By Tom Bartlett - Originally published June 1976
Although the Sixth Marine Division was called upon for only one combat landing during the Second World War, several of its units had already distinguished themselves in the Pacific by the time the division was formed in September 1944.
As a unit, the Sixth Marine Division's standard bears the following streamers:
Presidential Unit Citation with a Bronze Star.
Army Distinguished Unit Emblem with an Oak Leaf Cluster.
Navy Unit Commendation.
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Streamer with two Bronze Stars.
Victory Streamer World War II.
Navy Occupation Service Streamer with Asia Clasp.
China Service Streamer.
The 4th, 15th, 22nd and 29th Marine Regiments received additional unit awards.
There were four Medals of Honor presented to Marines of the Sixth Division for combat heroism and, together, the awards created an almost unbelievable set of circumstances.
It is significant when one Marine in a division wins the Medal of Honor-but when four individual Marines are decorated from four separate battalions (in numerical order, 1st through 4th) from four separate regiments, the odds pre astronomical. But, on Okinawa, the odds fell by the rice paddy.
Cpl Richard E. Bush was serving as a squad leader with 1/4 on April 16, 1945. During the final assault against Mount Yaetake on Okinawa, he rallied his men forward, boldly defying "the slashing fury of concentrated Japanese artillery fire pouring down from the gun-studded mountain fortress."
Bush led his squad up the face of the rocky precipice, swept over the ridge and drove the enemy from deeply entrenched positions. He continued the battle until seriously wounded and evacuated.
When an enemy grenade landed in the midst of a group of wounded, Cpl Bush pulled the missile to his own body, saving others from death or painful wounds.
Maj Henry A. Courtney, Jr., was serving as the executive officer of 2/22 in May 1945 on Okinawa.
Ordered to hold for the night behind Sugar Loaf Hill following a prolonged fire fight, he volunteered to advance and seize the forward slope of the hill.
"Boldly blasting nearby cave positions and neutralizing enemy guns as he went," his men followed without hesitation.
Reinforced by 26 men and an LVT loaded with grenades, he determined to storm the crest of the hill and crush any planned counterattacks.
"Leading his men by example...he pushed ahead...hurling grenades into cave openings...with devastating effect."
After reaching the crest, Maj Courtney noted a large number of enemy soldiers forming for action. He instantly attacked, killing many while forcing the others to take cover in caves.
He ordered his men to dig in and assisted them in preparing positions and aiding casualties.
He contributed essentially to the success of the Okinawa campaign before losing his life during an enemy mortar attack.
PFC Harold Gonsalves was an Acting Scout Sergeant with the Fourth Battalion, 15th Marines, in April 1945.
He repeatedly braved enemy bombardments to aid his forward observer team in directing artillery fire. When his commanding officer decided to move into the front lines in order to register a more effective bombardment on the enemy defenses, Gonsalves unhesitatingly advanced with the officer despite a slashing barrage of enemy mortar and rifle fire.
"As they reached the front and an enemy grenade fell close within the group, instantly PFC Gonsalves dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting the others from serious and perhaps fatal wounds."
He sacrificed himself while saving others...
Pvt Robert M. McTureous, Jr., was serving with 3/29 in June 1945 when he observed company stretcher bearers being hit by enemy machine gun fire. Determined to prevent further casualties, McTureous quickly filled his jacket with grenades and charged the enemy-occupied caves.
"Coolly disregarding all personal danger as he waged his furious one-man assault, he smashed grenades into the cave entrances," diverting the fire from the stretcher bearers to his own person.
Returning to his own lines through a hail of rifle and machine gun fire, McTureous replenished his supply of grenades and again attacked the Japanese, sustaining serious wounds after knocking out a large number of enemy guns.
"Aware of his own critical condition and unwilling to further endanger the lives of his comrades, he stoically crawled a distance of 200 yards to a sheltered position within friendly lines before calling for aid."
Four Marines-a private, PFC, corporal and a major-each from a different battalion, and each from a different regiment, performed "above and beyond the call of duty."