Private First Class Hector A. Cafferata, Jr. was laid to rest at the Quantico National Cemetery at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, April 22, 2016.
Cafferata received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Chosin Reservoir campaign of 1950.
During a firefight, Cafferata’s entire fire team was wounded, leaving him alone to hold off the enemy with his rifle and some grenades, according to his Medal of Honor citation. He ran up and down the line to bridge the gaps in his company’s defensive line, killing 15 enemy combatants and wounding many more.
“For the rest of the night I was batting hand grenades away with my entrenching tool while firing my rifle at them,” Cafferata said in 2001, according to the Washington Post. “I must have whacked a dozen grenades that night with my tool. And you know what? I was the world’s worst baseball player.”
Later that morning, a grenade landed near wounded Marines and, reacting with speed and intensity, Cafferata threw it away from his comrades. The grenade detonated, wounding his right hand and arm. Cafferata continued to fight until being shot by an enemy sniper, requiring him to be evacuated.
According to Peter Collier’s 2003 book, “Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty,” Marines from Cafferata’s unit later counted more than 100 dead enemy combatants around the ditch where he had fought that night but decided not to put that number into their report because they thought no one would believe it.
President Harry S. Truman presented Cafferata with the Medal of Honor on Nov. 24, 1952.
“I did my duty,” he told the Sarasota Herald Tribune in 2014. “ I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”
After the war, Cafferata returned home to New Jersey selling hunting and fishing equipment and eventually owning a bar in Alpha, New Jersey.
He later moved to Venice, Florida, and an elementary school in Cape Coral, Florida was named in his honor in earlier this year.
Cafferata died at the age of 86 in Venice, Florida, April 12, 2016.
His medals include a Presidential Unit Citation, the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star device, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, a Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor.
He is survived by his wife, Doris Giblock; four children, Lynn D. Cafferata Coovert, Deborah Cafferata-ReFalo, Dale W. Cafferata and Heather A. Cafferata; a brother; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.