Valor Friday

| March 8, 2019

navy moh

Today’s Valor Friday honors “Jack” Lucas, the youngest Marine in WWII to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Our own Mason was kind enough to provide today’s write up. Please read on:


Jacklyn “Jack” Lucas was the youngest American Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in World War II. He also has the distinction of being perhaps the only person to survive throwing themselves on not one but two grenades. Long after the war he again somehow cheated certain death, so read on for that.

Born on Valentine’s Day, 1928, Jack grew up in North Carolina and was a cadet at Edwards Military Institute in Salemburg, NC on 7 Dec, 1941. He was cadet captain, captain of the football team, and played several sports.

At just 14, in 1942, he went UA from the school, crossed into Virginia and bribed a notary public to attest he was 17, forged his mother’s signature, and enlisted at the nearest Marine Corps Recruiting Station.

He graduated Parris Island and was made a Marine. He spent the next couple of years trying to get a combat assignment. Eventually he was trained as a heavy machine gunner. Assigned to the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps, Jack embarked San Diego for Pearl Harbor, where they remained through 1944.

As Marines who long for combat and who are denied the joys of utilizing their skills, he frequently ran afoul of authorities. He was arrested for starting a bar fight, went UA to go to town to meet girls, and was arrested by MPs for walking through the barracks with a case of beer. Jack then was again arrested after he punched that same MP after the guy had the gall to take the case of beer away!

On 10 Jan, 1945, itching for a combat assignment, Jack went UA again, stowing away on the USS Deuel, headed for Iwo Jima. He turned himself over to a Marine captain on 8 Feb, a day before he’d have been listed as a deserter. His punishment was reduction in rank from PFC to private, but he was retained in that captain’s rifle company as a rifleman. A few days later he celebrated his 17th birthday at sea, just before the invasion of Iwo.

February 19 saw Lucas’ C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines land on Iwo Jima with 40,000 other Marines. He landed on the beach without a weapon (since he didn’t leave Pearl with one), so had to acquire one on the run.

The next day he was part of a four man fireteam working their way through a twisting ravine on their way to an enemy airstrip when they spotted a Japanese pillbox and took cover in a trench. The men spotted 11 Japanese soldiers in an adjacent trench and opened fire on them with their rifles. The Japanese returned fire and threw two grenades into the Marines’ trench.

Lucas spotted the grenades and while yelling “Grenade!” dove over one of his comrades to drive one grenade into the volcanic ash with his rifle and covering it with his body. He grabbed the second grenade with his hand and pulled it under his body as well.

The first grenade exploded, tossing a severely wounded Jack onto his back. He was conscious and still clutching the unexploded second grenade in his hand. His three teammates were unharmed and the Japanese soldiers were all defeated.

Though still alive, his grievous wounds led his fellow Marines to think he was dead and left him behind. When they came back, they found he was still alive and a corpsman was called. He was evacuated with other wounded and ultimately had 21 surgeries. Shrapnel left inside his body would set off metal detectors at airports for the rest of his life.

On 5 Oct, 1945, Jack Lucas was presented the Medal of Honor along with three sailors and ten other Marines at the White House by President Truman. Included among those also honored was Jack’s company commander, the man he’d turned himself in to eight months previously, Captain Robert Dunlap.

After the war Jack Lucas went to college and then joined the Army as an officer in 1961. He became a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne to conquer his fear of heights. On his first training jump he literally led the way. As his team leader said, “Jack was the last one out of the plane and the first one on the ground.” This happened when neither of his two parachutes opened. Not only did he plummet from 3,500 feet with no ‘chute, he walked away from the incident unscathed. Two weeks later he was doing his second jump, which went better.

He volunteered for Vietnam, but was not allowed to go. I assume the couldn’t find a transport plane large enough for him and his massive cojones to make it to SE Asia. He left the Army in 1965 as a captain.

Jack sealed his Medal of Honor citation inside the hull of the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) as the ship was being laid. He lived to 80, when he passed in 2008 from cancer.

Jack Lucas Navy MOH
Medal of Honor
Service: Marine Corps
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Division: 5th Marine Division


The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Private First Class Jacklyn Harold Lucas, United States Marine Corps Reserve, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company C, 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 frontline 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.

Category: Guest Post, Marines, Valor, We Remember

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RIP Sir ! I Salute You .

5th/77th FA

Never come between a Marine and his case of beer.

Great post Mason, Thanks for sharing. How many 17 yo today could even consider doing this? Not too many IMO. Musta landed on his cajones and bounced when the ‘chutes didn’t open.

Honors to Marine PFC/Army CPT Jacklyn Lucas!

Hand Salute, Ready…Two.


How many 17 year olds then? This is exceptional at any time.


Hot damn. Apparently cancer had to wait until he was 80 to attack, to give itself a fighting chance.

This MAN kept a promise to his mother, and went back to H.S. to FINISH after fighting in the Pacific. Can you IMAGINE a 17 year old Medal of Honor recipient sitting in schools today listening to some of the snowflakes today??


Mason and Ed:

Thank You so much for sharing your post about Captain Jack Lucas. I never get tired of reading his heroric accomplishments.

USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) will be an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, first of the Flight III variants and 75th overall in the class. She is named after Captain Jacklyn H. Lucas, recipient of the Medal of Honor. On 17 September 2016, she was named by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

As Mason shared “He volunteered for Vietnam, but was not allowed to go. I assume they couldn’t find a transport plane large enough for him and his massive cojones to make it to SE Asia. He left the Army in 1965 as a captain”

Salute. Rest In Peace, Sir.