b. 30/05/1924 San Francisco, California. d. 04/11/2013 Bremerton, Washington.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 20/08/1944 near Chambois, France.
Hawk was born in San Francisco, California, and grew up in the Rolling Bay area of Bainbridge Island, Washington. He graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1943 and joined the Army two weeks later from Bremerton, Washington.
By August 20, 1944, Hawk was serving in Europe as a sergeant in Company E, 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division. During a German counterattack on that day, near Chambois, France, he was wounded in the right thigh while taking cover behind a tree. A German shell had penetrated the tree trunk. (“French apple trees aren’t worth a darn,” he said in 1994.) Hawk continued to fight and, in order to direct the shots of friendly tank destroyers, he willingly exposed himself to intense enemy fire. For his actions during the battle, he was awarded the Medal of Honor on July 13, 1945. The medal was formally presented to him by President Harry Truman on June 21, 1945 in Olympia, Washington.
Hawk recovered from his wounds and continued to serve in combat. He was wounded three more times before the end of the war, earning a total of four Purple Hearts. In 1945, Hawk returned from the war and then attended the University of Washington, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. For more than thirty years he worked as a teacher and principal in the Central Kitsap School District.
On April 5, 2008, Hawk received the Medal of Honor flag in the Capitol rotunda in Olympia, Washington. He was presented the flag by Brigadier General Gordon Toney, commander of the Washington Army National Guard. Hawk said of his Medal of Honor:
What I did was not such a big thing. I never did anything more than the people I served with. The [Medal of Honor] is a symbol and it stands for service, everybody’s service. I did it for the people who were there and they were doing the same thing for me.
Hawk was a compatriot of the Washington State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
Sergeant Hawk died on November 4, 2013, at the age of 89. Jackson Park Elementary in Bremerton was renamed John D. “Bud” Hawk Elementary in his honor.
He manned a light machine gun on 20 August 1944, near Chambois, France, a key point in the encirclement which created the Falaise pocket. During an enemy counterattack, his position was menaced by a strong force of tanks and infantry. His fire forced the infantry to withdraw, but an artillery shell knocked out his gun and wounded him in the right thigh. Securing a bazooka, he and another man stalked the tanks and forced them to retire to a wooded section. In the lull which followed, Sgt. Hawk reorganized two machine-gun squads and, in the face of intense enemy fire, directed the assembly of one workable weapon from two damaged guns. When another enemy assault developed, he was forced to pull back from the pressure of spearheading armor. Two of our tank destroyers were brought up. Their shots were ineffective because of the terrain until Sgt. Hawk, despite his wound, boldly climbed to an exposed position on a knoll where, unmoved by fusillades from the enemy, he became a human aiming-stake for the destroyers. Realizing that his shouted fire directions could not be heard above the noise of battle, he ran back to the destroyers through a concentration of bullets and shrapnel to correct the range. He returned to his exposed position, repeating this performance until two of the tanks were knocked out and a third driven off. Still at great risk, he continued to direct the destroyers’ fire into the Germans’ wooded position until the enemy came out and surrendered. Sgt. Hawk’s fearless initiative and heroic conduct, even while suffering from a painful wound, was in large measure responsible for crushing two desperate attempts of the enemy to escape from the Falaise pocket and for taking more that 500 prisoners.
BURIAL LOCATION: MILLER-WOODLAWN MEMORIAL PARK, BREMERTON, WASHINGTON.
MEDIATION NORTH SIDE, LOT 570, SPACE 1.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.