There were twenty-seven men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions on Iwo Jima. For those of you who don’t know, the Congressional Medal of Honor is America’s highest military decoration. It is awarded for “Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
To have twenty-seven of them awarded in one battle is absolutely incredible. In fact, that is the most Medals of Honor to be awarded during a single battle in the history of our country. (Yeah, there is a reason that uncommon valor is said to have been a common virtue among the sailors and marines who fought on Iwo Jima.)
After studying the battle and actions of these heroes, I couldn’t just not write a post about it. 😉
Because there are so many, I am not going to cover them all. However I will give a full list of all twenty-seven at the end of the post so that you can read up on them on your own. I highly recommend that you do so, because they are all spectacular stories of selflessness and bravery.
So without further delay, I give you a few of their stories.
- George E. Wahlen
George Wahlen was a nineteen year old US Navy Corpsman when he landed on the strange island of Iwo Jima. The fierce fighting resulted as it always did in terrible casualties. Immediately, Wahlen went to work aiding the wounded marines around him. Being medical personnel, he was a special target to the Japanese. On the seventh day of the Iwo Jima campaign, he was badly wounded by an enemy grenade. Ignoring the painful wound, he continued forward into the hail of steel around him to save a wounded marine and carry him back to safety. He refused to be evacuated. The battle was still raging violently and there were still wounded marines who needed to be helped. A few days later, Wahlen was wounded again. Still, he refused to let them evacuate him.
The very next day, he moved out again into battle. He was shot multiple times with small arms fire. His wounds were very severe and he was unable to walk. Somehow however he managed to drag himself 50 more yards forward to tend the wounds of one more marine before he himself had to be evacuated.
For his gallant actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
2. Jacklyn Lucas
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Jack Lucas lied about his age and joined the Marine Corps when he was fourteen years old. Life wasn’t exactly what he was expecting though — especially when the Marine Corps found out what his real age was. They decided that they would allow him to remain in the Corps as long as he was given a “safe job” that kept him out of the fighting.
Jack was less than impressed with the arrangement. He had joined up so that he could fight, and that was what he was going to do. When rumors started circulating that the Marines were getting ready to launch another major offensive, he snuck aboard a troop transport headed for Iwo Jima, bound and determined to fight for his country. He was only sixteen when he stowed away.
Upon reaching Iwo Jima, he was the only marine to storm the beach without a weapon. Recovering a weapon from the body of a dead marine, he continued forward with his fellow marines. While fighting alongside two other marines, his rifle jammed. He began to work at unjamming it when he noticed two hand grenades that had been thrown and landed in the midst of the three US marines. Disregarding his own safety, he pushed a marine out of the way and threw himself on top of one hand grenade, pulling the other one under him.
He said that he didn’t even have time to close his eyes before the grenades detonated, throwing him into the air. He landed almost six feet from where he had started. The marines who were with him, took him for dead and continued the fight forward. He, however, was alive. Paralyzed and barely able to breath but still conscious, he lay there for sometime until a US Navy corpsman found him. Covered in roughly 250 entrance wounds from the grenades, he was evacuated to a ship sitting just off the island, and then eventually to the states. When a surgeon examined him on the ship off Iwo Jima, he told Jack that they were going to have to amputate his arm due to the severe damage. Right before being put under anesthesia, Jack begged the surgeon to try and save it. When he woke up he found that the surgeon had in fact saved his arm.
Seven months later, Pfc. Jack Lucas walked up to where President Truman was standing, waiting to award him the Medal of Honor. He was the youngest Medal of Honor recipient of WWII. After placing the Medal on Lucas, President Truman said, “I would rather have this medal than be President of the United States.” Jack replied, “Sir, I’ll swap ya’!”
3. Franklin E. Sigler
Sigler went ashore at Iwo Jima with the rest of his company. It was his first battle, but the fierce fighting made him catch on quickly. On the 14th of March when his squad leader’s were wounded, Sigler took control of the dire situation, and led his men in a charge against fierce enemy opposition. During the assault, he was very badly wounded, but refused to be evacuated, instead staying with his men. Undaunted by the enemy fire that consumed the areas around him and disregarding his own wounds, he moved forward to care for wounded. He carried three of his wounded men to safety and continued to fight until being ordered to retreat for medical evacuation.
He was twenty years old when he was awarded our nation’s highest and prestigious decoration for valor.
Because of time constraints and lack of room in this blog post, these are only three of the amazing men who sacrificed so much during the battle. I highly recommend you to research the list of others below, because their stories deserve to be told.
Charles J. Berry
William R. Caddy
Justice M. Chambers
Darrell S. Cole
Robert H. Dunlap
Ross F. Gray
William G. Harrell
Rufus G. Herring
Douglas T. Jacobson
Joseph R. Julian
James D. La Belle
John H. Leims
Harry L. Martin
Joseph J. McCarthy
Francis J. Pierce
Donald J. Ruhl
William G. Walsh
Wilson D. Watson
Hershel W. Williams
Hopefully you enjoyed this post. It was really a privilege for me to be able to read of each one of their heroic displays of selflessness.