Posted by: Jacqui Murray | January 9, 2013

Wednesday Hero: Major General James Day

Major General James L. Day, USMC
Medal of Honor Recipient
By Mark J. Denger

Major General James L. Day, U.S. Marine Corps, became the last Medal of Honor recipient to be intered at Fort Rosecrans. Interestingly enough, awarded the Medal in 1998, General Day had to wait more than a half-century to receive this honor. The paperwork for his medal was lost in the chaos of the battlefield only resurfaced again in 1980 when a retired Marine found faded carbon copies of the recommendation among his World War II memorabilia. It took an 18 more years before the paperwork finally reached the appropriate officials. Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.) was awarded the Medal on January 20, 1998.
The following are excerpts from President Clinton’s remarks at the Medal of Honor for Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.)

“To those who lived through World War II and those who grew up in the years that followed, few memories inspire more awe and horror than the battle for Okinawa. In the greatest conflict the world has ever known, our forces fought no engagement more bitter or more bloody. In 82 days of fighting America suffered more than 12,000 dead in this final epic battle, the most costly one during the entire Pacific War.

At the very heart of this crucible was the fight for a hill called Sugar Loaf, the key to breaking the enemy’s line across the south of the island — some of the grimmest combat our forces had ever seen. The Marines on Sugar Loaf faced a hail of artillery, mortars and grenades. They were raked by constant machine gun fire. Time and again our men would claw their way uphill only to be repulsed by the enemy. Progress was measured by the yard.

On May 14th, 1945, a 19-year-old corporal named Jim Day led several other Marines to a shell crater on the slope of Sugar Loaf. What happened then surpasses our powers of imagination. On the first day in that isolated hole, Corporal Day and those with him fought off an advance by scores of enemy soldiers. That night he helped to repel three more assaults as those with him fell dead or injured. Braving heavy fire, he escorted four wounded comrades, one by one, to safety. But he would not stay in safety. Instead, he returned to his position to continue the fight. As one of his fellow Marines later reported, the Corporal was everywhere. He would run from one spot to another trying to get more fire on the enemy.

When the next day broke, Corporal Day kept on fighting alone, but for one wounded fellow Marine. Through assault after assault and into his second night, he fought on. Burned by white phosphorous and wounded by shrapnel, he continued to fire his weapon and hold his ground. He hauled ammunition from a disabled vehicle back to his shell hole and fought and fought, one assault after another, one day to the next.

The battle on Sugar Loaf decimated two Marine regiments. But when Corporal Jim Day was finally relieved after three days of continuous fighting, virtually alone, he had stood his ground. And the enemy dead around his foxhole numbered more than 100.

His heroism played a crucial part in America’s victory at Sugar Loaf. And that success opened the way to the capture of Okinawa and the ultimate triumph of the forces of freedom in the Pacific.”
This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
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