There are many unbelievable, but true, stories from our nation’s heroes. One such story is that of Jacklyn Harrell “Jack” Lucas. He was born in Plymouth, North Carolina in 1928. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed Jack’s life forever. He wanted to serve his country, but at the time he was too young. Being only 14, he falsified his enlistment paperwork to say he was 17. Furthermore, he forged his mother’s signature on the parental consent form by bribing a notary. Already being 5’8″ and 180lbs of twisted steel, he easily fooled the recruiters and shipped off to Marine Corps boot camp.
He completed training as a heavy machine gunner in 1943. Consequently, the Marine Corps discovered his age and made him a truck driver. Being unsatisfied with the lack of action, he stowed away on the USS Deuel, on its way to Iwo Jima. The day before his old unit would have declared him a deserter, he revealed himself to the commanding officer of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment. Given the circumstances, he was assigned to a rifle unit, and Jack was busted down in rank. He turned 17 aboard the ship, and 5 days later they would hit Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima- Uncommon valor was a common virtue
While on patrol, his four man fireteam sighted an enemy pillbox. Shortly after, they began to fire upon an adjacent 11 man Japanese squad. The Japanese returned heavy accurate fire and hurled two hand grenades into the cover Jack’s Marines were in. He grabbed one grenade and shoved it into the sand, covering it with his rifle and body. He then spotted the second grenade and pulled it under his chest as well.
The first grenade detonated, injuring Jack. Thankfully, the second grenade did not explode. The remaining 3 Marines killed all the Japanese combatants from the larger enemy squad and fortified pillbox. Assuming Jack was dead, and fearing an enemy counter attack, they immediately left the area. However, Jack Lucas, who was only 17, was not dead. He laid there, barely breathing, and awake.
Fortunately, a Marine unit passing through saw him and called their Navy Corpsman. The Corpsman tended to the massive wounds. He did everything to keep Jack alive and safe, even killing an approaching enemy soldier. Lucas had over 250 pieces of shrapnel throughout his body. Nearly every organ was hit, including his brain and heart. He was evacuated via stretcher to the beach. There were over 26,000 American casualties on Iwo Jima.
Jack Lucas was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 5, 1945. His company commander, Robert Dunlap, would receive the Medal of Honor the same day. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded for Iwo Jima, more than any single battle since the civil war.
Jack Lucas- Not done yet
Despite his near brush with death, Jack wanted to continue to challenge himself. In 1961 he joined the US Army. Jack volunteered for jump school to conquer his fear of heights. However, bad luck struck Lucas again. Both his parachutes failed to open and he plummeted to the ground. Remarkably, he survived. A witness said, “He was the last one out of the airplane and the first one on the ground.”
Jack volunteered to go to Vietnam, but his request was denied. He retired in 1965 as a Captain, training troops for Vietnam. Jack passed away from cancer on June 5, 2008 at the age of 80. Before he passed, Jack wrote several books, most notably being Indestructible: The Unforgettable Story of a Marine Hero at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
In 2016, the then Secretary of the Navy announced the naming of a warship after Lucas.
We take this opportunity to remember the 14 year old boy who lied to serve his country, as well as the 17 year old man who was unflinching in the face of staggering danger. Jack Lucas, you were the very embodiment of American Grit, and this beer is for you.