Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Martin O May

  • Rank: Private First Class
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    307th Infantry,
    77th Infantry Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 19 - 20, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Iegusuku-Yama, Ie-shima, Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands
He gallantly maintained a three-day stand in the face of terrible odds when American troops fought for possession of the rugged slopes of Iegusuku-Yama on Ie-shima, Ryukyu Islands. After placing his heavy machine gun in an advantageous yet vulnerable position on a ridge to support riflemen, he became the target of fierce mortar and small-arms fire from the counterattacking Japanese. He repulsed this assault by sweeping the enemy with accurate bursts while explosions and ricocheting bullets threw blinding dust and dirt about him. He broke up a second counterattack by hurling grenades into the midst of the enemy forces, and then refused to withdraw, volunteering to maintain his post and cover the movement of American riflemen as they reorganized to meet any further hostile action. The major effort of the enemy did not develop until the morning of 21 April. It found Pfc. May still supporting the rifle company in the face of devastating rifle, machine-gun, and mortar fire. While many of the friendly troops about him became casualties, he continued to fire his machine gun until he was severely wounded and his gun rendered useless by the burst of a mortar shell. Refusing to withdraw from the violent action, he blasted fanatical Japanese troops with hand grenades until wounded again, this time mortally. By his intrepidity and the extreme tenacity with which he held firm until death against overwhelming forces, Pfc. May killed at least 16 Japanese, was largely responsible for maintaining the American lines, and inspired his comrades to efforts which later resulted in complete victory and seizure of the mountain stronghold.
Medal of Honor Recipient Martin O. May
Medal of Honor Recipient Martin O. May
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Phillipsburg, Warren County, New Jersey
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Born: April 18, 1922, Phillipsburg, Warren County, NJ, United States
  • Died: April 21, 1945, Iegusuku-Yama, Ie-shima, Ryukyu Islands
  • Buried: National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) (MH) (N-1242), Honolulu, HI, United States

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