marines on iwo jima

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The Indestructible Jack Lucas,

In 1942 Jacklyn H. Lucas enlisted in the Marine Corps, not an unusual thing to do during World War II, but certainly unusual at the age of 14.  A boy who looked much older than his years, Lucas claimed he was 17, forged his mother’s signature, and was inducted into the Corps no questions asked.  Jack Lucas underwent Marine Corps training at Parris Island and qualified as a sharpshooter and heavy machine gunner.  However after training, Lucas was sent from one menial assignment to the next, first in the lower 48, then at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

By 1945 Lucas was becoming bored with peaceful service, and on January 10th he went AWOL and stowed away on a ship bound for Iwo Jima.  Despite going AWOL, Lucas was given a combat assignment and attached to the 5th Marine Division.

Upon hitting the beaches Lucas and his fellow Marines were sprayed with murderous Japanese gunfire.  Perhaps the only Marine to invade Iwo Jima unarmed, Lucas immediately picked up a rifle and returned fire. During the battle, it was his squad’s duty to clear out a machine gun nest near a deep ravine.  It was then that a grenade landed in the middle of his squad.  Without thinking, Lucas leaped upon the grenade, determined to use his body as shield to protect his comrades.  Then another grenade landed nearby.  Lucas grabbed that grenade as well, and stuffed it under his torso.  When the two grenades exploded his body was thrown into the air.  Amazingly, Lucas was still alive, though seriously wounded.  Covered from head to toe with shrapnel wounds, Lucas was evacuated to a hospital ship.  Over the next seven months of recovery, Lucas would undergo 21 surgeries to remove 250 pieces of shrapnel from his body.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions (the youngest Marine to receive the award), as well as the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

After the war, Jack Lucas returned home, resumed his education as a ninth grader, graduated high school, and graduated college with a business degree.  He married three times.  His marriage with his second wife didn’t go so well, as she hired a hitman to kill him.  Fortunately he was able to fend off the attack.

In 1961, he rejoined the military, this time joining the US Army and becoming a paratrooper so that he could “conquer his fear of heights”.  During a training jump, his two parachutes failed to open, and he fell 3,500 feet before slamming into the ground.  Miraculously, despite screaming to the earth at terminal velocity, Lucas walked away from the accident unscathed.  From 1961 to 1965, Lucas served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.  When he finally retired he had risen to the rank of captain.

Jack Lucas died of Leukemia in 2008 at the age of 80.  His Medal of Honor and citation is currently sealed within the hull of the USS Iwo Jima.

On this day in history 1945, the american flag was raised over mount suribachi, Iwo Jima. Taken by photographer Joe rosenthal. 

Of the 6 marines raising the flag. Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon block and PFC Franklin sousley would be killed in action. 

The 3 surviving marines were corporals rene gagnon, Ira hayes, Harold schultz.

On February 23, 1945 (72 years ago today) a 40-man patrol of U.S. Marines, not knowing if they would reach the top or not, summited the 545-foot extinct, volcano of Mount Suribachi and raised the first American flag over Japanese soil. Later, a second Marine patrol reached the top and raised a second, larger flag so the entire island could see the stars and stripes waving in the wind. Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, who witnessed the flag raising said, “The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”