John Edward “Jackie” Kilmer MOH

b. 15/08/1930 Highland Park, Illinois. d. 13/08/1952 North Korea.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 13/08/1952 North Korea.

John E Kilmer MOH

Kilmer was born Aug. 15, 1930, in Highland Park, Illinois, but his family moved him and his brother to San Antonio while they were still kids. Kilmer’s teenage years unfolded during and directly after World War II. Patriotism was incredibly high at that time, so on Aug. 16, 1947 — the day after Kilmer’s 17th birthday — he dropped out of high school to join the Navy.

Kilmer, who went by the name Jackie, graduated from Hospital Corps School in 1948. When the Korean War broke out, his four-year stint as a sailor was almost up. But he wanted to put his medical training to good use, so he reenlisted in August 1951. Due to a dispute with a senior officer, he requested a transfer to the Fleet Marine Force.

After completing Field Medical School, Kilmer was transferred to duty as a hospital corpsman attached to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Shortly after, they deployed to Korea.

On Aug. 12, 1952, U.S. Marines were involved in a bitter fight to take over an area called Bunker Hill, a crucial hill that was in the hands of Chinese enemy forces. If the U.S. took the hill, it would enable them to observe movement from far away.

The Chinese were initially caught off guard by the attack. Kilmer’s rifle company had dug in well forward of the main line of resistance early in the day, expecting a counterattack. It came later than they expected — in the early-morning hours of Aug. 13.

Shortly after midnight, large swaths of enemy forces started assaulting the rifle company with mortar, artillery and sniper fire. Kilmer moved from one position to another, helping wounded Marines and carrying many men to safety, despite putting himself in harm’s way. Eventually, Kilmer noticed a seriously wounded Marine lying in a field, so he started to crawl toward the man. Another Marine saw the intensity of the gunfire and tried to stop him, but Kilmer pushed on anyway with only his duty on his mind.

Halfway to the man he was trying to rescue, Kilmer was badly wounded by mortar fragments. However, he continued on, inching toward the man despite all the enemy shells falling around them. Kilmer started to give the Marine first aid when another barrage of fire exploded. Thinking only of his patient, Kilmer threw himself on the other Marine to form a human shield. In doing so, the young corpsman was hit by flying shrapnel. The Marine he shielded survived. Kilmer died just two days short of his 22nd birthday.

Kilmer’s body was eventually returned home and buried in the family plot at San Jose Burial Park in San Antonio. For the extraordinary valor he showed during battle, Kilmer received the Medal of Honor. Navy Secretary Robert B. Anderson presented it posthumously to his mother, Lois Kilmer, during a Pentagon ceremony on June 18, 1953.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against enemy aggressor forces. With his company engaged in defending a vitally important hill position well forward of the main line of resistance during an assault by large concentrations of hostile troops, HC Kilmer repeatedly braved intense enemy mortar, artillery, and sniper fire to move from one position to another, administering aid to the wounded and expediting their evacuation. Painfully wounded himself when struck by mortar fragments while moving to the aid of a casualty, he persisted in his efforts and inched his way to the side of the stricken marine through a hail of enemy shells falling around him. Undaunted by the devastating hostile fire, he skillfully administered first aid to his comrade and, as another mounting barrage of enemy fire shattered the immediate area, unhesitatingly shielded the wounded man with his body. Mortally wounded by flying shrapnel while carrying out this heroic action, HC Kilmer, by his great personal valor and gallant spirit of self-sacirfice in saving the life of a comrade, served to inspire all who observed him. His unyielding devotion to duty in the face of heavy odds reflects the highest credit upon himself and enhances the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for another.