b. 23/01/1934 Madera, California. d. 02/10/1952 Korea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 02/10/1952 Korea.
Jack William Kelso was born on January 23, 1934, in Madera, California, and attended grade and high school in Caruthers, California. He worked on his father’s farm until he enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 15, 1951, at age 17.
Kelso completed his recruit training in San Diego, California, in July 1951 and that September was ordered from San Diego to Camp Pendleton, California. In January 1952, he left for Hawaii, where he served until April 1952.
He embarked for Korea with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division as a rifleman. He earned the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action on August 13 to 15, 1952. Kelso made some 20 trips through enemy mortar and artillery fire to carry ammunition from his company to another unit defending an important hill. Although the heat and enemy fire forced most of the men to be relieved after three trips, he continued to carry up ammunition and return with casualties until he collapsed and had to be evacuated.
On the night of October 2, 1952, Kelso was serving at a vital outpost near Sokcho, Korea, when a numerically superior enemy attack, under cover of small arms, grenade and mortar fire, made casualties of both his platoon commander and platoon sergeant. After exposing himself to a hail of enemy fire to try to reorganize the unit, he was driven to cover with four other Marines in a nearby bunker, where an enemy grenade landed among them. He picked it up, ran into the open and threw it back at the enemy, receiving painful wounds as the grenade exploded on leaving his hand. He was again forced into the shelter by even more intense enemy fire, but refused to remain there. Moving out into the fire-swept area, he fired away at the enemy until he was mortally wounded, thereby covering the escape of the other Marines from the bunker. For his “conspicuous gallantry” in this final action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also posthumously awarded two Purple Heart Medals.
His Medal was presented to his parents at the Marine Corps Barracks, Washington DC on September 9, 1953 by Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman of Company I, in action against enemy aggressor forces. When both the platoon commander and the platoon sergeant became casualties during the defense of a vital outpost against a numerically superior enemy force attacking at night under cover of intense small-arms, grenade, and mortar fire, Pfc. Kelso bravely exposed himself to the hail of enemy fire in a determined effort to reorganize the unit and to repel the onrushing attackers. Forced to seek cover, along with four other marines, in a nearby bunker which immediately came under attack, he unhesitatingly picked up an enemy grenade which landed in the shelter, rushed out into the open, and hurled it back at the enemy. Although painfully wounded when the grenade exploded as it left his hand, and again forced to seek the protection of the bunker when the hostile fire became more intensified, Pfc. Kelso refused to remain in his position of comparative safety and moved out into the fire-swept area to return the enemy fire, thereby permitting the pinned-down marines in the bunker to escape. Mortally wounded while providing covering fire for his comrades, Pfc. Kelso, by his valiant fighting spirit, aggressive determination, and self-sacrificing efforts in behalf of others, served to inspire all who observed him. His heroic actions sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
BURIAL LOCATION: WASHINGTON COLONY CEMETERY, FRESNO, CALIFORNIA.
BLOCK 2, LOT 8X, SPACE 3C.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE US MARINE CORPS, QUANTICO, VIRGINIA.