Posted: 6/4/2008 4:47:26 AM EDT
Marine awarded MoH at 17 now gravely ill
After lying about age to join Corps, Lucas was awarded Medal of Honor for Iwo Jima actions
By Chris Talbott - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Jun 4, 2008 6:30:22 EDT
JACKSON, Miss. — A World War II veteran who received the nation’s highest military honor when he was only 17 is in the fight of his life, battling cancer, his biographer said.
Eighty-year-old Jack Lucas, who lied his way into the Marines at age 14, was nearly killed when he used his body to shield his fellow Marines from grenades on Iwo Jima in February 1945. He was just a few days past his 17th birthday at the time.
He received the Medal of Honor from President Truman later that year, becoming the youngest Marine to receive the award.
D.K. Drum, whose book “Indestructible” tells Lucas’ story, said Monday that he is in “grave” condition at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, where family and friends are staying with him 24 hours a day.
“He is fighting very hard, very hard,” Drum said. “It’s probably his hardest fight, but he’s not giving up.” Lucas did not have the energy for an interview Monday, Drum said.
A native of North Carolina, Lucas was already eager to join the Marines at age 13.
“At 14, I told ’em I was 17 and joined up,” he said in an Associated Press interview in October 1945. “The Lucases are all tough fighters.”
In February 1945, shortly after his 17th birthday, he was with Allied forces that landed on the beach at Iwo Jima. While in a trench with three fellow squad members, he spotted two grenades on the ground, covering them with his body.
He was severely wounded when one grenade went off and survived multiple surgeries and months in the hospital.
Over the decades, the colorful Lucas became a symbol of patriotism and has been sought out by many to tell his story. “Indestructible” was written for a seventh-grade audience to reach as many people as possible.
“If he has a chance to say one thing to people, it’s to never say ‘I can’t,”’ Drum said. “You don’t know what you can do until you try.”
God speed Marine.
Youngest Marine to get MoH dies
After lying about age to join Corps, he covered 2 grenades with his body on Iwo Jima
By Chris Talbott - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 5, 2008 18:39:21 EDT
JACKSON, Miss. — Jack Lucas, who at 14 lied his way into military service during World War II and became the youngest Marine to receive the Medal of Honor, died of cancer in the pre-dawn hours Thursday in a Hattiesburg, Miss., hospital. He was 80.
Jacklyln “Jack” Lucas was just six days past his 17th birthday in February 1945, when his heroism at Iwo Jima earned him the nation’s highest military honor. He used his body to shield three fellow squad members from two grenades, and was nearly killed when one exploded.
“A couple of grenades rolled into the trench,” Lucas said in an Associated Press interview shortly before he received the medal from President Truman in October 1945. “I hollered to my pals to get out and did a Superman dive at the grenades. I wasn’t a Superman after I got hit. I let out one helluva scream when that thing went off.”
He was left with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and in every major organ and endured 26 surgeries in the months after Iwo Jima.
“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,” the Medal of Honor citation said.
In the AP interview, written as a first-person account under his name, he recalled the months he spent in a hospital.
“Soon as I rest up, I imagine I’ll run for president,” the story concluded. “Ain’t I the hero, though?”
Big for his age and eager to serve, Lucas forged his mother’s signature on an enlistment waiver and joined the Marines at 14. Military censors discovered his age through a letter to his 15-year-old girlfriend.
“They had him driving a truck in Hawaii because his age was discovered and they threatened to send him home,” said D.K. Drum, who wrote Lucas’ story in the 2006 book “Indestructible.” “He said if they sent him home, he would just join the Army.”
Lucas eventually stowed away aboard a Navy ship headed for combat in the Pacific Ocean. He turned himself in to avoid being listed as a deserter and volunteered to fight, and the officers onboard allowed him to fight the Japanese.
“They did not know his age. He didn’t give it up and they didn’t ask,” Drum said.
Born in Plymouth, N.C., on Feb. 14, 1928, Edwards was a 13-year-old cadet captain in a military academy when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
“I would not settle for watching from the sidelines when the United States was in such desperate need of support from its citizens,” Lucas said in “Indestructible.” “Everyone was needed to do his part and I could not do mine by remaining in North Carolina.”
After the war, Lucas earned a business degree from High Point University and raised, processed and sold beef in the Washington, D.C., area. In the 1960s, he joined the Army and became a paratrooper, Drum said, to conquer his fear of heights. On a training jump, both of his parachutes failed.
“He was the last one out of the airplane and the first one on the ground,” Drum said.
He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in April and spent his last days in the hospital with family and friends, including his wife, Ruby, standing vigil.
Chesty Puller is welcoming another tough ass Marine.
What an example. Semper Fi.
Semper Fidelis ~ It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute.