0311 Rifleman USMC - The U.S. Marine Corps rifleman employed the M1 carbine, the M-79 grenade launcher, the hand grenade and the claymore mines. Riflemen are the primary, scout and assault troops, close combat and at time hand-to-hand combat troops. Riflemen units are supported by sniper teams, dog handler teams, air support teams and at times support forward teams out close to their targets.
Mission Marine corps Riflemen locate, search and destroy enemy by close fire maneuvers and repel enemy assaults by firefights and close combat action.
Married: Arlene Skinner
Cpl. Harry E. McKelvey receives the Silver Star medal for “displaying exceptional leadership.”
Children: Thomas and Richard
Grandchildren: Christopher McKelvey, Lori Carr, Amanda Hopper, Johnathan McKelvey
Great-grandchildren: Natalie Carr, Benjamin McKelvey, Elijah McKelvey, Brandyn Hooper, Kinley Hooper
Medals and Awards: Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star and World War II Victory Medal.
Recipient of the Silver Star for gallantry in action in lieu of a bronze star that was previously awarded. Citation reads: "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while serving as a squad leader in rifle platoon company Kilo, third battalion, 7th Marine corps regiment, First Marine Division for action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Ryukyu Islands on April 4, 1945. When his company which had been separated from the main body of troops at night was attacked by enemy Japanese attempting to out-flank friendly positions, acting on his own initiative and displaying exceptional leadership, he maneuvered his squad into position to meet the attempted envelopment and personally occupying a vantage point which was under heavy enemy fire, directed the fire of his own unit so effectively that 36 Japanese soldiers were killed and the remainder were forced to retreat. His courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest tradition of the U.S. naval forces.
Harry E. McKelvey was born on Sept. 19, 1920, in Brooks Memorial Hospital. The family resided at 53 Newton St. in Fredonia. He was the son of Gaius and Julia (Selanka) McKelvey. His father was a New York City bus driver and his mother grew up in Brocton and worked at the Wordon Box Co.
The family raised his two brothers, Thomas and Richard. As a child, his friends were Donald Bolling, Rudy Sahle and Ray Wallace. When school started, he walked to the Fredonia Elementary and eventually the Fredonia High School graduating with its Class of 1939. During football season, the team gathered around its captain McKelvey to rally the team to victory. Every coach knew him because he played every sport that the school offered including basketball, baseball and track.
He landed his first job at Allegheny Steel on Brigham Road where he worked the line. When the urge to enlist came he went to his employer and explained that it was his time to serve the country. Officials at the steel plant explained the job he was doing here in Dunkirk was important to the war effort and letting him go wasn't an option.
He then told them, "Either let me go or I will quit."
The officials decided it was best to give him permission to leave. Within a few days he enlisted. On June 20, 1943, he became a U.S. Marine. He was sent to Parris Island, S.C. for his 13-week boot camp training.
Here he went through vigorous physical training and extensive training with the M-1 rifle. After boot camp and basic training, the U.S. Marine Corps decided to keep him there as a drill instructor. He spent his first year in the Marine Corps as a drill instructor. Since he wanted to get into the action, he requested a transfer to the fleet Marine force in the Pacific, with the rank of E-4 corporal.
His new orders read report commanding officer Kilo Co., 3rd battalion, 7th marine regiment, 1st marine division whose TAOR (tactical area of responsibility) was the Pacific Theater. Life now for this Marine was in island fighting. Every island taken was one island closer to Japan's mainland.
The first of many Japanese occupied islands was the island of Peleliu in June of 1944. The island of Peleliu saw savage fighting between the Marines and Japanese. This battle was one of the first that Americans actually fought against the Japanese on Japanese soil.
History books show the agony the Marines went through trying to save the civilians on this island. Mainland Japan fed stories to the civilians that the Americans were monsters who would kill all your children and rape all the women. The propaganda said it was best to take the lives of your children and yourselves before these American monsters did.
More than 1,100 Japanese civilians committed suicide. Many did so by jumping off 200 feet cliffs to their death in front of friendly American Marines trying to help them. Many Marines viewed these suicides and never had the chance to stop them.
Next for McKelvey was the invasion of the island of Okinawa where he received the Silver Star for his heroism in saving the lives of his platoon and part of a marine combat unit that credited 36 enemy dead. In this unit, a brave combat Marine, Frank Pennica of Fredonia, is alive today because of the brave heroics of Cpl. McKelvey. Pennica was a member of Corporal McKelvey's squad in the invasion of Okinawa in the Japanese-held island.
McKelvey was wounded in action against enemy Japanese forces on May 29, 1945, at the Shuri Line in Okinawa. He was transported to the Naval Hospital at Mare Island in California for rehabilitation. It took over a year to fully recover from wounds received on Okinawa. On March 19, 1946, he was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps at Bainbridge, Md. with the rank of Corporal E-4.
When he returned home, he found employment at Allegheny Ludlum Steel and in 1947 landed a position with the U.S. Postal Service at the Fredonia Post Office located on Day Street in the village.
While employed with the postal service, he delivered mail until he retired in 1971 due to a work connected disability. McKelvey also served on the Fredonia school board for a number of years and he remained very active in community affairs.
Harry Eugene McKelvey passed away peacefully on April 25, 2011. Cpl. Harry E? McKelvey is our Hero of the Week.