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Home Town Earlville, Iowa
Last Address Grand Rapids, Michigan
Date of Passing Dec 21, 1986
Location of Interment Holy Cross Cemetery - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Wall/Plot Coordinates Not Specified
Last Known Activity
Francis Pierce Jr. (1924-1986) grew up in Earlville, Iowa, and was an avid hunter and a crack shot, a skill he used on Iwo Jima. As a pharmacist mate with the 4th Marine Division, he participated in the invasions of atolls, including Saipan and Tinian in 1944, treating ripped-open chests, blown-off limbs, and other appalling injuries.
After the war he returned to Earlville briefly, then left for Grand Rapids, Mich., to meet Lorraine, a woman he had corresponded with during the war. They married, he joined the local police department, and they had two sons. After Lorraine died, he married Madelyn Mellema, with whom he had two daughters. He rose steadily in the ranks of the Grand Rapids police force, becoming Deputy Chief in 1972. His career in law enforcement became noted for the same fearlessness he displayed on that tiny Pacific island in 1945. He died of cancer in 1986.
The Marine Corps established a memorial scholarship in his name to honor Navy corpsmen. Another honor, one most unusual, was the G. I. Joe Francis J. Pierce action figure by Hasbro.
ACT OF VALOR:
The entrenched, well-fortified Japanese singled out medics as targets because dead medics could not help the other wounded, thus causing more American deaths, one element pointing to the savagery of Iwo Jima. This surprising strategy was totally unlike the Germans, who normally did not follow this battlefield practice. Pierce had to carry both medical equipment and weapons, and simultaneously fight the Japanese as he risked his life repeatedly to save, treat and rescue his wounded comrades. Medics like him suffered a very high casualty rate. As the citation details, Pierce performed both deeds magnificently.
The Japanese were determined to hold Iwo Jima at all cost with no thought of surrender. They literally fought until all died. Very few Japanese surrendered. The only ones taken prisoner were the wounded.
FRANCIS PIERCE JR:
Repeatedly risked his life to save his patients on Iwo Jima
It is March 15, 1945, and Francis Pierce Jr. is on a perilous mission as a medical corpsman in the Pacific theater. On his 17th birthday on Pearl Harbor Day, Pierce joined the Navy and left Earlville, Iowa, for an unknown future. Now he is participating in the capture of Iwo Jima, a tiny island the Japanese are using to down countless B-29s approaching the mainland.
He and his comrades have the daunting task of routing out Japanese in over 700 concrete-reinforced bunkers and caves interconnected through a vast tunnel network. The Japanese know they cannot hold out indefinitely against an invader possessing naval and air supremacy. Their mission is to exact the heaviest possible price on Americans.
After nearly a month of vicious fighting, Pierce and his fellow medics have overwhelming casualty numbers to treat?about 26,000 wounded and nearly 7,000 dead.
On this day Pierce is caught in heavy enemy fire that wounds a corpsman and two stretcher-bearers. He quickly directs the evacuation of the casualties after carrying the wounded to safety and rendering first aid. He then returns to the battlefield to draw enemy fire and, with his gun blasting, enables the corpsmen to reach cover. While he attempts to stop a patient's profuse bleeding, the Japanese fire from close range, wounding his patient again. To save this man, Pierce exposes himself to draw the attacker from the cave and kills the enemy with the last of his ammunition. He lifts the wounded man to his back, advancing unarmed through rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain. Despite exhaustion, risking his life, he traverses the same fire-swept path to rescue the remaining marine.
On the following morning, he leads a combat patrol to the sniper nest and, while aiding a stricken marine, is seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directs treatment for the casualty while maintaining protective fire for his comrades.
On that fateful day March 16, 1945, Iwo Jima is declared under total American control. By the end of the war almost 1,500 B-29s, with almost 16,000 crewmen, used Iwo Jima as an emergency landing field. The heroism displayed during the 30-day battle on this tiny island produced nearly one-third of the 84 Medals of Honor given to World War II Marines.
”For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the Iwo Jima campaign, 15 and 16 March 1945. Almost continuously under fire while carrying out the most dangerous volunteer assignments, Pierce gained valuable knowledge of the terrain and disposition of troops. Caught in heavy enemy rifle and machinegun fire which wounded a corpsman and 2 of the 8 stretcher bearers who were carrying 2 wounded marines to a forward aid station on 15 March, Pierce quickly took charge of the party, carried the newly wounded men to a sheltered position, and rendered first aid. After directing the evacuation of 3 of the casualties, he stood in the open to draw the enemy’s fire and, with his weapon blasting, enabled the litter bearers to reach cover. Turning his attention to the other 2 casualties, he was attempting to stop the profuse bleeding of 1 man when a Japanese fired from a cave less than 20 yards away and wounded his patient again. Risking his own life to save his patient, Pierce deliberately exposed himself to draw the attacker from the cave and destroyed him with the last of his ammunition. Then lifting the wounded man to his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain. Despite exhaustion and in the face of warnings against such a suicidal mission, he again traversed the same fire-swept path to rescue the remaining marine. On the following morning, he led a combat patrol to the sniper nest and, while aiding a stricken marine, was seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directed treatment for the casualty, at the same time maintaining protective fire for his comrades. Completely fearless, completely devoted to the care of his patients, Pierce inspired the entire battalion. His valor in the face of extreme peril sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S Naval Service.”
Date and place: March 15-16, 1945, Iwo Jima.
Issued: Pierce was surprised to receive the award three years after the war ended—having to don his uniform one more time to attend a White House rose garden ceremony in which President Truman formally presented him with the medal.