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Pharmacists Mate First Class John Willis

Date of Award: February 28, 1945
Conflict: World War II
Branch: U.S. Navy

Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John Willis portraitOn February 28, 1945, during the fight for Hill 362A, many Marines were wounded from continuous artillery and mortar fire. Pharmacist’s Mate First Class John Willis tried to render aid to as many casualties as possible, until he was wounded by shrapnel. His superiors ordered him back to the aid station, but instead he went back to his company because so many wounded were waiting for help.

Spotting a wounded Marine lying in a shell hole at the extreme front lines, he defied heavy mortar and sniper fire to reach him. He was busy administering blood plasma, when suddenly a grenade landed in the crater. Willis calmly but quickly picked it up and threw it out of the shell hole. He did the same to seven other grenades as he continued working on his patient. The last exploded in his hand and killed him immediately.

Citation: “Through his great personal valor in saving others at the sacrifice of his own life, he inspired his companions, although terrifically outnumbered, to launch a fiercely determined attack and repulse the enemy force.”

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