Joseph Rodolph Julian MOH

b. 03/04/1918 Sturbridge, Massachusetts. d. 09/03/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 09/03/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

Joseph R Julian MOH

Julian enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve shortly after high school in January 1942, just as the U.S. was ramping up its war effort. After boot camp, he became a drill instructor until his unit, the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, was officially activated in January 1944.

The 5th Marines first saw action during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The U.S. wanted to overtake the island so Allied bombers could be in reach of the Japanese mainland. During the five weeks of fighting that ensued, it became one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater.

On March 9, 1945, the battle had been in full swing for nearly three weeks. Julian was a platoon sergeant — the equivalent of a modern-day staff sergeant — in charge of advancing his unit on the island. They’d been fighting Japanese forces who were defending the island via 11 miles of tunnels and underground rooms.

As Julian’s platoon moved forward that day, Japanese troops in trenches and cave-like pillboxes blasted them with machine gun and mortar fire. Thinking quickly, Julian had his platoon get into strategic positions to fire back. He then went ahead alone and hurled grenades and other explosives into the nearest pillbox, killing two Japanese soldiers and driving five more into an adjoining trench.

Julian grabbed a discarded rifle, jumped into the trench and killed them all. He wasn’t done, though. Julian got more explosives and, with another Marine’s help, charged the enemy’s fortifications. They were able to knock out two more positions. Julian then single-handedly launched a bazooka attack, firing four rounds into the one remaining pillbox where the Japanese were firing on American troops. He managed to destroy it, but he was hit by enemy fire in the process and died where he fell.

Julian, 26, had refused to quit during a critical phase of the battle. Even though he lost his life, his driving spirit made a huge impact on his company’s ability to advance into Japanese territory — enough to eventually take over the island.

For his actions, Julian earned the Medal of Honor posthumously. Navy Sec. James Forrestal presented the medal to the Marine’s mother at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on November 16, 1945. Julian’s remains were returned to the U.S. after the war. He was buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a P/Sgt. Serving with the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 9 March 1945. Determined to force a breakthrough when Japanese troops occupying trenches and fortified positions on the left front laid down a terrific machine-gun and mortar barrage in a desperate effort to halt his company’s advance, P/Sgt. Julian quickly established his platoon’s guns in strategic supporting positions, and then, acting on his own initiative, fearlessly moved forward to execute a one-man assault on the nearest pillbox. Advancing alone, he hurled deadly demolitions and white phosphorus grenades into the emplacement, killing two of the enemy and driving the remaining five out into the adjoining trench system. Seizing a discarded rifle, he jumped into the trench and dispatched the five before they could make an escape. Intent on wiping out all resistance, he obtained more explosives and, accompanied by another marine, again charged the hostile fortifications and knocked out two more cave positions. Immediately thereafter, he launched a bazooka attack unassisted, firing four rounds into the one remaining pillbox and completely destroying it before he fell, mortally wounded by a vicious burst of enemy fire. Stouthearted and indomitable, P/Sgt. Julian consistently disregarded all personal danger and, by his bold decision, daring tactics, and relentless fighting spirit during a critical phase of the battle, contributed materially to the continued advance of his company and to the success of his division’s operations in the sustained drive toward the conquest of this fiercely defended outpost of the Japanese Empire. His outstanding valor and unfaltering spirit of self-sacrifice throughout the bitter conflict sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.