Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Marine Corps

William Deane Hawkins

  • Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Scout Sniper Platoon, 2d Marines,
    2d Marine Division
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: November 20 - 21, 1943
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Tarawa, Gilbert Islands

For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Assault Regiment in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20 and 21 November 1943. The first to disembark from the jeep lighter, 1st Lt. Hawkins unhesitatingly moved forward under heavy enemy fire at the end of the Betio Pier, neutralizing emplacements in coverage of troops assaulting the main beach positions. Fearlessly leading his men on to join the forces fighting desperately to gain a beachhead, he repeatedly risked his life throughout the day and night to direct and lead attacks on pillboxes and installations with grenades and demolitions. At dawn on the following day, 1st Lt. Hawkins resumed the dangerous mission of clearing the limited beachhead of Japanese resistance, personally initiating an assault on a hostile position fortified by five enemy machine guns, and, crawling forward in the face of withering fire, boldly fired point-blank into the loopholes and completed the destruction with grenades. Refusing to withdraw after being seriously wounded in the chest during this skirmish, 1st Lt. Hawkins steadfastly carried the fight to the enemy, destroying three more pillboxes before he was caught in a burst of Japanese shellfire and mortally wounded. His relentless fighting spirit in the face of formidable opposition and his exceptionally daring tactics served as an inspiration to his comrades during the most crucial phase of the battle and reflect the highest credit upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Medal of Honor Recipient William D. Hawkins
Medal of Honor Recipient William D. Hawkins
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: El Paso, El Paso County, Texas
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: August 30, 1944

    White House to his family by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • Born: April 19, 1914, Fort Scott, Bourbon County, KS, United States
  • Died: November 21, 1943, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands
  • Buried: National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) (MH) (B-646), Honolulu, HI, United States
  • Location of Medal: El Paso County Historical Society, El Paso, TX

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