Maj. Henry A. Courtney, Jr.
2nd Bn, 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Div.
Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands
14 & 15 May 1945
In action against enemy Japanese forces on 14 and 15 May 1945, Courtney, after leading elements of his unit on a prolonged firefight, was ordered to hold for the night in static defense behind Sugar Loaf Hill. Maj. Courtney considered the situation and concluded that he shouldn’t wait. The tactical value of an immediate marine assault was much higher than waiting.
After clearing it with his command, Courtney led his men forward to seize the forward slope of the hill and attack enemy cave positions neutralizing enemy guns as they advanced.
Maj. Courtney had long proved himself in battle, and his Marines followed him without hesitation. They braved a concentration of Japanese gunfire to skirt the hill and reach the opposite slope.
A reinforcement force of 26 more Marines and a load of grenades and ammo joined Maj. Courtney as they made preparations to storm the crest of the hill. The key was to prevent any counter-attack before it could be mounted.
Leading from the front, Maj. Courtney advanced chucking hand-grenades in caves as he passed them. Upon reaching the crest, he observed a large group of enemy soldiers preparing for a counter-attack.
The Maj. Attacked, single-handedly killing several and forcing the remainder to take cover in the caves. With cool disregard for the continuous hail of enemy shrapnel and gunfire, he gave the order to dig in, then rallied his troops, aided casualties. Maj. Courtney maintained positive command keeping his marines in the fight in spite of the chaos and cacophony of battle, and a fanatical enemy.
Shortly before the objective was secured, Maj. Courtney was hit by a mortar round and instantly killed. He led from the front right up until that moment. – Semper Fidelis
The last line of Maj. Courtney’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
“… by his astute military acumen, indomitable leadership and decisive action in the face of overwhelming odds, had contributed essentially to the success of the Okinawa campaign. His great personal valor throughout sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.”