Misrepresenting The Bravery of Frank McGee
McGee’s real life adventures were perhaps as dramatic as those of the comic book heroe of his day. He was a 22-year-old black steelworker who had seen little of the world beyond his Ohio-West Virginia roots before he was tossed into an international conflict a half-world away. On June 16, 1952, in a battle near Tang-Wan-Ni, Korea, McGee took command of his platoon after his squad leader was wounded, and his men attacked the enemy’s fortified position on Hill 528.Of course, McGee was a corporal and not in line to take the lead, but the second-in-command froze when enemy fire exploded all around them. McGee recalls his superior “just standing there,” unmoving. McGee realized it was up to him to take over. He fired at machine gun nests and held off the enemy while his platoon continued fighting up the hill. At one point, McGee was injured, but there was no one to take over for him. He ignored his wounds and continued fighting until orders came to retreat.
McGee remembers watching the mortar shell land in front of him, as if happening in slow motion. “I saw it coming at me, it looked like a baseball,” he said. “It landed a foot in front of me and exploded, I got it in the chin and side of head.”
Black people were difficult to find in American comics of the 1940s and 1950s. When they did appear, African-Americans were often drawn as caricatures and played for comic relief, like The Spirit’s occasional sidekick, Ebony White, or the member of the superhero group “Young Allies,” Whitewash Jones. The early Tarzan comics were also exceptions, as black characters were often seen as tribesman in his jungle adventures. There was also a single issue of 1947’s “All Negro Comics,” which featured strong stories of black men and women, written and drawn by black artists.
One of the folks working to secure his Medal of Honor, Victoria Seacrest, has articulated this best, when she said that Mr. McGee “comes from a long line of freedom fighters, all the way back eight generations to an ancestor who was the son of an English woman and a black man who fought in the Revolutionary War.”
We’ll be following the story of Frank McGee and the efforts to grant him the Medal of Honor he rightfully deserves.
Where Soldiers Come From