Pierce, Francis Junior, PhM1c

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Last Rank
Petty Officer First Class
Last Primary NEC
PhM-0000-Pharmacist Mate
Last Rating/NEC Group
Pharmacist's Mate
Primary Unit
1943-1945, PhM-0000, 24th Marine Regiment/2nd Bn (2/24)
Service Years
1941 - 1945
PhM-Pharmacist's Mate

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Richard Hopka (SW)(AW)(FMF), HM1 to remember Pierce, Francis Junior (MOH), PhM1c.

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Contact Info
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

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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.

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.

Other Comments:

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.

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Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign (1944)/Battle of Saipan
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The Battle of Saipan was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands from 15 June–9 July 1944. The Allied invasion fleet embarking the expeditionary forces left Pearl Harbor on 5 June 1944, the day before Operation Overlord in Europe was launched. The U.S. 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, and 27th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Holland Smith, defeated the 43rd Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Yoshitsugu Saito.

Bombardment of Saipan began on 13 June 1944. Fifteen battleships were involved, and 165,000 shells were fired. Seven modern fast battleships delivered twenty-four hundred 16 in (410 mm) shells, but to avoid potential minefields, fire was from a distance of 10,000 yd (9,100 m) or more, and crews were inexperienced in shore bombardment. The following day the eight older battleships and 11 cruisers under Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf replaced the fast battleships but were lacking in time and ammunition.

The landings[4] began at 07:00 on 15 June 1944. More than 300 LVTs landed 8,000 Marines on the west coast of Saipan by about 09:00. Eleven fire support ships covered the Marine landings. The naval force consisted of the battleships Tennessee and California. The cruisers were Birmingham and Indianapolis. The destroyers were Norman Scott, Monssen, Colahan, Halsey Powell, Bailey, Robinson and Albert W. Grant. Careful Japanese artillery preparation — placing flags in the lagoon to indicate the range — allowed them to destroy about 20 amphibious tanks, and the Japanese strategically placed barbed wire, artillery, machine gun emplacements, and trenches to maximize the American casualties. However, by nightfall the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions had a beachhead about 6 mi (10 km) wide and 0.5 mi (1 km) deep. The Japanese counter-attacked at night but were repulsed with heavy losses. On 16 June, units of the U.S. Army's 27th Infantry Division landed and advanced on the airfield at Ås Lito (which is now the location of Saipan International Airport). Again the Japanese counter-attacked at night. On 18 June, Saito abandoned the airfield.

The invasion surprised the Japanese high command, which had been expecting an attack further south. Admiral Soemu Toyoda, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy, saw an opportunity to use the A-Go force to attack the U.S. Navy forces around Saipan. On 15 June, he gave the order to attack. But the resulting battle of the Philippine Sea was a disaster for the Imperial Japanese Navy, which lost three aircraft carriers and hundreds of planes. The garrisons of the Marianas would have no hope of resupply or reinforcement.

Without resupply, the battle on Saipan was hopeless for the defenders, but the Japanese were determined to fight to the last man. Saito organized his troops into a line anchored on Mount Tapotchau in the defensible mountainous terrain of central Saipan. The nicknames given by the Americans to the features of the battle — "Hell's Pocket", "Purple Heart Ridge" and "Death Valley" — indicate the severity of the fighting. The Japanese used the many caves in the volcanic landscape to delay the attackers, by hiding during the day and making sorties at night. The Americans gradually developed tactics for clearing the caves by using flamethrower teams supported by artillery and machine guns.

The operation was marred by inter-service controversy when Marine General Holland Smith, unsatisfied with the performance of the 27th Division, relieved its commander, Army Major General Ralph C. Smith. However, General Holland Smith had not inspected the terrain over which the 27th was to advance. Essentially, it was a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under Japanese control. The 27th took heavy casualties and eventually, under a plan developed by General Ralph Smith and implemented after his relief, had one battalion hold the area while two other battalions successfully flanked the Japanese.

By 7 July, the Japanese had nowhere to retreat. Saito made plans for a final suicidal banzai charge. On the fate of the remaining civilians on the island, Saito said, "There is no longer any distinction between civilians and troops. It would be better for them to join in the attack with bamboo spears than be captured." At dawn, with a group of 12 men carrying a great red flag in the lead, the remaining able-bodied troops — about 3,000 men — charged forward in the final attack. Amazingly, behind them came the wounded, with bandaged heads, crutches, and barely armed. The Japanese surged over the American front lines, engaging both army and Marine units. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment were almost destroyed, losing 650 killed and wounded. However, the fierce resistance of these two battalions, as well as that of Headquarters Company, 105th Infantry, and supply elements of 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Artillery Regiment resulted in over 4,300 Japanese killed. For their actions during the 15-hour Japanese attack, three men of the 105th Infantry were awarded the Medal of Honor — all posthumously. Numerous others fought the Japanese until they were overwhelmed by the largest Japanese Banzai attack in the Pacific War.

By 16:15 on 9 July, Admiral Turner announced that Saipan was officially secured. Saito — along with commanders Hirakushi and Igeta — committed suicide in a cave. Also committing suicide at the end of the battle was Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo — the naval commander who led the Japanese carriers at Pearl Harbor and Midway — who had been assigned to Saipan to direct the Japanese naval air forces based there.

In the end, almost the entire garrison of troops on the island — at least 30,000 — died. For the Americans, the victory was the most costly to date in the Pacific War. 2,949 Americans were killed and 10,464 wounded, out of 71,000 who landed. Hollywood actor Lee Marvin was among the many American wounded. He was serving with "I" Company, 24th Marine Regiment, when he was shot in the buttocks by Japanese machine gun fire during the assault on Mount Tapochau. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was given a medical discharge with the rank of Private First Class in 1945.
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  211 Also There at This Battle:
  • Beckwith, John Edward, S1c, (1942-1945)
  • Besson, John Henry, RADM, (1931-1959)
  • Block, Charles John, CPO, (1938-1945)
  • Brewster, Donald, PO3, (1943-1946)
  • Clonts, Alpheus Eugene, PO1, (1942-1948)
  • Crawforth, Evan, PO2, (1942-1945)
  • Crookshank, Irvin, PO2, (1942-1946)
  • Dawson, William L., PO2, (1942-1945)
  • Flynn, Paul, SN, (1944-1951)
  • Garrett, Earl, PO2, (1941-1953)
  • Habick, Henry
  • Hamilton, Roger Lewis, S2c, (1944-1945)
  • Hazelwood, Denna, PO1, (1942-1944)
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