Posted by: Jacqui Murray | February 25, 2011

Eight American Warriors–Part Five

…you’ve never heard of.

medal of honor

Received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary actions

Petty Officer First Class John Harlan Willis, U.S. Navy (World War II)

You’ve heard of Iwo Jima before: a remote and tiny Pacific island, it nonetheless was the source of some of the fiercest combat in WWII. Over the course of two months, 22 Marines earned Medals of Honor, and five sailors earned the award in support of the Marines’ assault. That total represents 30% of the Medals of Honor earned by Marines in all of World War II. Long story short: Iwo was a bad place to be in February and March of 1945.

But that’s precisely where Willis was. Serving as a Corpsman (medic) for the 27th Marines, he was wounded while aiding an injured Marine and ordered back to the rear for treatment. He refused medical assistance and returned to the battlefield, and that’s when sh*t got REAL. From his Medal of Honor citation:

Completely unmindful of his own danger as the Japanese intensified their attack, Willis calmly continued to administer blood plasma to his patient, promptly returning the first hostile grenade which landed in the shell-hole while he was working and hurling back 7 more in quick succession before the ninth exploded in his hand and instantly killed him.

EIGHT GRENADES. He threw back eight grenades in a crazy mash-up of hot potato and Russian roulette before a Japanese soldier finally got the drop on him.

Bonus Badass Points: None needed. Eight grenades, dude.

6. Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, U.S. Army (Vietnam) (coming up)

–credit for series to Uproxx

For more on this series:

Eight Amazing American Warriors–Part Two

Eight American Warriors–Part Three

Eight American Warriors–Part Four


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