BY DUANE VACHON – Joseph William Ozbourn was born in Herrin, Illinois on 24 October 1919. He attended grammar school in Buckner, Illinois, and subsequently became a trip rider in the mines for the Old Ben Coal Corporation in West Frankfurt, Illinois. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on 30 October 1943.

After boot training, he became a Browning Automatic Rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division. Private Ozbourn was killed during the battle for Japanese held Tinian Island, Marianas, 30, July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned to clear the remaining Japanese troups from the dugouts and pillboxes along a tree line, he was moving forward to throw an armed hand grenade into a dugout when a blast from the entrance severely wounded him and four other men flanking him. Unable to throw the grenade into the enemy position and with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Private Ozbourn fell on it and sacrificed his own life to save his comrades by absorbing the full impact of the explosion with his own body. For “his great personal valor and unwavering loyalty” Private Ozbourn was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Awarded posthumously for actions during the World War II
For The President of the United States of America, in the name of
Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously)
to Private Joseph William Ozbourn, United States Marine Corps, for
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above
and beyond the call of duty as a Browning Automatic Rifleman serving
with the First Battalion, Twenty-Third Marines, Fourth Marine
Division, during the battle for enemy Japanese-held Tinian Island,
Marianas Islands, 30 July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned the
mission of clearing the remaining Japanese troops from dugouts and
pillboxes along a tree line, Private Ozbourn, flanked by two men on
either side, was moving forward to throw an armed hand grenade into a
dugout when a terrific blast from the entrance severely wounded the
four men and himself. Unable to throw the grenade into the dugout and
with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Private Ozbourn
unhesitatingly grasped it close to his body and fell upon it,
sacrificing his own life to absorb the full impact of the explosion,
but saving his comrades. His great personal valor and unwavering
loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Private Joseph William Ozbourn
and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Action Date: 28-Jul-44
Service: Marine Corps
Rank: Private
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Regiment: 23d Marines
Division: 4th Marine Division

On the 5th of March 1946 Private Ozbourn’s wido christened the USS Ozbourn (DD-846) a Gearing-class destroyer in the United States Navy.

This ship like her namesake served gallantly during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Should your travels ever take you to Benton, Illinois, there is a memorial to Private Ozbourn at the Benton Municipal Building. Take some time and pay your regards to Private Ozbourn.

Private Joseph William Ozbourn was initially buried in Tinian, Mariana Islands, but later his remains were reinterred in section F, grave number 77 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Duane A Vachon PhD works at the National Memorial Cemetery of the
Pacific. He is the author of “Gems From The Antipodes: 12 Collections
of Faith-Focusing Insights” He also writes a weekly column “in The
Big Island Reporter”  mailto:vachon.duane@gmail.com

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