Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pfc. Jacklyn H. Lucas, USMCR
Jacklyn Harrell Lucas was born on 14 February 1928 in Plymouth, North Carolina. He was an all-around athlete in high school, but in August 1942, perhaps with his mother's consent, he left school at the age of fourteen to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve. Following recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, Lucas was assigned to posts in Florida and North Carolina. During this time, he qualified as a heavy machine gun crewman. In late 1943 he joined the Fifth Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Promoted to Private First Class early in 1944, upon discovery of his true age he was kept in rear area duties for nearly a year. Desiring to see combat, Lucas left his unit in early January 1945 and stowed away on the attack transport Deuel. After a month of hiding on board the ship, Lucas turned himself in and, though he had been declared a deserter and reduced in rank to Private, was allowed to join the Fifth Marine Division, then en route to assault Iwo Jima.

Serving as a rifleman with his newly acquired unit, Private Lucas participated in landing operations which began on 19 February 1945. The following day, while creeping through a twisting ravine near the ill-defined front line, his small party was attacked by enemy troops. When two hand grenades landed in his foxhole, Lucas threw himself over one incoming grenade, then pulled the second under his body, absorbing both blasts and saving his companions. Though initially thought to be dead, he was later found to be alive and evacuated for medical treatment. For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty", Lucas was awarded Medal of Honor. At the age of seventeen, he was the youngest Marine to receive this award.

While recovering from his injuries at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 1945, the mark of desertion was removed from his service record and Lucas was again promoted to Private First Class. Discharged from the Marines in September for disability resulting from his combat injuries, Jacklyn H. Lucas was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on 5 October 1945, during ceremonies at the White House. In postwar decades Lucas was a successful businessman in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and made inspirational appearances before active duty service personnel and veterans. He died at Hattiesburg, Mississippi on 5 June 2008.

Medal of Honor citation
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, during action against the enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 20 February 1945. While creeping through a treacherous, twisting ravine which ran in close proximity to a fluid and uncertain front line on D-plus-1 day, Private First Class Lucas and three other men were suddenly ambushed by a hostile patrol which savagely attacked with rifle-fire and grenades. Quick to act when the lives of the small group were endangered by two grenades which landed directly in front of them, Private First Class Lucas unhesitatingly hurled himself over his comrades upon one grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the whole blasting forces of the explosions in his own body in order to shield his companions from the concussion and murderous flying fragments. By his inspiring action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice, he not only protected his comrades from certain injury or possible death but also enabled them to rout the Japanese patrol and continue the advance. His exceptionally courageous initiative and loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Lucas and the United States Naval Service."