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Medal of Honor Winner Spurrier from WV, after all

Jim wishes with all his heart that Medal of Honor winner Junior Spurrier was actually a Russell County, Kentuckian, as the Medal of Honor Archives says, but a search of the records proves otherwise. However, Spurrier's story and his exploits, near to or surpassing those of the much more famous Audie Murphy, is compelling reading

By "Jim"

As a native of Russell County, Ky., and as a nephew, cousin, and acquaintance of several men who served in World War II, I would be proud beyond all words if Russell County could claim as one of her own a Medal of Honor winner.

Simply put, however, she can't.

Entering "Junior Spurrier" (born James I. Spurrier, Jr.) into a search engine will yield the same information (or some slight variation of it) as posted earlier today (2011 February 07) on CM. The erroneous information stems from the MOH citation itself, which states he was born in Russell County, KY. and that he enlisted from (the apparently nonexistent) Riggs, KY.

However, Mr. Spurrier's enlistment information (link immediately below) indicates he was a native of Virginia, not Kentucky, and that at the time of his enlistment, he was a resident of Wise County Virginia, which adjoins Russell County, VA.The National Archives.

Second, there's an entry (link immediately follows) from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History:

November 13, 1944: Junior Spurrier earns the Medal of HonorWest Virginia's Junior Spurrier was one of the most decorated veterans of World War II. He was surpassed only by Audie Murphy, who earned one more commendation than Spurrier. And while Murphy used his wartime fame as a springboard to Hollywood, Spurrier had trouble readjusting to life back home.

Junior Spurrier was born in Coburn [Wise County], Virginia, in 1922, but he lived most of his life across the state line in Bluefield, West Virginia. When the United States entered World War II, Spurrier was among the thousands of West Virginians who volunteered for service.

After D-Day, Spurrier came to be known as "the one-man army" and the "lone ranger of the 134th Infantry" when he single-handedly liberated a small French farming community from the Germans on November 13, 1944. Stuart McGehee, the chair of the History Department at West Virginia State College and an archivist at the Craft Memorial Library in Bluefield, says Spurrier killed 25 German troops by himself and captured many more.

McGehee: The low number varies between . . . the low number is 18 and the high is 40. But there were two Wehrmacht officers also who surrendered. And the Germans could not believe that one man had come in and single-handedly liberated the entire town and destroyed basically a German detachment of the Wehrmacht.

Spurrier won both the congressional and French medals of honor for his efforts that day. And after he got back home to Bluefield, he was welcomed as a hero. But Stuart McGehee says Spurrier then led a troubled life.

McGehee: The sad thing about Junior Spurrier is . . . probably the only thing he was really well suited for was combat in his life. He adjusted very poorly to civilian life and was constantly in trouble for drinking and fighting.

Spurrier died in 1984 and is buried in the United States Veterans Cemetery in Johnson City, Tennessee.

West Virginia Archives & History

Third, in an interview which appeared in the June 6, 2004 Parkersburg WV News and Sentinel newspaper (the link no longer works), S/Sgt. Spurrier's sister, Hope Spurrier Mills, categorically stated that "Junior was truly a hero ... just a poor kid of 17 from Russell County, Virginia,..."

And finally, in searching for information about the men from Russell County KY who died during World War Two, I've perused every extant copy of the Russell County (KY) from 1941 through 1950 and the name Spurrier never appears.



This story was posted on 2011-02-07 09:41:17
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