Francis Junior Pierce MOH

b. 07/12/1924 Earlville, Iowa. d. 21/12/1986 Grand Rapids, Michigan.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 15-16/03/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

Francis J Pierce MOH

Francis Junior Pierce was born on 7 December 1924 in Earlville, Iowa. A farm boy looking for excitement, he enlisted in the U. S. Navy on 14 December 1941 at the Naval Recruiting Station, Great Lakes, Illinois, at the age of 17. He completed recruit training at Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, and Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, Virginia. He served at the Naval Hospital Parris Island, South Carolina, until August 1942 when he transferred to the Training Center, Fleet Marine Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In January 1944, he was transferred to 4th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.

Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Pierce took part in the landing on Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1-7 February 1944. During the fight he learned the grim realities of war, causing him to reject the code that corpsmen be unarmed. He procured a Thompson submachine gun, a “Tommy Gun,” and used it so effectively that the Marines nicknamed him “Angel with a Tommy Gun.” PhM1c Pierce remained continuously in combat from that time, serving in the Marianas’ campaigns of Saipan and Tinian.

During the battle for Iwo Jima in early 1945, PhM1c Pierce, serving with 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, became an expert on the terrain and disposition of enemy troops. Serving four weeks without relief, his expertise greatly helped the battalion evacuate wounded men. On 15 March, PhM1c Pierce’s unit was caught in a heavy firefight. Distracting the enemy so that the wounded could be evacuated, he drew the enemy’s fire to himself and engaged the enemy with his Tommy Gun. At one point, as he was treating one of the wounded Marines, the injured man was struck again. PM1c Pierce deliberately stood up to gain the attention of the sniper and then used the last of his ammunition to kill the enemy soldier. Finally, he lifted the wounded Marine on to his back and carried him across 200 feet of open terrain under intense rifle fire to an aid station. He crossed once more for the last wounded Marine and brought him to safety as well.

The very next day, PhM1c Pierce was leading a patrol sent to destroy a sniper nest when he was wounded twice, once by sniper fire and the other by grenade fragmentations, while aiding a downed Marine. Refusing aid for himself, he directed the aid for the wounded Marine, all the while maintaining protective fire for his comrades. For his heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima, PhM1c Pierce received the Navy Cross and the Silver Star.

Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Pierce was honorably discharged from the U. S. Navy on 1 December 1945. As a civilian, he became a Michigan State police officer.

Three years after the war ended, he was informed that his Navy Cross and Silver Star were to be recalled and replaced with the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was presented to him at the White House on 25 June 1948.

Mr. Pierce retired from the police force in 1982. Four years later, on 21 December 1986, he died of cancer. He was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the Iwo Jima campaign, 15 and 16 March 1945. Almost continuously under fire while carrying out the most dangerous volunteer assignments, Pierce gained valuable knowledge of the terrain and disposition of troops. Caught in heavy enemy rifle and machine-gun fire which wounded a corpsman and two of the eight stretcher bearers who were carrying two wounded marines to a forward aid station on 15 March, Pierce quickly took charge of the party, carried the newly wounded men to a sheltered position, and rendered first aid. After directing the evacuation of three of the casualties, he stood in the open to draw the enemy’s fire and, with his weapon blasting, enabled the litter bearers to reach cover. Turning his attention to the other two casualties, he was attempting to stop the profuse bleeding of one man when a Japanese fired from a cave less than 20 yards away and wounded his patient again. Risking his own life to save his patient, Pierce deliberately exposed himself to draw the attacker from the cave and destroyed him with the last of his ammunition. Then lifting the wounded man to his back, he advanced unarmed through deadly rifle fire across 200 feet of open terrain. Despite exhaustion and in the face of warnings against such a suicidal mission, he again traversed the same fire-swept path to rescue the remaining marine. On the following morning, he led a combat patrol to the sniper nest and, while aiding a stricken marine, was seriously wounded. Refusing aid for himself, he directed treatment for the casualty, at the same time maintaining protective fire for his comrades. Completely fearless, completely devoted to the care of his patients, Pierce inspired the entire battalion. His valor in the face of extreme peril sustains and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.