Private First Class Jacklyn H. Lucas Medal of Honor

In the bloodiest  battle in Marine Corps history, 27 Marines and sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for action on Iwo Jima. No other campaign surpassed that number.

In August 1942, at the age of 14, Plymouth, North Carolina native Jacklyn “Jack” Lucas bribed a notary to create false documents, forged his mother’s signature, testified that he was 17, and joined the US Marine Corps. Lucas served in the United States and Hawaii until January of 1945, when he stowed away on the USS Duel, which was bound for the Pacific theater. Considered an Unauthorized Absence, Lucas would have been charged with desertion, but he turned himself in to Captain Robert Dunlap before 30 days had passed. The punishment was exactly what Lucas wanted—he was finally in a combat unit and headed to Iwo Jima. Lucas celebrated his 17th birthday just five days before the invasion, and the day after landing on February 20, 1945, Lucas selflessly hurled himself upon two grenades, absorbing the blasts with his own body to protect fellow Marines. Miraculously, he survived, and became the youngest Medal of Honor recipient of World War II.

Lucas’ enlistment photo, age 14. From his Official Military Personnel File, the National Archives, St. Louis, Missouri.

Medal of Honor Citation for Private First Class Jacklyn H. Lucas

“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 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 one under him, absorbing the whole blasting force 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.”


Read more about the story of Jack Lucas here


Medal of Honor Series

Our Nation’s highest military award for valor is given for action above and beyond the call of duty. This topic covers the stories of WWII Medal of Honor recipients.


Kali Martin

Kali Martin earned a bachelor's degree in International Studies and German at the University of Miami and a master's degree in Military a...
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