Okinawa camps are named after Medal of Honor recipients
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Camp Schwab is among several Okinawa installations named to honor Marines who distinguished themselves during almost three months of combat in the Battle of Okinawa 60 years ago this spring.
Each camp is named after a Medal of Honor recipient. Here are their stories:
Maj. Henry A. Courtney Jr. was the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Division executive officer. On May 14, 1945, he received permission to advance and seize Sugar Loaf Hill’s forward slope. He led the charge, taking out enemy gun positions along the way.
After Courtney and his men “braved a terrific concentration of Japanese gunfire to skirt the hill on the right and reach the reverse slope,” he sent men for ammunition and replacements. With 26 more men and loaded with grenades, Courtney stormed the hill’s crest and pushed forward, tossing grenades into caves.
When he reached the hilltop, Courtney saw a large Japanese force less than 100 yards away. Attacking, he killed many and forced the remainder to retreat into caves. Courtney was killed by a mortar burst while moving among his troops.
Pfc. William A. Foster was a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division.
After assaulting a fortified Japanese position, he and another Marine engaged in a “fierce hand grenade duel with infiltrating enemy soldiers.” An enemy grenade landed beyond reach of the Marines in the foxhole so Foster dived on it, absorbing the explosion with his body. He lived long enough to hand his last two grenades to his fellow Marine, saying, “Make them count.”
Camp Gonsalves — Jungle Warfare Training Center
Pfc. Harold Gonsalves, a scout sergeant with 4th Battalion, 15th Marines, 6th Marine Division, endured bombardment to help his forward observation team direct artillery fire during the assault at Mount Yaetake. Gonsalves accompanied his commanding officer and another Marine to the front lines despite a barrage of enemy fire. When a Japanese grenade fell nearby, Gonsalves gave his life by diving onto it.
Pvt. Dale M. Hansen was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. During a critical stage of combat, he crawled to an exposed position with a rocket launcher and destroyed an enemy pillbox. Picking up a rifle, he continued his one-man assault. He reached a ridge crest, jumped across and opened fire on six Japanese soldiers, killing four before his rifle jammed.
Arming himself with another another weapon and grenades, he advanced farther, destroying a mortar position and killing eight more of the enemy.
Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser led a rifle platoon with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division. While moving along a strategic ridge, Kinser engaged in a grenade battle after a sudden, close enemy attack. When one landed nearby, Kinser threw himself onto the grenade to shield his men. He died in the explosion.
Hospital Apprentice 1st Class Fred F. Lester was a corpsman assigned to Assault Rifle Platoon, 1st Battalion, 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Division on Okinawa.
He spotted a wounded Marine in an open field beyond the front lines. Lester crawled toward the Marine under a barrage of enemy machine guns, rifles and grenades.
He was hit but pulled the wounded man toward a covered position. Hit a second time, Lester got the Marine to safety but was too seriously wounded to administer care. He instructed two squad members how to treat the Marine.
Realizing his wounds were fatal, Lester refused medical care while directing treatment for other wounded Marines. He died shortly after.
Pvt. Robert M. McTureous Jr. was with 3rd Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division. His company just had seized an important hill when he noticed stretcher bearers suddenly under enemy machine-gun fire as they tried to evacuate the wounded. He filled his jacket with grenades and charged the enemy caves where the fire was coming from.
McTureous waged a one-man assault, throwing grenades into cave entrances. His actions drew the heavy fire off the stretcher bearers and onto himself.
Making it back to his company’s line, he loaded up with more hand grenades and continued his attack, receiving serious wounds. McTureous crawled 200 yards to a sheltered position within friendly lines before calling for medical aid. He was credited with killing six Japanese troops and disorganizing the remaining enemy.
Information was taken from the Army’s Web site: www.army.mil/cmh-pg/moh1.htm.
— Fred Zimmerman