June 2, 1951: Sergeant Cornelius Charlton Killed in Battle


On June 2, 1951, Sergeant Cornelius Charlton was killed in battle. He was 21 years old. Charlton was a native of East Gulf in Raleigh County, the eighth of 17 children. His family moved to New York when he was a teenager, and he enlisted in the Army at age 17.  

When the Korean War broke out, he was transferred to Korea. Charlton volunteered for combat and was assigned to the 24th Infantry—the Army’s last all-black regiment.

On June 2, Charlton’s platoon was trying to capture a heavily defended hill. After his platoon leader was injured, Charlton took over and led three charges up the hill.

Badly wounded, he made one last dash into enemy fire, firing round after round at a Chinese bunker. Charlton died from his wounds and was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. In 1954, the Charlton Memorial Bridge on the West Virginia Turnpike was dedicated in his honor.

Sergeant Charlton was originally buried in a family cemetery in Mercer County. In 1990, his body was moved to an American Legion cemetery in Beckley and then reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in 2008.