BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Born April 18, 1922, and raised in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Martin O. May graduated from Phillipsburg High School in the class of 1941.
May joined the Army after high school and, after boot camp and infantry training, eventually found himself in the South Pacific serving with the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division.
On April 19,1945 May, who was a private first class, was manning a machine gun on Ie Shima in the Ryukyu Islands. The battle raged for three days. May, despite intense Japanese fire, repeatedly refused to withdraw, even though he had been seriously wounded.
May had became the target of intense mortar and small arms fire from the Japanese forces. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, May was able to repulse the enemy assault with accurate bursts from his machine gun
During a second attack by the enemy, May was able to stop the enemy by hurling grenades into the midst of the enemy forces.
May, despite the penetrating enemy fire, refused to withdraw. He continued to maintain his position and cover the movement of American riflemen as they reorganized to meet any further hostile action.
The major effort of the enemy did not develop until the morning of April 21 when the enemy launched a massive offensive. It found Private First Class May still supporting the rifle company. Despite the devastating rifle, machinegun, and mortar fire May continued to fire his machinegun until he was severely wounded and his gun rendered useless by the burst of a mortar shell. Refusing to withdraw from the violent action, he blasted fanatical Japanese troops with hand grenades until wounded again, this time mortally.
The war hero, awarded with the Medal of Honor and two Purple Hearts, has a memorial outside Phillipsburg High School marking his service
Congressional Medal of Honor Citation for MARTIN O. MAY
MAY, MARTIN O.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Place and date: legusuku-Yama, Ie Shima, Ryukyu Islands, 19-21 April 1945. Entered service at: Phillipsburg, N.J. Birth: Phillipsburg, N.J. G.O. No: 9, 25 January 1946. Citation: He gallantly maintained a 3-day stand in the face of terrible odds when American troops fought for possession of the rugged slopes of legusuku-Yama on Ie Shima, Ryukyu Islands. After placing his heavy machinegun in an advantageous yet vulnerable position on a ridge to support riflemen, he became the target of fierce mortar and small arms fire from counterattacking Japanese. He repulsed this assault by sweeping the enemy with accurate bursts while explosions and ricocheting bullets threw blinding dust and dirt about him. He broke up a second counterattack by hurling grenades into the midst of the enemy forces, and then refused to withdraw, volunteering to maintain his post and cover the movement of American riflemen as they reorganized to meet any further hostile action. The major effort of the enemy did not develop until the morning of 21 April. It found Pfc. May still supporting the rifle company in the face of devastating rifle, machinegun, and mortar fire. While many of the friendly troops about him became casualties, he continued to fire his machinegun until he was severely wounded and his gun rendered useless by the burst of a mortar shell. Refusing to withdraw from the violent action, he blasted fanatical Japanese troops with hand grenades until wounded again, this time mortally. By his intrepidity and the extreme tenacity with which he held firm until death against overwhelming forces, Pfc. May killed at least 16 Japanese, was largely responsible for maintaining the American lines, and inspired his comrades to efforts which later resulted in complete victory and seizure of the mountain stronghold.
Pfc. Martin O. May is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in section N-grave number 1242.
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.