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Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Marine Corps

James Lewis Day

  • Rank: Major General (Rank at action: Corporal)
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    2d Battalion, 22d Marines,
    6th Marine Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: May 17, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty as a Squad Leader in sustained combat operations against Japanese forces. On the first day, Corporal Day rallied his squad and the remnants of another unit and led them to a critical position forward of the front lines of Sugar Loaf Hill. Soon thereafter, they came under an intense mortar and artillery barrage that was quickly followed by a ferocious ground attack by some forty Japanese soldiers. Despite the loss of one-half of his men, Corporal Day remained at the forefront, shouting encouragement, hurling hand grenades, and directing deadly fire, thereby repelling the determined enemy. Reinforced by six men, he led his squad in repelling three fierce night attacks but suffered five additional Marines killed and one wounded, whom he assisted to safety. Upon hearing nearby calls for corpsman assistance, Corporal Day braved heavy enemy fire to escort four seriously wounded Marines, one at a time, to safety. Corporal Day then manned a light machine gun, assisted by a wounded Marine, and halted another night attack. In this ferocious action, his machine gun was destroyed, and he suffered multiple white phosphorous and fragmentation wounds. He reorganized his defensive position in time to halt a fifth enemy attack with devastating small arms fire. On three separate occasions, Japanese soldiers closed to within a few feet of his foxhole, but were killed by Corporal Day. During the second day, the enemy conducted numerous unsuccessful swarming attacks against his exposed position. When the attacks momentarily subsided, over 70 enemy dead were counted around his position. On the third day, a wounded and exhausted Corporal Day repulsed the enemy's final attack, killing a dozen enemy soldiers at close range. Having yielded no ground and with more than 100 enemy dead around his position, Corporal Day preserved the lives of his fellow Marines and made a significant contribution to the success of the Okinawa campaign. By his extraordinary heroism, repeated acts of valor, and quintessential battlefield leadership, Corporal Day inspired the efforts of his outnumbered Marines to defeat a much larger enemy force, reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest tradations of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Medal of Honor Recipient James L. Day
Medal of Honor Recipient James L. Day
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: East St. Louis, Saint Clair County, Illinois
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: January 20, 1998

    The White House, presented by Pres. William J. Clinton

  • Born: October 5, 1925, East St. Louis, Saint Clair County, IL, United States
  • Died: October 28, 1998, Cathedral City, CA, United States
  • Buried: Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery (MH) (P-1748), San Diego, CA, United States

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