Minors who want to join the US Army need their parents’ consent. This didn’t stop one brave fella from becoming a unique hero of WWII. His name was Jacklyn Lucas.
Jacklyn H. Lucas was born in Plymouth, North Carolina in 1928. After his father died, his mother sent him to a nearby military school, where he became a prominent sportsman, earning the title of a cadet captain.
By 1942, he was eager to join the US Army’s war efforts. Being only 14 years old and lacking his mother’s consent never posed a serious obstacle for a guy of his spirit and build. He simply forged her signature and faked his age. Soon, he found himself in a South Carolina recruit camp. A year and several camps later, he became a certified heavy machine gun crewman. He was ready to go to war.
In November 1943, he was sent to the 6th Base Depot of the V Amphibious Corps, at Pearl Harbor, where he was promoted to private first class. Not seeing much action, in January 1945 he sneaked out of the base and got onto a USS Deuel ship, to join the 5th Marine Division on their trip to Iwo Jima warzone.
The very same night, he was put on a the UA list – meaning that he was absent without official authorization – and saw his rank reduced to that of a regular private. A month later, only one day before being put to the deserter list, he turned himself in to his new commander.
Since he proved to be a useful asset, his battalion’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Pollock, gave him a post of a rifleman in the C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. Five days before the beginning of the invasion of Iwo Jima, Jacklyn turned 17. Only a day after their landing on the shores of Iwo Jima on 19 February 1945, Pvt. Lucas was to face his biggest test ever.
Sneaking through the island’s ravines, Lucas and three other Marines from his fire team spotted a bunker with enemy soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. After taking cover, they realized that parallel to their hiding place was another trench with eleven Japanese soldiers. A firing duel that broke out was soon disrupted by two Japanese hand grenades that ended in Marines’ pill box. With no time to think, Lucas made an unbelievable stunt.
He jumped over one of his comrades and threw himself right at the grenades. He jammed one grenade into the sand and laid on top of it, while grabbing the other one. The first grenade exploded, causing severe injuries to his chest, arm, leg, and thigh. The other one, fortunately, didn’t. This heroic act saved the other Marines’ lives. They managed to kill all the Japanese soldiers and continue their operation – leaving seemingly dead Lucas behind.
But, fortune favors the brave. Lucas was later found by another Marine unit and quickly transported to treatment. After spending a month in various field hospitals, he arrived in San Francisco, where he underwent 21 surgeries. Some 200 pieces of metal remained in his body, but his life was saved.
On 5 October 1945, Jacklyn Lucas became the youngest Medal of Honor recipient in US history. He was given a medal by none other than the President, Harry Truman. But his disability never stopped him from pursuing his dream. In 1961, he rejoined the Army as a paratrooper, in order to conquer his fear of heights.
After a jump, neither of his parachutes opened – again, he managed to survive what most of us wouldn’t. Later on, he volunteered to go to Vietnam. He was denied and given the opportunity to train the troops.
Captain Jacklyn H. Lucas died of leukemia on June 5, 2008. He remains the youngest, bravest and luckiest enfant terrible to be given the Medal of Honor.