State Military Department
- The California State Military
- Preserving California's Military Heritage
- Major General James L. Day, USMC
- Medal of Honor Recipient
- By Mark J. Denger
- California Center for Military
History, State Military Reserve
General James L. Day, U.S. Marine Corps, became the last Medal
of Honor recipient to be intered at Fort Rosecrans. Interestingly
enough, awarded the Medal in 1998, General Day had to wait more
than a half-century to receive this honor. The paperwork for
his medal was lost in the chaos of the battlefield only resurfaced
again in 1980 when a retired Marine found faded carbon copies
of the recommendation among his World War II memorabilia. It
took an 18 more years before the paperwork finally reached the
appropriate officials. Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.)
was awarded the Medal on January 20, 1998.
The following are excerpts from President Clinton's remarks at
the Medal of Honor for Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.)
- "To those who lived through World
War II and those who grew up in the years that followed, few
memories inspire more awe and horror than the battle for Okinawa.
In the greatest conflict the world has ever known, our forces
fought no engagement more bitter or more bloody. In 82 days of
fighting America suffered more than 12,000 dead in this final
epic battle, the most costly one during the entire Pacific War.
At the very heart of this crucible was the fight for a hill called
Sugar Loaf, the key to breaking the enemy's line across the south
of the island -- some of the grimmest combat our forces had ever
seen. The Marines on Sugar Loaf faced a hail of artillery, mortars
and grenades. They were raked by constant machine gun fire. Time
and again our men would claw their way uphill only to be repulsed
by the enemy. Progress was measured by the yard.
On May 14th, 1945, a 19-year-old corporal named Jim Day led several
other Marines to a shell crater on the slope of Sugar Loaf. What
happened then surpasses our powers of imagination. On the first
day in that isolated hole, Corporal Day and those with him fought
off an advance by scores of enemy soldiers. That night he helped
to repel three more assaults as those with him fell dead or injured.
Braving heavy fire, he escorted four wounded comrades, one by
one, to safety. But he would not stay in safety. Instead, he
returned to his position to continue the fight. As one of his
fellow Marines later reported, the Corporal was everywhere. He
would run from one spot to another trying to get more fire on
When the next day broke, Corporal Day kept on fighting alone,
but for one wounded fellow Marine. Through assault after assault
and into his second night, he fought on. Burned by white phosphorous
and wounded by shrapnel, he continued to fire his weapon and
hold his ground. He hauled ammunition from a disabled vehicle
back to his shell hole and fought and fought, one assault after
another, one day to the next.
The battle on Sugar Loaf decimated two Marine regiments. But
when Corporal Jim Day was finally relieved after three days of
continuous fighting, virtually alone, he had stood his ground.
And the enemy dead around his foxhole numbered more than 100.
His heroism played a crucial part in America's victory at Sugar
Loaf. And that success opened the way to the capture of Okinawa
and the ultimate triumph of the forces of freedom in the Pacific."
- In the years after World War II, General
Day oversaw combat troops in Korea and Vietnam. He also held
commands in Japan, San Diego, Washington, Okinawa and at Camp
Pendleton. After retiring from the Marines, as a civilian, James
Day became chancellor of the National University campus in Palm
Springs, California. He died of a heart attack at Cathedral City,
San Diego County, California, on October 28, 1998.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, among his 31 other military
decorations include three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, six Purple
Hearts and two Navy Commendation Medals.
- President Clinton
awarding the Medal of Honor to Major General James L. Day
- 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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