Five Medals of Honor on Iwo Jima

 Marines mopping up cave with grenades and BARs.

Marines mopping up cave with grenades and BARs.

The battle for Iwo Jima was now turning into the bloodiest struggle in US Marine Corps history. Less than 1,000 of the 22,000 Japanese on the island would would survive, and every single one of them wanted to take at least one of the American invaders with them when they died. They succeeded in causing 26,000 US casualties, including 6,821 dead.

Of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to the US Marines during the war 22 were for actions on Iwo Jima, with a further 5 Medal of Honor awarded to US Navy men. The five medals awarded for action on 3rd march tell us something about the nature of the battle:

Charles Joseph Berry

Charles Joseph Berry

Corporal Charles J. Berry, United States Marine Corps:

… Stationed in the front lines, Corporal Berry manned his weapon with alert readiness as he maintained a constant vigil with other members of his gun crew during the hazardous night hours. When infiltrating Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack shortly after midnight in an attempt to overrun his position, he engaged in a pitched hand-grenade duel, returning the dangerous weapons with prompt and deadly accuracy until an enemy grenade landed in the foxhole. Determined to save his comrades, he unhesitatingly chose to sacrifice himself and immediately dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body and protecting the others from serious injury. …

William Robert Caddy

William Robert Caddy


William R. Caddy, United States Marine Corps Reserve:

… Consistently aggressive, Private First Class Caddy boldly defied shattering Japanese machine-gun and small-arms fire to move forward with his platoon leader and another Marine during the determined advance of his company through an isolated sector and, gaining the comparative safety of a shell hole, took temporary cover with his comrades.

Immediately pinned down by deadly sniper fire from a well-concealed position, he made several unsuccessful attempts to again move forward and then, joined by his platoon leader, engaged the enemy in a fierce exchange of hand grenades until a Japanese grenade fell beyond reach in the shell hole. Fearlessly disregarding all personal danger, Private First Class Caddy instantly dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and protecting the others from serious injury. …

William George Harrell

William George Harrell

Sergeant William G. Harrell, United States Marine Corps:

… Standing watch alternately with another Marine in a terrain studded with caves and ravines, Sergeant Harrell was holding a position in a perimeter defense around the company command post when Japanese troops infiltrated our lines in the early hours of dawn. Awakened by a sudden attack, he quickly opened fire with his carbine and killed two of the enemy as they emerged from a ravine in the light of a star-shell burst.

Unmindful of his danger as hostile grenades fell closer, he waged a fierce lone battle until an exploding missile tore off his left hand and fractured his thigh. He was vainly attempting to reload the carbine when his companion returned from the command post with another weapon. Wounded again by a Japanese who rushed the foxhole wielding a saber in the darkness, Sergeant Harrell succeeded in drawing his pistol and killing his opponent and then ordered his wounded companion to a place of safety.

Exhausted by profuse bleeding but still unbeaten, he fearlessly met the challenge of two more enemy troops who charged his position and placed a grenade near his head. Killing one man with his pistol, he grasped the sputtering grenade with his good right hand and, pushing it painfully toward the crouching soldier, saw his remaining assailant destroyed but his own hand severed in the explosion.

At dawn Sergeant Harrell was evacuated from a position hedged by the bodies of 12 dead Japanese, at least 5 of whom he had personally destroyed in his self-sacrificing defense of the command post. …

George Edward Wahlen

George Edward Wahlen

Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class George E. Wahlen, United States Navy,

… Painfully wounded in the bitter action on 26 February, WAHLEN remained on the battlefield, advancing well forward of the front lines to aid a wounded Marine and carrying him back to safety despite a terrific concentration of fire. Tireless in his ministrations, he consistently disregarded all danger to attend his fighting comrades as they fell under the devastating rain of shrapnel and bullets, and rendered prompt assistance to various elements of his combat group as required. When an adjacent platoon suffered heavy casualties, he defied the continuous pounding of heavy mortars and deadly fire of enemy rifles to care for the wounded, working rapidly in an area swept by constant fire and treating fourteen casualties before returning to his own platoon.

Wounded again on 2 March, he gallantly refused evacuation, moving out with his company the following day in a furious assault across 600 yards of open terrain and repeatedly rendering medical aid while exposed to the blasting fury of powerful Japanese guns.

Stout-hearted and indomitable, he persevered in his determined efforts as his unit waged fierce battle and, unable to walk after sustaining a third agonizing wound, resolutely crawled 50 yards to administer first aid to still another fallen fighter. …

Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class Jack Williams, United States Navy Reserve:

… Gallantly going forward of the front lines under intense enemy small-arms fire to assist a Marine wounded in a fierce grenade battle, WILLIAMS dragged the man to a shallow depression and was kneeling, using his own body as a screen from the sustained fire as he administered first aid, when struck in the abdomen and groin three times by hostile rifle fire. Momentarily stunned, he quickly recovered and completed his ministration before applying battle dressings to his own multiple wounds.

Unmindful of his own urgent need for medical attention, he remained in the perilous fire-swept area to care for another Marine casualty. Heroically completing his task despite pain and profuse bleeding, he then endeavored to make his way to the rear in search of adequate aid for himself when struck down by a Japanese sniper bullet which caused his collapse. …

A good illustration of the type of terrain encountered on Iwo Jima, 5th Marine Division.

A good illustration of the type of terrain encountered on Iwo Jima, 5th Marine Division.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve Phillips June 6, 2018 at 11:32 pm

What great Americans dieing for our freedoms!

All these are from the greatest generation of Americans
The ultimate sacrifice they and others gave should be hailed throughout history

I pray they are able to look down and say it was worth it! May the Lords face shine upon them forever thank you all from the bottom of my heart

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