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Colonel Demus T. Craw Medal of Honor Memorial

Header image, above, property of 7&4 News (

Colonel Demus. T Craw – Traverse City’s Hero (US Air Force Historical Support Divison)

More than half a century after his death, a Medal of Honor recipient was honored for his valiant sacrifice. Born on April 9, 1900, Colonel Demus T. Craw grew up in Long Lake Township near Traverse City, MI. Craw dropped out of high school, along with his twin brother Theron, to enlist in the United States Army. Craw, a career military man, carried out a varied and heroic life in the military. Ultimately, Craw was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Morocco during WWII.

After Craw dropped out of Traverse City High School to join the Army, he served briefly in WWI, but was discharged at the end of the conflict in November of 1918. He then entered the US Military Academy in 1920 and became a pilot in 1926. Upon receiving his commission as an Army Officer lieutenant, he transferred his commission to the USAF and made the rank of first lieutenant in January of 1930.

Craw’s military career varied greatly; from crash landing a bomber filled with passengers in a snow covered mountain pass, to fist fighting Italian civilian’s outraged at all American military, to spending 6 weeks in a German POW camp. But none of these events inspired the people of Traverse City, Michigan to place a plaque at their international airport in Craw’s honor. None of the aforementioned events inspired the Traverse City residents to name a VA hospital after Craw. And no, it wasn’t any of these events that resulted in an Army Training Center in Traverse City to also be named after Craw. One event in Craw’s life stands so far above the others that it was in fact worthy of such recognition.

Craw volunteered to partake in an aquatic landing along with the first wave of troops with the goal of pushing through enemy lines, locating the French commander, and negotiate a ceasefire. Craw was to accompany an Army Air Forces officer, Major Pierpont M. Hamilton in delivering a message to the French commanders at the local headquarters. Craw and Hamilton found themselves in an aquatic landing vessel flanked by two other similar vessels. This multi-beach D-Day style landing was abruptly interrupted when one of the leading vessels made a sudden re-maneuver that deviated from the attack plan. A spotlight had located the boats and the scramble to save the landing plan had to be reinvented on the fly. (Hamilton National Genealogical Society, Inc)

Craw’s vessel landed on its intended beach, his peace making letter in hand, he and the men who he accompanied stormed the beach, making quick work of the poorly defended entrenchments. Prerecorded messages from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and General Dwight D. Eisenhower announcing the invasion were being played through loudspeakers aimed at the defensive French troops. Through the barrage of audio, flying lead, and their own side’s artillery, Craw’s group worked their way inland.

When Craw radioed his commanding officer Truscott, Truscott was adamant that Craw and Hamilton, two of his officers, return immediately as to not risk their lives. Craw, recognizing the importance of the peace keeping mission, urged Truscott to allow them to continue. Truscott reluctantly obliged.

Craw’s transport, brandishing an American flag, a French flag, and a white surrender flag made their way through various French companies. Asking each group they came across for an ambassador to guide them to the rear where the French brass were stationed. But no man could be spared so the allies moved forward with only the protection of their flags. (Air Force Historical Support Division)

Further down the road, Craw and Hamilton came around a corner in the road and came face to face with an enemy machine gun nest. The French machine gunners, surprised by the appearance of American troops so far behind the front lines, opened fire on the jeep. Craw was hit and flung from the jeep. Hamilton shouted and got the attention of the French machine gun crew, convincing them to stop firing. Hamilton, outraged at the death of his partner, ordered the men to take them to the French commander. The French soldiers then took Hamilton prisoner and brought him before the French commander.

After some time, the French General Maurice Mathenet requested an audience with General Truscott so that hostilities could be ended. Hamilton was the individual responsible for arranging the meeting between the two generals. Although the mission began violently, it ended successfully in peace. Craw was a casualty of a peace keeping mission.

Craw and Hamilton were killed in action on November 8, 1942. Craw was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on March 4th, 1943 for “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty.” (United States, Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs) Craw and Hamilton are the only two AAF members to receive the Medal of Honor for actions not involving air combat during WWII. (Air Force Historical Support Division)

Craw’s complete Medal of Honor Citation as maintained by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society is as follows:

“On 8 November 1942, near Port Lyautey, French Morocco, Col. Craw volunteered to accompany the leading wave of assault boats to the shore and pass through the enemy lines to locate the French commander with a view to suspending hostilities. This request was first refused as being too dangerous but upon the officer’s insistence that he was qualified to undertake and accomplish the mission he was allowed to go. Encountering heavy fire while in the landing boat and unable to dock in the river because of shell fire from shore batteries, Col. Craw, accompanied by 1 officer and 1 soldier, succeeded in landing on the beach at Mehdia Plage under constant low-level strafing from 3 enemy planes. Riding in a bantam truck toward French headquarters, progress of the party was hindered by fire from our own naval guns. Nearing Port Lyautey, Col. Craw was instantly killed by a sustained burst of machine gun fire at pointblank range from a concealed position near the road.” (United States, Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs)

Craw and Hamilton are the only two United States Air Force soldiers to have been awarded the Medal of Honor during/after WWII for actions not involving strictly air based movements. (Troutman) Craw’s deviation from what was normally expected from an officer of the United States military, and his willingness to proceed into clear and present danger are not only being recognized by the United States government as seen by his Medal of Honor. Citizens of his hometown of Traverse City are working to honor his memory as well.

In 2017 a plaque was dedicated at the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City to Craw, and it was announced in 2017 that a new VA outpatient Clinic to be named after Craw will open in 2018.In addition to the dedicated plaque honoring Craw, and the VA clinic in his name, an Army Training Center in Traverse City will be named after Craw.

Craw’s story was untold in the Traverse City area for so many years. It was not until recently that the life of Colonel Craw was honored. “’ This project has taken two years and literally hundreds of people to make it happen”’, says Dan Lathrop in an interview with a local newspaper, The Record Eagle. (Troutman)  It took a grass roots effort by local politicians, active military, and local historians to get the plaque placed in honor of Craw’s sacrifice.

A 2015 Grand Travers County Resource Management and Administration Committee meeting minutes cites a Presentation by Lieutenant colonel Terry Hawn regarding “the congressional Medal of Honor Winner, Demus T. Craw.” Where Hawn discussed the need to recognize Craw for his actions. Hawn also indicated at this meeting that a series of petitions existed to have the Traverse City VA Outpatient Clinic named after “our local hero” Demus T. Craw. (Grand Traverse County Resource Management and Administration Committee) Hawn’s actions and his testimony at this meeting are representative of the truly grass roots effort involved in honoring Craw. Craw is a hero of the people, and the people are finally giving the recognition his actions deserve.

“For years, the story of Colonel Demus T. Craw and the service he gave for our country went largely unknown in Traverse City.” states an article from Craw’s hometown of Traverse City. (9&10 News Staff) 74 years after Craw’s receipt of the Medal of Honor, actions are finally being taken to recognize this brave man for his actions. Why has it taken so long for Craw to be recognized by the people of Traverse City? Very few people in Traverse City knew about Craw until recently. It wasn’t until the actions of Terry Hawn and some other members of The Historical Society of Traverse City did the word start to get out about Craw.

Wes Nelson (Sr.), a lifetime Traverse City resident and longtime small business owner in the area was interviewed about Craw and the plaque dedication ceremony, at which he was present. “I remember when he landed the plane… that was all over the news for weeks…” says Nelson, remembering Craw’s early career incident involving crash landing a bomber. “When I first heard that Traverse City had a Medal of Honor winner, I thought to myself: ‘There’s no way, we would have heard about that, surely’”, relates Nelson.

Nelson and his wife, Arlene, were present at the Plaque naming ceremony in Traverse City. “It was powerful…” says Arlene. “… The family was there… they were so emotional.” Craw’s son, Nick was present at the dedication of the plaque. (9&10 News Staff)

Perhaps the attention of Traverse City was elsewhere when Craw would have been in the local news for receiving the Medal of Honor. With the war still going on, its plausible that small town Traverse City was caught up in the atrocities of WWII. It’s understandably difficult to focus on a heroic and positive person like Craw and his actions when the conflict from which they arose is still very real and very morbid. Craw’s heroic actions of bravery and self-sacrifice in the name of peace were clouded by the atrocities of war; just as his peace letter as he stormed the beach in Morocco was shrouded by explosions and violence all around him.

Craw is worthy of the highest praise. His actions are inspiring. His life beyond the actions that awarded him a Medal of Honor is that of a model citizen, something to look up to. The monument at Traverse City’s airport, the VA Clinic in Traverse, and the army training center will never be enough to thank Craw and his family for their sacrifices. The world truly needs more individuals capable and willing to act as Craw did.

An image of the plaque can be seen at: (Troutman)



Works Cited

Primary Sources

[1] Grand Traverse County Resource Management and Administration Committee. December Session. 9 December, 201

[2] United States, Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978.” Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978, Government Printing Office, 1979.

[3] Wes Nelson (Sr.) and Arlene Nelson. Personal Interview. 15 November, 2017.

Secondary Sources

[4] TV 7&4 “Colonel Craw Monument”, Unknown.

[5] 9and10news Site Staff. (2017, August 26). Special Ceremony In Traverse City Honors Medal Of Honor Recipient. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from

[6] Troutman, M. (2017, August 25). Craw’s memory rekindled. The Record Eagle. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from 3.

[7] Air Force Historical Support Division (2014, December 01). Craw — Col Demas T. Craw. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from

[8] Hamilton National Genealogical Society, Inc. (2002). Demas T. Craw & Pierpont Morgan Hamilton. Retrieved October 22, 2017, from

[9] Header image property of 7&4 News, Up North Live, accessed via

For further reading:

  • (Hamilton National Genealogical Society, Inc.)

A comprehensive description of Craw’s life leading up to his actions that resulted in receiving the Medal of Honor as well as a vivid and detailed description of the actual actions surrounding Craw’s unfortunate death.

  • (Troutman)

Demus T. Craw’s official Medal of Honor Citation as maintained by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. This citation is also included above.

  • Image 1 URL: (Hamilton National Genealogical Society, Inc)

An image of the plaque honoring Demus T. Craw as it is placed in the Traverse      City international Airport lobby.

  • Image 2 URL: (TV 7&4)

An image of a flyer promoting the Colonel Demus T. Craw Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Traverse City, MI.

  • Image 3 URL:

An image of Craw with his father Mark and his twin brother Theron Craw.