The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients

Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
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HENRY A. COURTNEY, JR.
Major
United States Marine Corps Reserve

Henry Courtney, Jr.

 

Citation

Major Henry A. Courtney Jr.
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty  as Executive Officer of the Second Battalion, Twenty-Second Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Islands, 14 and 15 May 1945. Ordered to hold for the night in static defense behind Sugar Loaf Hill after leading the forward elements of his command in a prolonged fire fight, Major Courtney weighed the effect of a hostile night counterattack against the tactical value of an immediate Marine assault, resolved to initiate the assault, and promptly obtained permission to advance and seize the forward slope of the hill. Quickly explaining  the situation to his small remaining force, he declared his personal intention of moving forward and then proceeded on his way, bolding blasting near-by cave positions and neutralizing enemy guns as he went. Inspired by his courage, every man followed without hesitation, and together the intrepid Marines braved a terrific concentration of Japanese gunfire to skirt the hill on the right and reach the reverse slope. Temporarily halting, Major Courtney sent guides to the rear for more ammunition and possible replacements, subsequently reinforced by twenty-six men and a LVT load of grenades, he determined to storm the crest of the hill and crush any planned counterattack before it could gain sufficient momentum to effect a break-through. Leading his men by example rather than by command, he pushed ahead with unrelenting aggressiveness, hurling grenades into cave openings on the slope with devastating effect. Upon reaching the crest and observing large numbers of Japanese forming for action less than one hundred yards away, he instantly attacked, waged a furious battle and succeeded in killing many of the enemy and in forcing the remainder to cover in the caves. Determined to hold, he ordered his men to dig in and , coolly disregarding the continuous hail  of flying enemy shrapnel to rally his weary troops, tirelessly aided casualties and assigned his men to more advantageous positions. Although instantly killed by a mortar burst while moving among his men, Major Courtney, by his astute military acumen, indomitable leadership and decisive action in the face o f overwhelming odds, had contributed essentially to the success of the Okinawa Campaign and his great personal valor throughout sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States

Major Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr., posthumous recipient of the Nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor, was killed in action on Okinawa as a member of the 6th Marine Division on the night of 14-15 May 1945. The award was presented to his parents on 30 December 1947 by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift.

The citation accompanying the Medal of Honor credited Major Courtney with "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Islands, 14-15 May 1945."

Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr. was born 6 January 1916, in Duluth, Minnesota. Before entering the service, he had been admitted to the bar in Minnesota and Illinois, having received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and his doctor's degree from Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois.

He received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve in February 1940, and in March of that year, was placed in command of the Duluth unit of the Marine Corps Reserve which was mobilized and sent to San Diego, California, for training.

He later went to Iceland where he served for ten months. At Guadalcanal, Solomons Islands, he participated in the first United States offensive of World War II, commanding a company of the 1st Marine Division.

His next combat action was Okinawa, where his gallantry earned for him the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor. He was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart with Gold Star in lieu of a second award for wounds received in that campaign.

Major Courtney's remains were initially buried in the 6th Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa. Later, in 1948, his remains were reinterred in Calvary Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota.

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