James Dennis La Belle MOH

b. 22/11/1925 Columbia Heights, Minnesota. d. 08/03/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

DATE OF ACTION: 08/03/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

James D La Belle MOH

James La Belle was born in Columbia Heights, Minnesota on November 22, 1925. He attended grammar school in his neighborhood in Minneapolis and, in his spare time, played basketball and baseball. His spare time favourite was the raising of homing pigeons. At Columbia Heights High School he starred on the basketball, baseball and boxing teams, while following a vocational course in woodwork and metalwork. During summer vacations he worked as an apprentice acetylene welder for a local air conditioning corporation.

At age 17, with his mother’s permission, La Belle enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in Minneapolis. Recruit training at the MCRD San Diego, California, followed. After completing boot camp, he went to Camp Pendleton, California, where he qualified in the intensive combat training course before embarking for overseas. On June 30, 1944, he joined the regimental Weapons Company, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. The following August he sailed on board the USS George F. Elliott, bound for Hilo, Hawaii, and eventually the lava ash shores of Iwo Jima.

At Camp Tarawa, a Marine camp in Hawaii near Hilo, the regimental Weapons Company engaged in more training preparatory to actual combat. On February 19, 1945, after aerial and naval forces had pounded its desolate surface for many days, the island of Iwo Jima felt the sting of the invading Marine amphibious forces. One of thousands, PFC La Belle fought continuously from the initial landing until March 8, 1945, when he was killed in action.

His mother was presented the Medal of Honor by Brigadier General William E. Riley, then Director of Marine Corps Public Information, in ceremonies on July 21, 1946, in Minneapolis. Private First Class La Belle’s remains were returned to the United States in late 1948, and were reinterred in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 8 March 1945. Filling a gap in the front lines during a critical phase in the battle, Pfc. La Belle had dug into a foxhole with two other marines and, grimly aware of the enemy’s persistent attempts to blast a way through our lines with hand grenades, applied himself with steady concentration to maintaining a sharply vigilant watch during the hazardous night hours. Suddenly a hostile grenade landed beyond reach of his foxhole. Quickly estimating the situation, he determined to save the others if possible, shouted a warning, and instantly dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting his comrades from serious injury. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had unhesitatingly relinquished his own chance of survival that his fellow marines might carry on the relentless fight against a fanatic enemy. His dauntless courage, cool decision, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. La Belle and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.