Everyone Thought He Was Just A School Janitor, Then They Discovered His Heroic WWII Past

Everyone Thought He Was Just A School Janitor, Then They Discovered His Heroic WWII Past
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People are quick to judge if they like it or not. We see people each and every day and assume that since they are in their current position, that is what their lives have amounted to. This is not the way we should be thinking. World War II was a difficult time to say the least for the United States and this older man has a history that is so much more than his current janitorial work.

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In the late 1960s a man by the name of William Crawford, a Colorado native, started working as a janitor at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs. He was tasked with sweeping floors, keeping the building tidy, and even cleaning the bathrooms.

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While the young men were busy with exams and meeting the high standards that the academy set forth, Crawford never really made a name for himself among the cadets. They all said he did a wonderful job and was polite and courteous. None of them could have ever guessed that he was something so much more.

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15739-presscdn-0-41.pagely.netdna-cdn.com

Colonel James Moschgat, who was a cadet in the late 1970s even remembered him later, remembering Bill didn’t move too quickly. The world weary janitor had a secret that no one saw coming.

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15739-presscdn-0-41.pagely.netdna-cdn.com

This janitor that kept to himself and busied his days with cleaning had a past that none of them expected. A chance find in a book of military history changed the opinion of everyone that saw him forever.

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Moschgat was paging through a book about World War II in the fall of 1976 when he came across an entry about a ground campaign that had been fought by the allied forces in 1943.

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The entry outlined the story of one man who was caught in a brutal fight at Hill 424 in Italy. The private was a member of the U.S. Army’s 36th Infantry Division and his story was a very heroic one.

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The heroic private did more than was ever asked of him that day. While his platoon was under machine gun fire he took the time and the risk to crawl to the machine gun and throw a grenade in its direction. He was able to destroy both the gun and the crew that manned it saving his platoon from certain death.

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This was not the end of his heroics that day. As the rest of his platoon made its way toward the enemy line, he crawled ahead and destroyed a second machine gun in the manner that he took out the first. With a well placed grenade he and his team were that much closer.

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You think he had done enough already? He then advanced on the third machine gun and caused the crew to run at which time he took control of the machine gun and used it on the German forces as they ran. He helped secure the entire advance of his platoon single handedly.

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The private was taken prisoner in the battle of Hill 424 and his platoon assumed that he was lost for good. His story spread like wildfire however and soon his father was accepting the Medal of Honor in his stead. The private then came out of captivity without injury in 1944 where he found he was now a hero of the first order.

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Moschgat was surprised when he read the story to say the least at the bravery that this young private displayed. What caused him an even greater shock? The private was none other than William Crawford, the man that kept the academy clean as the janitor.

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Moschgat was intrigued and took the time to approach the janitor with book in hand. After a brief silence, Crawford confirmed that he was the solider that had the young man mystified. Crawford simply said it was one day in his life and it was a long time ago.

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Crawford stayed with the military until 1967 when he retired with the rank of Master Sergeant. He returned to civilian life with a much less exciting job as a janitor in the academy. He stayed out of the news and spotlight after retiring from the military and had yet to even attend a ceremony to receive his Medal of Honor.

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The story of William Crawford again spread quickly and the war hero was in for a surprise. Those that had walked past him for years now wanted his attention and praise.

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Moschgat believes that his finding the article and approaching Crawford helped to reenergize the war hero. He says that he walked with more purpose after that day and he was a bit stronger. We all like to be recognized and it stands to reason that this would give Crawford a bit more pep in his step.

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Though this war hero was now known, he continued to work at the academy cleaning up after messy cadets. At his graduation ceremony in 1977 Moschgat recalls that Crawford wished him luck in his new career.

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After a time, Crawford retired to the town of Pueblo, Colorado where he moved to a retirement community that was home to four living recipients of the Medal of Honor. It was a home that was fitting for the war hero and gave him a chance to relax.
In 1984, nearly five decades since the battle of Hill 424, Crawford was invited to a very special graduation event at the United States Air Force Academy. He was met by president Ronald Reagan who then presented him with his Medal of Honor.

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In March of 2000, when Crawford was 81, he passed away. Flags were flown at half-mast in his state and he was buried at the USAF Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs. He is the only non-enlisted soldier ever to be buried there. He was given a very fitting end for his service and for his spectacular life.