The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients

Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom

Private First Class

United States Marine Corps Reserve
Harold Gonsalves



Private First Class Harold Gonsalves
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Acting Scout Sergeant of a Forward Observer Team, serving with Battery L, Fourth Battalion, Fifteenth Marines, Sixth Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces in Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 15 April 1945. Undaunted by the powerfully organized opposition encountered on Motobu Peninsula during a fierce assault waged by a Marine infantry battalion against a Japanese strong-hold, Private First Class Gonsalves repeatedly braved the terrific hostile bombardment to aid his Forward Observation Team in directing well-placed artillery fire and, when his commanding officer determined to move into the front lines in order to register a more effective bombardment in the enemy's defensive position, unhesitatingly advanced uphill with the officer and another Marine despite a slashing barrage of enemy mortar and rifle fire. As they reached the front, a Japanese grenade fell close within the group. Instantly Private First Class Gonsalves dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting the others from serious and perhaps fatal wounds. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private First Class Gonsalves readily yielded his own chances of survival that his fellow Marines might carry on the relentless battle against the fanatic Japanese and his cool decision, prompt action and valiant 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 in the service of his country.

President of the United States

Harold Consalves was born in Alameda, California, on 28 January 1926. He attended school at Alameda and after two and one half years of high school, quit to take a job as a stock clerk with Montgomery Ward and Company in Oakland, California. In high school he had taken part in football, baseball, track, and swimming, besides singing tenor in the school glee club.

The five-foot, nine-inch, 178-pound Californian enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 27 May 1943 and was called to active duty on 17 June. He went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, and then, at his own request, was sent to the Raiders at Camp Pendleton, California. After three weeks with them, he was transferred to the artillery at the same camp. He was classified as a cannoneer on 75 and 105 millimeter guns before he joined the 30th Replacement Battalion in the fall of 1943. Pvt Gonsalves left the United States on 8 November and at the end of that month was assigned to the 2d Pack Howitzer Battalion, which was then in Hawaii. He was promoted to private first class in March 1944 and with his battalion became part of the 22d Marines two months later.

With the 22d Marines, he participated in the assault, capture, and occupation of Engebi and Parry Islands, in the Marshall Islands. At Engebi, the Marines took the island in six hours, killing more than one thousand of the enemy. The regiment was cited by MajGen Thomas E. Watson, commanding general of Tactical Group I, for their part in the Marshalls' campaign. From Eniwetok, PFC Gonsalves accompanied the 22d Marines to Kwajelein, to Guadalcanal, back to Kwajelein and Eniwetok, then up to Guam in July where he took part in the liberation of that pre-war American island.

After Guam, the regiment went back to Guadalcanal, where in November they were detached from the 22d Marines and joined the 15th Marines of the 6th Marine Division. It was with that outfit that PFC Gonsalves landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945.

Two weeks later, on 15 April, the 19-year-old Marine was a member of an eight-man forward observer team which was engaged in directing artillery fire in support of an attack by the infantry on Japanese positions on Motobu Peninsula. When it finally became necessary for the team to advance to the actual front lines, the officer in charge took PFC Gonsalves and one other man with him. PFC Gonsalves was acting Scout Sergeant of the team. He and the other Marine were to lay telephone lines for communication with the artillery battalion.

As the team advanced to the front, they were brought under heavy enemy rifle, grenade and mortar fire. Just as the three had reached the front lines, a Japanese grenade landed among them. It was less than a foot from the two Marines with PFC Gonsalves. Without a moment's hesitation, he flung himself on the deadly missile, taking the full explosion into his own body. He gallantly gave his life for his fellow Marines and his country. The other two were not even touched by grenade fragments and they successfully completed their mission.

The Medal of Honor, with citation signed by President Harry S. Truman, was presented on 19 June 1946 to PFC Gonsalves' sister in the presence of his parents at ceremonies in the office of the commanding general of the Department of the Pacific, MajGen Henry L. Larsen, USMC in San Francisco, California.

Following the war, PFC Gonsalves' remains were returned to the United States for reinterment. He was buried with full military honors in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, 20 March 1949.

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