Marine General James L. Day, 73, Okinawa Battle Hero.

 

 CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. (A.P.) James L. Day, 73, a retired Marine Corps general who won the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, for holding his ground on Sugar Loaf Hill during World War II, died here Oct. 28, 1998 after a heart attack.

He received the Medal of Honor from President Clinton on Jan. 20, more than a half-century after he was recommended for the honor for his role in the May 1945 battle for Sugar Loaf Hill on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

During the battle, the 19-year-old future general fought virtually alone from his foxhole and yielded no ground despite his own shrapnel wounds and white phosphorous burns.

After two days and two nights of fighting, the enemy dead around his foxhole numbered more than 100.

At the medal ceremony, Clinton said Gen. Day's heroism played a crucial part in holding Sugar Loaf. "That success opened the way to the capture of Okinawa and the ultimate triumph of the forces of freedom in the Pacific," Clinton said.

The paperwork for his medal was lost in the chaos of the battlefield but resurfaced in 1980 when a retired Marine found faded carbon copies of the recommendation among his World War II memorabilia. It took an additional 18 years for the paperwork to reach the appropriate officials.

In the years after World War II, Gen. Day oversaw combat troops in Korea and Vietnam. He also held commands in Japan, San Diego, Washington, Okinawa and at Camp Pendleton.

His 31 other military decorations included three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, six Purple Hearts and two Navy Commendation Medals.

After retiring from the Marines, Gen. Day was chancellor of the National University campus in Palm Springs, Calif., and partner in a construction company.

 


 

President Clinton marks the death of Medal of Honor winner James L. Day

 

WASHINGTON-President Clinton expressed sadness Monday November 2, 1998 at the death of Marine Corps Gen. James L. Day, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony last January.

"We will miss this true hero, whose selfless conduct as a Marine and citizen set a shining example for all Americans,'' Clinton said in a written statement. "We are grateful for all he did to preserve the freedom that is our most sacred gift.''

Day, who was 73, died October 28, 1998 of a heart attack.

Clinton presented Day with the Medal of Honor last Jan. 20, more than a half-century after he was recommended for the honor for his role in the World War II battle for Sugar Loaf Hill on the Japanese island of Okinawa in May 1945.

The paperwork for his medal was lost in the chaos of the battlefield, but resurfaced in 1980 when a retired Marine found faded carbon copies of the recommendation among his World War II memorabilia. It took 18 more years for the paperwork to reach the appropriate officials.

The 19-year-old Day fought virtually alone from his foxhole and yielded no ground despite his own shrapnel wounds and white phosphorous burns. After two days and two nights of fighting, the enemy dead around his foxhole numbered more than 100.


 

President Clinton presenting James L. Day, Major General (Ret), USMC, the Medal of Honor, at the White House, 20 January 1998.

 

 

 


Medal of Honor

 

Day, James L.

 

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a squad leader serving with the Second Battalion, Twenty-Second Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in sustained combat operations against Japanese forces on Okinawa, Ryukya Islands from 14 to 17 May 1945.

On the first day, Corporal Day rallied his squad and the remnants of another unit and led them to a critical position forward of the front lines of Sugar Loaf Hill. Soon thereafter, they came under an intense mortar and artillery barrage that was quickly followed by a ferocious ground attack by some forty Japanese soldiers. Despite the loss of one-half of his men, Corporal Day remained at the forefront, shouting encouragement, hurling hand grenades, and directing deadly fire, thereby repelling the determined enemy. Reinforced by six men, he led his squad in repelling three fierce night attacks but suffered five additional Marines killed and one wounded, whom he assisted to safety.

Upon hearing nearby calls for corpsman assistance, Corporal Day braved heavy enemy fire to escort four seriously wounded Marines, one at a time, to safety. Corporal Day then manned a light machine gun, assisted by a wounded Marine, and halted another night attack. In the ferocious action, his machine gun was destroyed, and he suffered multiple white phosphorous and fragmentation wounds. He reorganized his defensive position in time to halt a fifth enemy attack with devastating small arms fire. On three separated occasions, Japanese soldiers closed to within a few feet of his foxhole, but were killed by Corporal Day.

During the second day, the enemy conducted numerous unsuccessful swarming attacks against his exposed position. When the attacks momentarily subsided, over 70 enemy dead were counted around his position. On the third day, a wounded and exhausted Corporal Day repulsed the enemy's final attack, killing a dozen enemy soldiers at close range. Having yielded no ground and with more than 100 enemy dead around his position, Corporal Day preserved the lives of his fellow Marines and made a significant contribution to the success of the Okinawa campaign.

By his extraordinary heroism, repeated acts of valor, and quintessential battlefield leadership, Corporal Day inspired the efforts of his outnumbered Marines to defeat a much larger enemy force, reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


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© 1998 by Neil Mishalov