Too Young the Hero

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Too Young the Hero
Calvin Graham.jpg
Calvin Graham, subject of the film, at age 12
Written by Calvin Graham (manuscript) and Gary Thomas (manuscript)
David J. Kinghorn ... (teleplay)
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Starring Rick Schroder
Music by Steve Dorff
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers Joan Barnett
Pierre Cossette
Alan Landsburg
Howard Lipstone
Producer Buzz Kulik
Production locations Virginia Beach, Virginia
Wilmington, North Carolina
Battleship USS North Carolina Museum, North Carolina
Cinematography Don Burgess
EditorLes Green
Running time97 minutes
Production companies Rick-Dawn Enterprises
Pierre Cossette Enterprises
Landsburg Company
Distributor CBS
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio format Stereo
Original releaseMarch 27, 1988 (1988-03-27)

Too Young the Hero is a 1988 American made-for-television historical drama war film directed by Buzz Kulik and starring Rick Schroder. It premiered on CBS on March 27, 1988. The film tells the true story of a 12-year-old boy who forges his mother's signature to join the United States Navy during World War II. It is based on the real life of Calvin Graham, [1] [2] [3] who was the youngest American serviceman of the war. [4] The film was produced by Trucon Productions in Virginia Beach, Virginia and in Wilmington, North Carolina for CBS. [5]



Calvin Graham (Ricky Schroder), a 12-year-old boy who looks older than his age, shows up at a naval base in uniform with a set of sealed orders. After his orders are reviewed, he is arrested (without explanation) and taken to the brig. In prison, he has a series of flashbacks during which he forges his mother's signature to enlist in the U.S. Navy, completes basic training and is assigned to the USS South Dakota (BB-57).

Graham unsuccessfully tries to get himself released from prison by saying he is underage, but nobody believes him. He then learns that he's in prison for desertion and, as a result, is unable to get any messages out.

When Graham is asked about a wound in the back of his head, he remembers the USS South Dakota fighting in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. One of Graham's shipmates is killed, and several others, including Graham, are wounded. Lauding Graham's bravery, the ship's captain recommends him for two Purple Hearts. Graham's ship enters port in New York City for repairs, but when Graham learns that his grandmother has died, he asks to go to Texas to attend her funeral. The ship's executive officer, who has assumed command, gives Graham a four-day pass, knowing he cannot make it back in time. He tells Graham to go to the recruiting office in Texas and turn himself in when the pass expires. Graham reports as directed, expecting his story about being underage to be verified so he can be released. However, as depicted in the opening scenes, he is arrested instead.

Graham spends his 13th birthday being nearly worked to death by abusive guards who refuse to believe him. Meanwhile, his sister receives an anonymous phone call telling her that Graham is in the brig. After pleading with the Provost Marshal gets her nowhere, she goes to the newspaper, which finally gets her brother released. As Graham is reunited with his sister, the viewers learn that in 1978, Graham's medals were restored and he was given an honorable discharge, while his veteran's benefits were still pending (as of the date of the film).


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  1. "Too Young the Hero (1988)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  2. McCallion, Bernadette. "Too Young the Hero (1988)". New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  3. "Too Young the Hero". New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  4. Fontaine, Scott (November 18, 2008). "Meet the youngest surviving WWII veteran". Scripps News. Archived from the original on November 13, 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2011.
  5. "Too Young the Hero". Virginia Film Office. Retrieved June 19, 2011.