The Medal of Honor can be earned by acts of personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty, only while a member of the American Armed Forces is engaged in actual combat with an enemy of the Nation. But did you know how Jacklyn H. Lucas got his Medal of Honor?
Jacklyn H. Lucas snuck aboard a ship bound for Iwo Jima, stormed the beach without a rifle, and threw himself on top of two grenades to protect his team. He survived and was awarded the Medal of Honor at age seventeen.
How Did Jacklyn H. Lucas Join the Marines at Such an Early Age?
Jacklyn Jack Harold Lucas was 17 years old when he received the Medal of Honor for his bravery during World War II, making him the youngest Marine ever to do so. In February 1928, he was born in Plymouth, North Carolina.
Lucas was inspired to join the military as soon as possible after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He forged his mother’s signature on enlistment papers, allowing him to join the Marines at 17, despite being only 14. Due to his height and large frame, Lucas passed as a 17-year-old and was sent to boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina. Following boot camp, Lucas was assigned to the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The military discovered Lucas’ actual age while stationed in Pearl Harbor in 1943 when censors read a letter he wrote to his 15-year-old girlfriend. He was given the choice of returning home or working as a truck driver. He accepted the latter reluctantly. (Source: The City of Norfolk)
How Did Jacklyn H. Lucas Get His Medal of Honor?
Lucas recalls being obsessed with the war and wishing to serve in combat. To satisfy his desire for action, he snuck onto the USS Deuel, a Navy transport ship bound for Iwo Jima, Japan. He turned himself in to avoid being cited as a deserter and volunteered to fight while still on board. As a rifleman, he was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division.
The Marines with him assumed he was dead and continued forward, driving the Japanese back. Another unit came across Lucas and treated his injuries before transporting him to medics in a safer location. Lucas was treated on the hospital ship USS Samaritan, in several field hospitals, and finally at a hospital in San Francisco, California. The grenades left over 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body, and he had 26 operations in the following months.
While Lucas was a patient in a US hospital in August 1945, The Marine Corps reinstated him as a private first class by deleting the desertion charge from his record at the Naval Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. It formally discharged him due to disability in September, just two weeks before World War II ended. (Source: The City of Norfolk)
The Iwo Jima Bomb
On 20 February 1945, PFC Lucas and three other men were ambushed by a hostile patrol that savagely attacked with rifle fire and grenades on Iwo Jima. When two grenades threatened the lives of the small group, PFC Lucas hurled himself over his comrades onto one grenade and pulled the other under him, absorbing the entire blasting force of the explosions in his own body.
(Source: The City of Norfolk)
Image from TaskandPurpose