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Charles George: Korean War Native American Medal of Honor Recipient

Charles George Monument

Tsali “Charles” George was born August 23, 1932 in Cherokee, North Carolina as a member of
the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Tribe. Charlie, as he was known, attended the Indian School
on the Qualla Boundary of Western North Carolina and spent much of his early life near the
Oconaluftee River.

Charles George
Charles George
Image Courtesy North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

At age 18, with the Korean War in full force, Charlie joined the United States Army in  Whittier, North Carolina, attaining the rank of Private First Class. He served in Company C of the 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division.

In November 1952, PFC George gave his life in order to protect that of fellow soldiers, Armando Ruiz and Marion Santo, who along with George were helping lead an assault to try to capture a prisoner for interrogation, just north of Seoul during the Battle of Songnae-dong. Having succeeded in their mission George, Ruiz, and Santo were ordered to provide cover as the Company retired.

The Chinese were continuing to fight and a grenade landed near the three young men. George pushed Santo away before falling on the live grenade in order to prevent injury and possible death to others. Despite his life threatening injuries George did not utter a sound. To do so would have betrayed their location to the Chinese.

Ruiz and Santo bravely carried the dying George to the nearest aid station but the wounds were too severe and the heroic young Cherokee passed. Both Armando Ruiz and Marion Santo survived the war, returning to the States and leading as normal a life as possible having witnessed the ultimate horror of war.

The body of Charles George was returned to Cherokee County where he was interred in Yellow
Hill Cemetery. You may view an online memorial to PFC George here.

PFC George’s heroics were recognized quickly and in March 1954, George’s parents were
invited to Washington D.C. in order to receive the Medal of Honor being awarded posthumously
to their son. In the following years, Charlies father, Jacob, was known to carry the Medal with
him, keeping this piece of his son close to him at all times.

In recent years, further honors have been bestowed upon the memory of PFC Charlie George.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Asheville, NC was renamed the Charles
George Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2017 after approval by both the
United States House of Representatives and the Senate.

The bridge crossing the Oconaluftee River in the Yellowhill Community was dedicated as the
Charles George Bridge on January 23, 2014.

Charles George Monument
The Charles George Monument located in the Cherokee Veterans Park. An identical monument sits at the VA Center named in his honor.

On September 24, 2016, a life-sized statue of George, sculpted by artists James Spratt, was unveiled at the Charles George VA Medical Center. Center Director Cynthia Breyfogle stated, “The legacy of Charles George was, and still is, an inspiration and influence beyond his local community. His courage and example join those of other brave men and women, past and present, who have answered the call when their country needed them.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Spratt did not live to see the unveiling. He passed away the day of the unveiling while under hospice care. Warren Dupree of the American Legion Post 143 said a few words on behalf of Spratt, “…he wanted to thank the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Charles George Memorial Project Committee for their kindness in helping him make his dream come true.”

On November 11, 2016, an identical sculpture to the one located at the VA Center was unveiled in a moving ceremony at the refurbished Cherokee Veterans Park.

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian opened an exhibit in George’s honor on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018. The impressive displays included a bronze bust of George, the flag that draped his coffin, his numerous military medals including his Medal of Honor, and a copy of the text of his Medal of Honor citation. You may read this citation below.

Citation:

Pfc. George, a member of Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and
outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy on the night
of 30 November 1952. He was a member of a raiding party committed to engage the enemy and
capture a prisoner for interrogation. Forging up the rugged slope of the key terrain feature, the
group was subjected to intense mortar and machine-gun fire and suffered several casualties.
Throughout the advance, he fought valiantly and, upon reaching the crest of the hill, leaped into
the trenches and closed with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. When friendly troops were
ordered to move back upon completion of the assignment, he and two comrades remained to
cover the withdrawal. While in the process of leaving the trenches a hostile soldier hurled a
grenade into their midst. Pfc. George shouted a warning to one comrade, pushed the other
soldier out of danger, and, with full knowledge of the consequences, unhesitatingly threw himself
upon the grenade, absorbing the full blast of the explosion. Although seriously wounded in this
display of valor, he refrained from any outcry which would divulge the position of his
companions. The two soldiers evacuated him to the forward aid station and shortly thereafter he
succumbed to his wound. Pfc. George’s indomitable courage, consummate devotion to duty, and
willing self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit upon himself and uphold the finest traditions of the
military service.

Sources:

https://asheville.va.gov/
https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/charles-george                                                                 https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2014/11/30/cherokee-charles-george-korean-war-medal-of-honor-recipient  https://www.theonefeather.com

To learn more about the Medal of Honor I recommend Medal of Honor, Revised & Updated Third Edition: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty  

 

 

 

 

 

To learn more about the Cherokee Indian Nation I recommend Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation.

 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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The Ancient Track Rock Petroglyphs in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

Track Rock Sign

Visitors to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests have a unique opportunity to view a large collection of petroglyphs.

Track Rock Sign
The sign indicating the Track Rock Archaeological Area where you can visit the petroglyphs.

What is a petroglyph?

Track Rock Information Panel
Track Rock Information Panel

The first question a reader may have is, just what a petroglyph is. According to the National Park Service “Petroglyphs are rock carvings (rock paintings are called pictographs) made by pecking directly on the rock surface using a stone chisel and a hammerstone.”

How old are they?

Track Rock Gap is located between Thunderstruck Mountain and Buzzard Roost Ridge near the
town of Blairsville in Union County, Georgia. Here, more than 1,000 years ago, Creek and
Cherokee peoples created the soapstone carvings we now enjoy today.

Considered one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States, Track
Rock features a diverse grouping of more than 100 figures.

What do they mean?

Track Rock Petroglyph
A legend to some of the markings found on the petroglyphs.

Archaeologists do not believe Track Rock to have had a singular purpose or to have been carved in a singular period; rather, the carvings were made over time and for differing reasons. Some of them may symbolize or commemorate a particular event that happened. Others may have to do with rituals and ceremonies. As the National Park Service states

Furthermore, the setting of Track Rock in a gap places it at a threshold. In numerous Cherokee stories, footprints and tracks signify an in-between or transitional state or condition. More specifically, rocks with footprints and tracks signified the area of transition, a doorway or threshold, into the domain of dangerous spirit beings.

Depictions of footprints and tracks are not only physical testimony that spirit beings were there some time in the past, but that they could still be lingering somewhere close-by in the present, and that they may return unexpectedly at any time in the future.

How do I visit?

You can easily visit this amazing archaeological site. There is no entry or parking fee charged.

You can reach Track Rock Gap by taking US 129 to Blairsville, then US 76 east about five
miles. At the signs for Track Rock Gap Road, turn right for about two miles to the gap. Their
location in the gap makes stopping beside the boulders very dangerous.

Drive on through the gap, noting the Track Rocks on the right, and look for the small parking lot
on your right. Park there and take the trail back to the gap, safely from traffic. The trail is not
long or strenuous but it is through a wooded area so proper footwear is suggested. The path can
be slippery depending upon weather conditions.

Carvings visible in the rock
While not photographed at the best lighting, carvings are still visible in this rock.

The NPS suggests visiting when sunlight is at a low angle. Consider visiting either early morning or late in the day. Brighter sunlight makes viewing the  petroglyphs more difficult. If you click the link below to learn more about the site there are convenient fact and description sheets available to help you navigate the site.

Remember, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos. Let’s make sure this sacred site is available for the next thousand years.

How can I learn more?

To learn more about the petroglyphs visit the forest service site here.

Learn more about the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) by visiting the National Park Service page here.

You can learn more on the subject by reading the account “An Archaeological and
Ethnohistorical Appraisal of a Piled Stone feature Complex in the Mountains of North Georgia”
published in the journal Early Georgia (Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 29-50) in 2010 by archaeologists
Johannes Loubser and Douglas Frink. Check with your local librarian to see if any of their
databases carry this journal.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views
and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors
providing products.