Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Rufus G. Herring's 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.

Rufus Herring served as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in the US Naval Reserve. Originally from Roseboro, North Carolina, Herring received his commission in December 1942. Assigned as the commanding officer of LCI(G)-449 (Landing Craft, Infantry-Gunboat), Herring participated in the invasions of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. On February 17, 1945, LCI(G)-449 participated in the pre-invasion bombardment of Iwo Jima, shelling enemy positions as cover for Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) swimmers as they  cleared beaches. Herring was grievously wounded by Japanese counterfire, but stayed in command of his boat, keeping his men in action in support of the UDT teams. Herring survived his wounds, but never returned to action.

Lieutenant (jg) Rufus Herring shakes hands with Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal after accepting the Medal of Honor, September 1945. Courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command.

Medal of Honor Citation

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of LCI (G) 449 operating as a unit of LCI (G) Group EIGHT, during the preinvasion attack on Iwo Jima on 17 February 1945. Boldly closing the strongly fortified shores under the devastating fire of Japanese coastal defense guns, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade,) Herring directed shattering barrages of 40-mm. and 20-mm. gunfire against hostile beaches until struck down by the enemy’s savage counterfire which blasted the 449’s heavy guns and whipped her decks into sheets of flame. Regaining consciousness despite profuse bleeding he was again critically wounded when a Japanese mortar crashed the conning station, instantly killing or fatally wounding most of the officers and leaving the ship wallowing without navigational control. Upon recovering the second time, Lieutenant Herring resolutely climbed down to the pilot house and, fighting against his rapidly waning strength, took over the helm, established communication with the engine room and carried on valiantly until relief could be obtained. When no longer able to stand, he propped himself against empty shell cases and rallied his men to the aid of the wounded; he maintained position in the firing line with his 20-mm guns in action in the face of sustained enemy fire and conned his crippled ship to safety. His unwavering fortitude, aggressive perseverance and indomitable spirit against terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon Lieutenant Herring and uphold the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”


Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter Jr: Medal of Honor Series

Edward Carter was one of seven African Americans who had their earlier awards upgraded to the Medal of Honor on January 13, 1997. Like all but one of the veterans, he did not live to see this honor.


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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