BY DUANE A. VACHON, Ph.D. – Jacklyn Harrell Lucas was born in Plymouth, North Carolina on February 14, 1928. He attended high school at nearby Edwards Military Institute in Salemburg and was captain of the football team. He was an all-around sportsman, also taking part in baseball, softball, basketball, boxing, wrestling, horseback riding, trap and skeet shooting, and hunting.
180 pounds (82 kg), he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve without his mother’s consent on 6 August 1942. He gave his age as 17, and went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina for recruit training.
During his rifle training, Lucas qualified as a sharpshooter. He was next assigned to the Marine Barracks and Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida. In June 1943, he was transferred to the 21st Replacement Battalion at New River, North Carolina, and one month later he went to the 25th Replacement Battalion, where he successfully completed schooling which qualified him as a heavy machine gun crewman.
He left the continental United States on 4 November 1943, and the following month he joined the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was advanced to private first class on 29 January 1944.
With statements to his buddies that he was going to join a combat organization, Lucas walked out of camp on 10 January 1945, wearing a khaki uniform and carrying his dungarees and field shoes in a roll under his arm.
He was declared UA (Unauthorized Absence) when he failed to return that night. A month later, when there was still no sign of him, he was declared a “deserter”, and a reward was offered for his apprehension. He was also reduced to the rank of private at that time.
He stowed away on board USS Deuel which was transporting units of the 5th Marine Division into combat. He surrendered to the senior troop officer present on 8 February 1945 dressed in neat, clean dungarees. He was allowed to remain and, shortly after, he was transferred to Headquarters Company, 5th Marine Division. He reached his 17th birthday while at sea, six days before the heroic actions at Iwo Jima, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On the day following the landing at Iwo Jima, he was creeping through a twisting ravine with three other men of his rifle team when the Japanese opened an attack on them. The men were in a trench when two enemy grenades landed nearby. Lucas pushed a thrown hand grenade into the volcanic ash and covered it with his rifle and his body. He reached out and pulled a second grenade beneath him. His companions had thought he died in the blast, so they left him, but he was amazingly still alive. Severely wounded in the right arm and wrist, right leg and thigh, and chest, Lucas had undoubtedly saved his companions from serious injury and possible death.
He was evacuated to the hospital ship Samaritan, and then treated at various field hospitals prior to his arrival in San Francisco, California on 28 March 1945. He eventually underwent 21 surgeries. For the rest of his life, there remained about 200 pieces of metal, some the size of 22 caliber bullets, in Lucas’ body — which set off airport metal detectors.
The mark of desertion was removed from his record in August of that year while he was a patient at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve because of disability resulting from his wounds on 18 September 1945, following his reappointment to the rank of Private First Class.
On 5 October 1945, Lucas and 14 other sailors and Marines (including Pappy Boyington) were presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman. In attendance at the ceremony were Lucas’ mother, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and Secretary of Defense James Forrestal.
Lucas was the youngest person since the civil war to receive the Medal of Honor and the youngest Marine ever to receive the Medal.
Lucas died in 2008 and is buried at Highland Cemetery, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
PRIVATE FIRST CLASS JACKLYN H. LUCAS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
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
/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.