By Herb Richardson - Originally published Sep. 1976
The Marines who underwent the horrifying World War II battle for Iwo Jima, where it was an accomplishment just to survive, were all giants. The Marines who fought on that important-and deadly-island not only faced the probability of death, they assaulted straight into the grim reaper's face-a yard at a time and a day at a time for more than a month.
Fourteen members of the Fifth Marine Division earned the Medal of Honor during the bloody campaign for Iwo in 1945.
Here is what they did:
Capt Charles Berry
Berry was a member of a machine gun crew with 1/26. Japanese soldiers infiltrated near his position on March 3, 1945, and began throwing hand grenades. Berry hurled some of his own until a grenade landed in the foxhole occupied by himself and other Marines. Berry threw himself on the grenade and died to save his comrades.
PFC William R. Caddy
Caddy was a rifleman with I/1/26. After advancing through a hail of enemy machine gun and rifle fire on March 3, 1945, Caddy was pinned down by a well-concealed sniper, along with his platoon leader and another Marine. A fierce exchange of hand grenades followed and Caddy covered a grenade with his body after it landed out of reach in the shell hole in which he and his fellow Marines sought cover. He was killed by the blast. The others lived.
Capt Robert H. Dunlap
Dunlap was commanding officer of C/1/26. He earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on February 20-21, 1945, after leading his unit through intense artillery, mortar, rifle and machine gun fire until progress was no longer possible because of the volume and accuracy of fire coming from caves in a cliff that dominated the terrain. Dunlap crawled 200 yards in front of his lines and within 50 yards of enemy lines to gather necessary information. He made it back to his lines and proceeded to direct artillery and naval gunfire on the enemy positions. He worked without rest for two days and nights under constant fire to help wipe out the nearly impregnable positions.
Sgt William G. Harrell
Harrell led an assault group of 1/28 members during hand-to-hand combat against the enemy on March 3, 1945. He was holding a defensive position near a company command post just before dawn when enemy troops infiltrated the lines and attacked. He opened fire with his carbine and killed two.
A grenade burst tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. He was again wounded as he continued fighting, this time by a sword-wielding Japanese, whom Harrell shot with his pistol. He ordered a wounded companion to a place of safety, and though exhausted from loss of blood, faced two more advancing enemy. He pulled the pin on a grenade and placed it near his head, then shot one Japanese soldier and pushed the about-to-explode grenade toward the other. It killed the remaining soldier and blew off Harrell's remaining hand. At full dawn he was evacuated from his position, which was surrounded by 12 dead enemy troops.
PltSgt Joseph R. Julian
Julian was with 1/27 on March 9, 1945, when his unit was stopped by Japanese troops in trenches and fortified positions. Julian established his platoon's guns in strategic positions, then executed a one-man assault on the enemy stronghold. He hit one emplacement with demolitions and white phosphorus grenades and killed two. Five ran. Julian grabbed one of their rifles and killed them before they could escape through the trench system. He got more explosives with which he and another Marine knocked out two more cave positions.
Julian then launched a bazooka attack and fired four rounds into the remaining cave, completely destroying it, before he was killed by enemy fire.
PFC James D. La Belle
La Belle was a member of the 27th Marines on March 8, 1945, and was occupying a front-line foxhole, along with two other Marines, when an enemy-thrown hand grenade landed in their position. La Belle dived on the grenade and was killed when it detonated.
PFC Jacklyn H. Lucas
Lucas was a member of 1/26 on February 20, 1945, one of four Marines advancing through a twisting ravine. The Marines were ambushed, and two grenades landed directly in front of them. Lucas hurled himself over his comrades to cover one grenade and pulled the other missile under him, absorbing both explosions.
1stLt Jack Lummus
Lummus was a platoon leader with 2/26 on March 8, 1945. After two days and nights of heavy fighting, his unit was stopped by deeply entrenched enemy troops in a network of mutually supporting positions. Lummus moved ahead and was knocked down by a grenade blast. He got up and attacked a position through an intense barrage of fire. He knocked out the first emplacement. He was again knocked down by a grenade. He again recovered, and destroyed a second pillbox. Lummus disregarded his injuries to direct an assault of Marines and tanks against the remaining emplacements. When the advance was again held up, Lummus went ahead to destroy a third emplacement. He continued to lead the advancing Marines until he was killed by a land mine.
1stLt Harry L. Martin
Martin was a platoon leader with Company "C," 5th Pioneer Battalion, on March 26, 1945, when his sector of a perimeter was hit by a concentrated enemy attack. He was wounded twice in an attempt to rescue Marines trapped by the enemy. He located the beleaguered troops and directed them to their own lines. When four of the enemy gained control of an abandoned foxhole, Martin charged the position with his pistol and killed the occupants, silencing the machine gun they had set in action. He was killed leading a counterattack against the numerically superior force.
Pvt George Phillips
Phillips was a member of 2/28 on March 14, 1945, on alert in his foxhole while other members of his squad rested after a night of hand grenade dueling with infiltrating enemy forces. A grenade was hurled into the midst of the troops Phillips was guarding. He shouted a warning, then dived on the grenade.
PFC Donald J. Ruhl
Ruhl was a member of 2/28 when he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on February 19-21, 1945. He attacked eight Japanese on D-Day and killed one with his bayonet, shot another, and routed the remaining enemy soldiers. The following day he exposed himself to a tremendous volume of mortar and machine gun fire to rescue a wounded Marine. He spent that night in an abandoned enemy machine gun position 75 yards in front of friendly lines to deny that emplacement to the Japanese. The next day he threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades.
Pvt Franklin E. Sigler
Sigler was a member of 2/26 on March 14, 1945, when he took command of his squad after the squad leader became a casualty. Sigler led a charge against a gun installation which had held up the advance of his company for several days. He reached the position first and killed the enemy crew with grenades. When Japanese troops in caves above the position opened fire, Sigler climbed the rocks leading to the guns and launched another one-man assault.
Sigler was severely wounded in that encounter, but he continued to lead his squad and directed heavy machine gun and rocket barrages on the cave entrances. Sigler braved intense enemy fire to help three wounded comrades to safety behind the lines, and continually returned to the fighting until ordered to retire for medical treatment.
Cpl Tony Stein
Stein was a member of A/1/28 on D-Day, February 19, 1945, when he earned the Medal of Honor. He was the first man from his unit on station after hitting the beach on the initial assault. He utilized an aircraft machine gun which he had rigged for hand use to provide covering fire as his platoon moved into position. When his unit was stalled, Stein stood up to draw fire, then turned his machine gun on the enemy. He charged a series of pillboxes and killed 20 enemy soldiers during his one-man assaults. As Stein made runs for more ammunition, he aided eight wounded Marines to relative safety. His weapon was shot from his hands twice that day as he kept up the furious pace of his attacks against the enemy. Stein lost his life in another battle on March 1, 1945.
GySgt William G. Walsh
Walsh was a platoon leader with G/3/27 on February 27, 1945, involved in the fighting for Hill 362. He twice led his unit in an attack on a heavily fortified and manned enemy position which guarded the hill. The second time, despite withering fire and high casualties, his unit gained its objective. A grenade landed in the midst of his platoon and Walsh covered it with his body to protect his troops.