MORGAN COUNTY MARINE CORPS LEAGUE DETACHMENT 1367
Martinsville, IN

Page 45

Jack Lucas Metal of Honor winner at 17
A tribute from a Navy Fighter pilot to the Marines.

 

                                                                   Jack Lucas MH
                               A tribute from a Navy Fighter pilot to the Marines

Gentlemen and Ladies,

On 10 November, our brethren in arms celebrate the birthday of the finest fighting force in the world, the United States Marine Corps.  There are not words sufficient to describe the service this unique cadre of men and women, the Few, the Proud, the Marines, have sacrificially performed for our nation and for the people of nations throughout the world.  Might a Navy pilot who is humbled by the presence of the Marines who have touched his life offer a thought for consideration: I firmly believe that to know one Marine is to know them all, for they are each born with the heart of a patriot, forged from American steel, honed into the sharpest weapon and driven by love of country and the spirit of all those who have preceded them on the field of combat to engage the enemy and to fight until victory is assured.

One such Marine was the youngest American to be awarded the Medal of Honor, Private First Class Jack Lucas, United States Marine Corps.

Jack Lucas was a cadet captain in military school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The next day, he promised his mother that he would come home after the war and finish his education if she would let him enlist.  Rather than cause his mother to lie for him, though, he forged her signature on the consent form and convinced the Marine recruiters that he was seventeen.  He turned fourteen shortly before leaving for Parris Island.

When his buddies were assigned to move out to Hawaii and further on to combat, he was ordered to remain at Parris Island and drill recruits because of his military school experience.  He actually went AWOL and hopped onto the train with them.  He joined the Marine Corps to fight and he was not going to be left behind.  Upon arrival in Hawaii, he persuaded those in charge that a clerical error had been made causing him to end up on that base.  He was subsequently almost discharged from the Corps when a censor read a letter to his girlfriend that revealed his actual age, fifteen by that time.  His determination to remain a Marine was once again persuasive and he was assigned to drive a truck on base.

A year later, when a large number of troops were being ferried out to ships in Pearl Harbor heading into action, Jack Lucas stowed away on USS DEUEL.
AWOL once again, he effectively obscured himself from discovery until the ship was well out to sea and then turned himself in to avoid being thought of as a deserter.  The Colonel elected to grant his wish for combat rather than punish him and this young Marine was on his way to destiny.

On 14 February 1945, Jack Lucas celebrated his seventeenth birthday as USS DEUEL approached Iwo Jima, and five days later he hit the beach with forty thousand other Marines.  By midnight on 19 February, that fateful first day of combat, five thousand Marines had become casualties. When morning came, his unit destroyed a pillbox and then took cover in an escape trench where they were surprised by eleven Japanese soldiers.  The Marines engaged the enemy at point-blank range and Jack Lucas killed one soldier before his rifle jammed.  As he urgently worked to repair his weapon, he saw two grenades land near the Marine next to him.  Instinctively, he dove down into the soft volcanic ash and covered the grenades with his own body.  The first failed to go off, but the second exploded, inflicting extreme wounds as would be expected. His torso and face were ripped open by the blast and shrapnel. Internal injuries ejected blood from his nose and mouth.

A Marine from a following unit reached down to retrieve his dog tags for casualty identification and saw his hand move.  Jack Lucas was given morphine, stretchered back to the beach and transferred to a hospital ship.
Doctors believed that he would not survive, but they continued to work on him, giving this young Marine a chance at life such as he had so sacrificially done for his buddies.

After twenty-two surgeries, he was discharged from the United States Marine Corps in September 1945, having seen the war through from the beginning to the surrender of the Japanese.  On 5 October 1945, President Harry Truman bestowed the Medal of Honor upon Jack Lucas, the youngest recipient since the War Between the States.  He honored his promise to his mother and returned to finish school, a ninth grader bearing the inverted star, suspended from an anchor attached to the blue ribbon with thirteen tiny white stars around his neck, the highest honor his proud nation could bestow.

Jack Lucas, United States Marine, was cited for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty on that day in the shadow of Mount Suribachi, but he would tell anyone who noted his courage that he was no different from any other Marine, as would the other twenty-five Medal of Honor recipients who fought a fierce and committed enemy in the hell that was Iwo Jima.  But for opportunity and circumstance, I believe that any one of the thousands of Marines who endured the black volcanic ash that ran red with the blood of American fighting men would have qualified for The Medal.
Such is the nature of the Marine.

As a Navy brother who has faced the enemy in combat in the skies over North Vietnam, I will tell you that my war could never compare to that which our Marines have fought, are fighting today and will fight tomorrow.  They are the very best, each and every one of them.  Their courage is boundless, as is their commitment and dedication to the defense of liberty.  If you know one Marine, you know them all.  God bless the United States Marine Corps and God Bless AMERICA!.

Semper Fi, Marines!

Emory Brown
Commander, United States Navy (ret)

 

 

Jack Lucas receiving his Metal of Honor Flag from CMC Gen.  Hagee February 2008.  

 

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