WOODBURY – On Saturday, April 16, 2016, the City of Woodbury will host the 44th Annual Woodbury Relays, to be held at Woodbury Junior-Senior High School (25 North Broad Street). In addition to a full day of track & field events, this year’s Woodbury Relays will feature a special announcement and dedication. The 44th Annual Woodbury Relays will be dedicated Pfc. George Benjamin, Jr., Woodbury’s only recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. Benjamin was killed in action in the Philippines during World War II and his heroic actions led to the posthumous award by President Harry S. Truman.
The ceremony, emceed by Woodbury High School Athletic Director Grant Shivers, will take place between 11:30 am and 12:00 noon on Saturday, April 16. Benjamin was a member of the 306th Infantry of the U.S. Army. Lieutenant Colonel Greg Cannata and other members of the 306th will travel from their base in Fort Stewart, GA, to participate in Saturday’s dedication. LTC Cannata will read the description of Benjamin’s heroic actions. Woodbury Mayor Bill Volk will also announce the donation of Pfc. Benjamin’s Congressional Medal of Honor to the City of Woodbury, a project initiated by the Benjamin family and managed by the Benjamin Medal of Honor Steering Committee.
George Benjamin, Jr., Woodbury High School class of 1935, Temple University class of 1939, was a scholar athlete, who excelled in the discus, shot, and javelin. “Benge” was Captain of Coach “Cap” Paine’s track team at Woodbury, a mathematician and artist.
During World War II, Pfc. Benjamin served in Company A of the 306th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. Pfc. George Benjamin, Jr. served in Co. A, 306th Inf. Reg., 77th Infantry Division, U.S. Army. On Dec. 21, 1944, on the Island of Leyte, in the Philippine Islands, Pfc. Benjamin single-handedly led a fearless and spirited charge against a well-defended Japanese stronghold. After several of his officers were killed, Benjamin left his secure position, ran across bullet-whipped terrain waving for his platoon to follow. Carrying his bulky radio and armed only with a pistol, he fearlessly penetrated intense machine gun and rifle fire to the enemy position, killing one of the enemy in a foxhole and moving on to annihilate a light machine gun crew. Heedless of heavy fire concentrated on him, he continued to spearhead the assault, killing two more of the enemy before falling mortally wounded. After being evacuated to an aid station, his first thought was still of the American advance. Overcoming great pain he radioed tactical information on enemy weapons and positions. His charge allowed the advance of his entire battalion, saved countless lives, and was a source of great and lasting inspiration to his comrades. He is now resting peacefully in the U.S. Army cemetery at Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines.
On June 28th, 1945, George Benjamin, Jr. was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, by President Harry S. Truman.