* GURKE, HENRY
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps.
3d Marine Raider Battalion
Solomon Islands area on 9 November 1943
Born: 6 November 1922, Neche, North Dakota.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 3d Marine Raider Battalion during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area on 9 November 1943. While his platoon was engaged in the defense of a vital road block near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island. Pfc. Gurke, in company with another Marine, was delivering a fierce stream of fire against the main vanguard of the Japanese. Concluding from the increasing ferocity of grenade barrages that the enemy was determined to annihilate their small, 2-man foxhole, he resorted to a bold and desperate measure for holding out despite the torrential hail of shells. When a Japanese grenade dropped squarely into the foxhole, Pfc. Gurke, mindful that his companion manned an automatic weapon of superior fire power and therefore could provide more effective resistance, thrust him roughly aside and flung his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Pfc. Gurke sacrificed himself in order that his comrade might live to carry on the fight. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
LEIMS, JOHN HAROLD
Second Lieutenant, U.S. marine Corps Reserve,
Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 7 March 1945.
Entered service at: Chicago, Ill.
Born: 8 June 1921, Chicago, Ill.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of Company B, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 7 march 1945. Launching a surprise attack against the rock-imbedded fortification of a dominating Japanese hill position, 2d Lt. Leims spurred his company forward with indomitable determination and, skillfully directing his assault platoons against the cave-emplaced enemy troops and heavily fortified pillboxes, succeeded in capturing the objective in later afternoon. When it became apparent that his assault platoons were cut off in this newly won position, approximately 400 yards forward of adjacent units and lacked all communication with the command post, he personally advanced and laid telephone lines across the isolating expanse of open fire-swept terrain. Ordered to withdraw his command after he had joined his forward platoons, he immediately complied, adroitly effecting the withdrawal of his troops without incident. Upon arriving at the rear, he was informed that several casualties had been left at the abandoned ridge position beyond the frontlines. Although suffering acutely from the strain and exhausting of battle, he instantly went forward despite darkness and the slashing fury of hostile machinegun fire, located and carried to safety 1 seriously wounded marine and then, running the gauntlet of enemy fire for the third time that night, again made his tortuous way into the bullet-riddled deathtrap and rescued another of his wounded men. A dauntless leader, concerned at all time for the welfare of his men, 2d Lt. Leims soundly maintained the coordinated strength of his battle-wearied company under extremely difficult conditions and, by his bold tactics, sustained aggressiveness, and heroic disregard for all personal danger, contributed essentially to the success of his division's operations against this vital Japanese base. His valiant conduct in the face of fanatic opposition sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
MASON, LEONARD FOSTER
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps.
2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division
Asan-Adelup Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands on 22 July 1944
Born: 2 February 1920, Middleborough, Ky.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as an automatic
rifleman serving with the 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against
enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands on 22 July
1944. Suddenly taken under fire by 2 enemy machineguns not more than 15 yards away while
clearing out hostile positions holding up the advance of his platoon through a narrow
gully, Pfc. Mason, alone and entirely on his own initiative, climbed out of the gully and
moved parallel to it toward the rear of the enemy position. Although fired upon
immediately by hostile riflemen from a higher position and wounded repeatedly in the arm
and shoulder, Pfc. Mason grimly pressed forward and had just reached his objective when
hit again by a burst of enemy machinegun fire, causing a critical wound to which he later
succumbed. With valiant disregard for his own peril, he persevered, clearing out the
hostile position, killing 5 Japanese, wounding another and then rejoining his platoon to
report the results of his action before consenting to be evacuated. His exceptionally
heroic act in the face of almost certain death enabled his platoon to accomplish its
mission and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Mason and the U.S. Naval Service. He
gallantly gave his life for his country.
OWENS, ROBERT ALLEN
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.
Cape Torokina, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, on 1 November 1943.
Born: 13 September 1920, Greenville, S.C.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at
the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a marine
division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during extremely hazardous landing
operations at Cape Torokina, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, on 1 November 1943. Forced to
pass within disastrous range of a strongly protected, well-camouflaged Japanese 75-mm.
regimental gun strategically located on the beach, our landing units were suffering heavy
losses in casualties and boats while attempting to approach the beach, and the success of
the operations was seriously threatened. Observing the ineffectiveness of marine rifle and
grenade attacks against the incessant, devastating fire of the enemy weapon and aware of
the urgent need for prompt action, Sgt. Owens unhesitatingly determined to charge the gun
bunker from the front and, calling on 4 of his comrades to assist him, carefully placed
them to cover the fire of the 2 adjacent hostile bunkers. Choosing a moment that provided
a fair opportunity for passing these bunkers, he immediately charged into the mouth of the
steadily firing cannon and entered the emplacement through the fire port, driving the
guncrew out of the rear door and insuring their destruction before he himself was wounded.
Indomitable and aggressive in the face of almost certain death, Sgt. Owens silenced a
powerful gun which was of inestimable value to the Japanese defense and, by his brilliant
initiative and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, contributed immeasurably to the success of
the vital landing operations. His valiant conduct throughout reflects the highest credit
upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service.
SKAGGS, LUTHER, JR.
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve,
3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Asan-Adelup beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 -22 July 1944.
Entered service at: Kentucky.
Born: 3 March 1923, Henderson, Ky.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as squad leader with a mortar section of a rifle
company in the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, during action against enemy
Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 -22 July 1944.
When the section leader became a casualty under a heavy mortar barrage shortly after
landing, Pfc. Skaggs promptly assumed command and led the section through intense fire for
a distance of 200 yards to a position from which to deliver effective coverage of the
assault on a strategic cliff. Valiantly defending this vital position against strong enemy
counterattacks during the night, Pfc. Skaggs was critically wounded when a Japanese
grenade lodged in his foxhole and exploded, shattering the lower part of one leg. Quick to
act, he applied an improvised tourniquet and, while propped up in his foxhole, gallantly
returned the enemy's fire with his rifle and handgrenades for a period of 8 hours, later
crawling unassisted to the rear to continue the fight until the Japanese had been
annihilated. Uncomplaining and calm throughout this critical period, Pfc. Skaggs served as
a heroic example of courage and fortitude to other wounded men and, by his courageous
leadership and inspiring devotion to duty, upheld the high traditions of the U.S. Naval
THOMAS, HERBERT JOSEPH
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
3d Marines, 3d Marine Division,
Koromokina River, Bougainville Islands, Solomon Islands, on 7 November 1943.
Born: 8 February 1918, Columbus, Ohio.
Citation: For extraordinary heroism and
conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Marines,
3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the battle at the
Koromokina River, Bougainville Islands, Solomon Islands, on 7 November 1943. Although
several of his men were struck by enemy bullets as he led his squad through dense jungle
undergrowth in the face of severe hostile machinegun fire, Sgt. Thomas and his group
fearlessly pressed forward into the center of the Japanese position and destroyed the
crews of 2 machineguns by accurate rifle fire and grenades. Discovering a third gun more
difficult to approach, he carefully placed his men closely around him in strategic
positions from which they were to charge after he had thrown a grenade into the
emplacement. When the grenade struck vines and fell back into the midst of the group, Sgt.
Thomas deliberately flung himself upon it to smother the explosion, valiantly sacrificing
his life for his comrades. Inspired by his selfless action, his men unhesitatingly charged
the enemy machinegun and, with fierce determination, killed the crew and several other
nearby-defenders. The splendid initiative and extremely heroic conduct of Sgt. Thomas in
carrying out his prompt decision with full knowledge of his fate reflect great credit upon
himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
WATSON, WILSON DOUGLAS
Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve,
2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 26 and 27 February 1945.
Entered service at: Arkansas.
Born: 18 February 1921, Tuscumbia, Ala.
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of
duty as automatic rifleman serving with the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division,
during action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 26 and 27
February 1945. With his squad abruptly halted by intense fire from enemy fortifications in
the high rocky ridges and crags commanding the line of advance, Pvt. Watson boldly rushed
1 pillbox and fired into the embrasure with his weapon, keeping the enemy pinned down
single-handedly until he was in a position to hurl in a grenade, and then running to the
rear of the emplacement to destroy the retreating Japanese and enable his platoon to take
its objective. Again pinned down at the foot of a small hill, he dauntlessly scaled the
jagged incline under fierce mortar and machinegun barrages and, with his assistant BAR
man, charged the crest of the hill, firing from his hip. Fighting furiously against
Japanese troops attacking with grenades and knee mortars from the reverse slope, he stood
fearlessly erect in his exposed position to cover the hostile entrenchments and held the
hill under savage fire for 15 minutes, killing 60 Japanese before his ammunition was
exhausted and his platoon was able to join him. His courageous initiative and valiant
fighting spirit against devastating odds were directly responsible for the continued
advance of his platoon, and his inspiring leadership throughout this bitterly fought
action reflects the highest credit upon Pvt. Watson and the U.S. Naval Service.
WILLIAMS, HERSHEL WOODROW
Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve,
21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945.
Entered service at: West Virginia.
Born: 2 October 1923, Quiet Dell, W. Va.
Citation: For conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as
demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against
enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer
his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry
through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic
sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating
machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought
desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to
his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling
back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after
another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his
flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another
he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed
them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary
heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in
neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by
his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl.
Williams' aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely
contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
WILSON, LOUIS HUGH, JR.
Captain, U.S. Marine Corps,
Commanding Rifle Company, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Fonte Hill, Guam, 25-26 July 1944.
Entered service at: Mississippi.
Born: 11 February 1920, Brandon, Miss.
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of
duty as commanding officer of a rifle company attached to the 2d Battalion, 9th Marines,
3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Fonte Hill, Guam, 25-26
July 1944. Ordered to take that portion of the hill within his zone of action, Capt.
Wilson initiated his attack in mid-afternoon, pushed up the rugged, open terrain against
terrific machinegun and rifle fire for 300 yards and successfully captured the objective.
Promptly assuming command of other disorganized units and motorized equipment in addition
to his own company and 1 reinforcing platoon, he organized his night defenses in the face
of continuous hostile fire and, although wounded 3 times during this 5-hour period,
completed his disposition of men and guns before retiring to the company command post for
medical attention. Shortly thereafter, when the enemy launched the first of a series of
savage counterattacks lasting all night, he voluntarily rejoined his besieged units and
repeatedly exposed himself to the merciless hail of shrapnel and bullets, dashing 50 yards
into the open on 1 occasion to rescue a wounded marine Iying helpless beyond the
frontlines. Fighting fiercely in hand-to-hand encounters, he led his men in furiously
waged battle for approximately 10 hours, tenaciously holding his line and repelling the
fanatically renewed counterthrusts until he succeeded in crushing the last efforts of the
hard-pressed Japanese early the following morning. Then organizing a 17-man patrol, he
immediately advanced upon a strategic slope essential to the security of his position and,
boldly defying intense mortar, machinegun, and rifle fire which struck down 13 of his men,
drove relentlessly forward with the remnants of his patrol to seize the vital ground. By
his indomitable leadership, daring combat tactics, and valor in the face of overwhelming
odds, Capt. Wilson succeeded in capturing and holding the strategic high ground in his
regimental sector, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his regimental
mission and to the annihilation of 350 Japanese troops. His inspiring conduct throughout
the critical periods of this decisive action sustains and enhances the highest traditions
of the U.S. Naval Service.
WITEK, FRANK PETER
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division,
Battle of Finegayen at Guam, Marianas, on 3 August 1944.
Born: December 1921, Derby, Conn.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and
intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with
the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, during the Battle of Finegayen at
Guam, Marianas, on 3 August 1944. When his rifle platoon was halted by heavy surprise fire
from well-camouflaged enemy positions, Pfc. Witek daringly remained standing to fire a
full magazine from his automatic at point-blank range into a depression housing Japanese
troops, killing 8 of the enemy and enabling the greater part of his platoon to take cover.
During his platoon's withdrawal for consolidation of lines, he remained to safeguard a
severely wounded comrade, courageously returning the enemy's fire until the arrival of
stretcher bearers, and then covering the evacuation by sustained fire as he moved backward
toward his own lines. With his platoon again pinned down by a hostile machinegun, Pfc.
Witek, on his own initiative, moved forward boldly to the reinforcing tanks and infantry,
alternately throwing handgrenades and firing as he advanced to within 5 to 10 yards of the
enemy position, and destroying the hostile machinegun emplacement and an additional 8
Japanese before he himself was struck down by an enemy rifleman. His valiant and inspiring
action effectively reduced the enemy's firepower, thereby enabling his platoon to attain
its objective, and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Witek and the U.S. Naval Service.
He gallantly gave his life for his country.