14 March 1945: 2 Marines awarded the Medal of Honor – Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. “‘Tip’ The Marines will Take: Southwest Promontory of Iwo Jima — Taken during an earlier aerial strike by Navy carrier-based planes, this aerial photograph of strategic Iwo Jima reveals the southwest tip of the island, with the cratered height of Mount Suribachi at the far end of Tobiishi Point. Announcement was made today that members of the Marines’ Fifth Amphibious Corps have swarmed ashore and opened the battle for the base following an obliterating preliminary barrage by hundreds of Navy ships and planes.” Quoted from the original caption, released with this photograph on 19 February 1945.
The view looks approximately east, with Mount Suribachi in the lower right. Bombs are bursting at the southern end of Airfield Number One, in the left center. Note the agricultural fields between the camera and the airfield. Heavy surf all around the island indicates particularly bad weather on this day. The original print came from Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison’s World War II history project working files. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the NHHC, NH 104139.

On 14 March 1945, during the Battle for Iwo Jima, two U.S. Marines each performed acts of “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life.” Private George Phillips selflessly absorbed an enemy missile with his body and sacrificed his own life to safe his comrades from serious injury. Private Franklin E. Sigler charged and destroyed the stubborn enemy gun installation, then assaulted other positions that overlooked the first. Though seriously wounded, he continued to direct fire on the enemy and assisted other injured Marines until finally ordered to obtain medical treatment.

Private George Phillips, USMCR. Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 241. George Phillips received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life" on 14 March 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 103873.

Private George Phillips, USMCR. Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 241. George Phillips received the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life” on 14 March 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 103873.

Medal of Honor citation of Private George Phillips, USMCR (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 241):
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Twenty-eighth Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, in action against the enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, on March 14,1945. Standing the foxhole watch while other members of his squad rested after a night of bitter hand-grenade fighting against infiltrating Japanese troops, Private Phillips was the only member of his unit alerted when an enemy hand grenade was tossed into their midst. Instantly shouting a warning, he unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his own body and protecting his comrades from serious injury. Stout-hearted and indomitable, Private Phillips willingly yielded his own life that his fellow Marines might carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His superb valor and unfaltering spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”

Private Franklin E. Sigler, USMCR. Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 260. Franklin E. Sigler received the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life" on 14 March 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Note, before being discharged Sigler was promoted to Private First Class. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 103904.

Private Franklin E. Sigler, USMCR. Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 260. Franklin E. Sigler received the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life” on 14 March 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Note, before being discharged Sigler was promoted to Private First Class. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 103904.

Medal of Honor citation of Private Franklin Earl Sigler, USMCR (as printed in the official publication “Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy”, page 260):
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Twenty-Sixth Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands on 14 March 1945. Voluntarily taking command of his rifle squad when the leader became a casualty, Private Sigler fearlessly led a bold charge against an enemy gun installation which had held up the advance of his company for several days and, reaching the position in advance of others, assailed the emplacement with hand grenades and personally annihilated the entire crew. As additional Japanese troops opened fire from concealed tunnels and caves above, he quickly scaled the rocks leading to the attacking guns, surprised the enemy with a furious one-man assault and, although severely wounded in the encounter, deliberately crawled back to his squad position where he steadfastly refused evacuation, persistently directing heavy machine-gun and rocket barrages on the Japanese cave entrances. Undaunted by the merciless rain of hostile fire during the intensified action, he gallantly disregarded his own painful wounds to aid casualties, carrying three wounded squad members to safety behind the lines and returning to continue the battle with renewed determination until ordered to retire for medical treatment. Stout-hearted and indomitable in the face of extreme peril, Private Sigler, by his alert initiative, unfaltering leadership and daring tactics in a critical situation, effected the release of his besieged company from enemy fire and contributed essentially to its further advance against a savagely fighting enemy. His superb valor, resolute fortitude and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice throughout reflected the highest credit upon Private Sigler and the United States Naval Service.”

On the Web:  Battle for Iwo Jima, 1945

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