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American History: January/February '98 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 11, 1998 
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SERVED UNDER JOHN PAUL JONES

My grandfather, Lt. William Seach, was a flesh-and-blood hero to all of us grandchildren growing up. An emigrant from England with a third-grade education, he gained his citizenship by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. One of his favorite stories was of serving under John Paul Jones, a feat he accomplished by jumping beneath the Admiral's coffin as it was lowered to the deck of the U.S. Navy vessel on which young Seaman Seach served.

The picture of John Paul Jones on the cover of your July/August 1997 issue caught my eye, and I nearly shouted out loud in the library when I spotted my grandfather marching briskly along and seeming to look directly into the camera in the photograph on page 33 (also pictured below). He is walking just behind the right rear wheel of the wagon.

My grandfather was a small man in stature but a giant in courage. He went up through the ranks, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Boxer Rebellion's Peking Relief Expedition in 1900, and retired for medical reasons, a full lieutenant, after surviving the torpedoing of the troopship USS President Lincoln in World War I.

Theodore Roosevelt said to him in his White House office, "I would rather have won a Congressional Medal of Honor than be President!" But though he met many presidents, my grandfather's greatest honor was the elementary school named after him in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the William Seach School.

Boppie, the name all of us grandchildren called him, now rests in Arlington Cemetery. He died at 101 years of age, the oldest Medal of Honor winner alive, still sharp as a tack mentally when his body gave up the struggle in 1978.

I still miss him. Thank you for one more glimpse.

Steve Donovan
Hanover, Massachusetts

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