simplicity got displayed from that time since. As during his time in the military he never went on to proudly display his Medal of Honor. The whole Academy was turned on its head when they made these discoveries. Now, the people there treated Crawford in a totally different manner. These things were leading to another remarkable event which was going to change Crawford’s life.
Now Crawford was more active and frequently could be seen talking to cadets and attending air squad functions. Although he never expressed his inner self, everyone knew that he had the desire of receiving the Medal of Honor personally as it was his father who had taken it on behalf of him. Realizing this fact, the people planned something terrific for the war hero.
It was in the Colorado Springs Falcon Stadium in, 1984 that Crawford witnessed thousands of people for the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony. Crawford was invited to the graduation celebration event as a special guest. Little did the man, aged 66 then knew about the special things that were planned for him by the staff and cadets of the Academy.
Long Overdue Recognition
Crawford was surprised to see then-President Ronald Reagan in the ceremony along with the cadets, generals, alumni, and staff. The event took place in the year 1984, as the President praised Crawford and hailed him as an inspiration for the future generations and acknowledged the fact that Crawford had gone “above and beyond the call of duty” in order to protect his fellow soldiers.
The President started by saying,“Now, there’s something I want to do that means a lot to me and, I’m sure, will mean a lot to you” and went on to describe the act of bravery he displayed in the war, his service to the country while in Europe and how he managed to survive from the German prison.
40 Years in the Making
Finally, the moment came for which Crawford longed for so long. It was when Reagan said,“Well, nearly 40 years have gone by, and it’s time to do it right,” that Crawford was presented with the prestigious Medal of Honor, after being called on the podium. He was the rightful recipient of the award.
Rightfully Due Honor
It was an emotional moment for all present there when Reagan gently hung the medal around the neck of Crawford. While receiving the award too, Crawford seemed humble and calm the same as he had been for the past years during his work as a janitor in the Academy. He never sought any praise for his brave act and Reagan rightfully stated that Crawford acted with “conspicuous gallantry.”
No Small Feat
Seeing the look on Crawford’s face, everything seemed pretty normal. But, in reality, it was a very special which has placed Crawford in an exclusive list of people. As, the Us President generally hands over the award in the name of Congress, but this recognition meant that Crawford was saluted by everybody in uniform regardless of the rank as a part of a custom.
Heartwarmingly Humble Hero
As the speaker at the podium, Crawford said, “I was just glad that I was doing my part, I figured it was just a normal call of duty, I happened to be at the right place at the right time.” Crawford’s humble attitude was truly evident in his speech. But, something more was waiting or him as his recognition hadn’t stopped.
Reflection on the Legend
Remember, Col. Jame Moschgat? Yes! the man who was the first one to make this incredible discovery. He gave a very touching speech and said, “Bill Crawford was a janitor. However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model and one great American hero.” He added on by saying that Crawford gave him “some valuable leadership lessons.”
A Full Life
The great man passed away on March 15, 2000. He aged 81 when he died at his house in Colorado, leaving his wife Eileen behind, who passed away in the year 2009. The cemetery box was glorified forever when Crawford became the first man to be buried at the US Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, despite having his name in a non-Airforce list.
An Icon Lives On
After Crawford passed away, he was awarded and remembered through some other amazing and respectful acts. As the Governor of Colorado Bill Owens issued a directive to have all the flags in Colorado lowered to half-mast in respect of the veteran. Crawford’s statue was also erected at Hero Plaza in the Pueblo Convention Center alongside the statues of three other Medal of Honor recipients from Colorado.
Moschgat had some very beautiful in the late Crawford. He wrote a book named “A Janitor’s Ten Lessons in Leadership” in which he wrote,“Private Bill Crawford didn’t pursue glory; he did his duty and then swept floors for a living, if Bill Crawford, a Medal of Honor winner, could clean latrines, touch a dirty floor mopping cloth and smile, is there a job beneath your dignity? Think about it.”
Not the Only Delayed Dedication
We all know now that William Crawford was a legend, but he was not the only man to be recognized years after his services in World War II. There have been more than a few people like him. Nonetheless, these people prove that staying humble and just focusing on one’s task is a virtue which is respected by all.
Heartwarming Tale of Another Hero
Luckily, we have another inspirational tale at your disposal. This is about a man named Vernon Baker who hailed from Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was born in the year 1919 and was the youngest of the three children his parents had. It was their grandparents who took care of them when a car accident proved to be the reason for the death of their parents. Baker aged four at that time but stayed strong and went on to complete his graduation from a high school in Clarinda, Iowa. He went on to do a string of menial jobs but had the innate passion of serving in the U.S. Army. Consequently, he got himself enrolled in the U.S. Army in the year 1941. A major evidence of his strong desire is that a rejection at the very beginning by the recruiter saying “We don’t have any quotas for you people,” didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams.
Determined for Duty
The incident of him getting enlisted after giving it a try at the office of a different recruiter truly justifies the statement ” Fortune Favors The Brave”. Vernon was a highly ambitious man, this gets proved from the fact that he was so eager to go up the ranks that he made a request to the officials to make him a quartermaster. Obviously, the request was not granted and he had to remain content with the post of an infantry soldier. Nobody had even the slightest idea that the man was destined to do great things for the nation, stories of which would pass on from generation to generation.
Sent to Serve
Coincidentally, Baker joined the army just six months before the entry of U.S. into the world war. Through the increasing tension of the war spreading across Europe, Baker saw himself being appointed as a second lieutenant in the year 1943. Just a year after that he was stationed in Italy among the famous 92nd Infantry Division amidst the war. Baker didn’t lose hope even after getting an arm injury and came back again to fight for his country in the year 1944. It was from here that his life transformed completely.
A Bold Leader in Battle
Castle Aghinolfi high located in Italy’s Apennine Mountains was a spot of utmost importance for the Germans strategically. The Allied forces desperately wanted to take control of the castle. This is where Baker along with his 25 infantrymen on April 5, 1945, came in action and fearlessly dodged snipers, barbed wires, and mines to reach a position extremely close to the Castle in control of the Germans.
Single-Handedly Saving the Day
The major factor in the success of the platoon was the shrewd and brave leadership of Vernon Baker. But, if you think after gaining control of a good spot on the mountain Vernon stopped, then you are totally wrong. As he went on to completely destroy a machine gun position, two German bunkers, two enemy observation posts, and a network of Third Reich telephone lines single-handedly.
A Loyal Hero who Never Quit
As already told Baker was a man born with a never say die attitude. This was once again proved when he along with his very few infantry soldiers successfully captured another enemy stronghold. The most amazing fact is that Baker had volunteered for this operation despite the conditions being totally adverse. He made the bold decision of remaining in Europe till 1947 as a constituent of the Allied occupation. But, Baker’s life was going to take a strange turn.
A Defiant Role Model
You won’t believe the fact that even after a commendable display of bravery in the Warfield, Baker lost his commission. The reason being that he didn’t have a college degree. From then on it proved to be a difficult and challenging journey for him. Consequently, he saw himself joining the army once again in the Korean War and served the nation as a military man till the year 1968. After that, he took the decision of working as a Red Cross counselor. Till that time he had no idea that he was going to get felicitated in the most amazing of ways.
Serving his Country after Service
Baker was enjoying an extremely peaceful life after working in the army as the father of three children and living with his wife in a cabin in Idaho. Unfortunately, his wife named Fern passed away in the year 1986. But, The Almighty blessed him with another lady in his life, this time it was a German tourist named Heidy who went on to become his second wife. Spending a life hunting in the jungles of Idaho, the man had no idea the magnitude of the recognition that he was about to get.
A Hero Makes History
The time finally came for the world to recognize the brilliance and bravery of the man gave his all in the war. The year was 1997 when President Bill Clinton awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor to Vernon Baker in a ceremony at the White House. The whole nation admired and was proud of hearing an emotional Baker who poured his heart out in his speech.
The Humble Words of a Hero
Vernon Baker aged 77 glorified the walls of White House by his speech. He said,“I was thinking about what was going on up on the hill that day, I was an angry young man. We were all angry. But we had a job to do, and we did it. My personal thoughts were that I knew things would get better, and I’m glad to say that I’m here to see it.” But, there was something more in store for Baker.
A Revered Place in History
Though the medal of honor is the highest military decoration, the occasion was made unique as Baker an African American was the first World War II veteran to receive the honor from his race. It was all because of a study by Shaw University in the year 1992 regarding the discrimination against blacks which led to an upgraded honor given to them in place of the Distinguished Service Crosses.
A Lone Legend
But, it seemed that only Vernon Baker was destined to be the only recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton. The reason being the death of the other eligible soldiers named Edward A. Carter, Jr., John R. Fox, Willy F. James, Jr., Ruben Rivers, Charles L. Thomas and George Watson due to death in action or from natural causes post-war.
A Lifetime of Strength and Inspiration
“Second Lieutenant Baker’s fighting spirit and daring leadership were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces,” read part of his Medal of Honor quote. Vernon Baker truly deserved the recognition he received. He even dodged death from cancer in the year 2004.
Saluting His Legacy
Unfortunately, this brave and loving soul died on July 13, 2010. He aged 90 at that time and took his last breath in his home at Idaho. He was buried at the famous Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia along with his fellow servicemen. He will surely stay in the hearts of everybody forever.