Joseph William Ozbourn MOH

b. 24/10/1919 Herrin, Illinois. d. 30/07/1944 Tinian Island, Mariana Islands.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 30/07/1944 Tinian Island.

Joseph W Ozbourn MOH

Ozbourn was born on October 24, 1919, in Herrin, Illinois. He grew up there with his parents, Thomas and Eva Ozbourn, and his older brother, James, who served in the Army during World War II. According to Ozbourn’s father, who was interviewed in a 1963 South Bend Tribune article, his youngest son was well-liked by all who knew him and had quit school in the eighth grade to work at a factory. Ozbourn later worked as a coal mine trip rider for Old Ben Coal Corporation, like his father had, in nearby West Frankfurt, Illinois.

Ozbourn’s mother died in 1939. In December of that year, he married Helen Meacham, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. They had a son named Ronald.

Ozbourn enlisted in the Marine Corps on Oct. 30, 1943, right in the middle of World War II. He was assigned to the 4th Marine Division’s 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, a unit that was activated in July of 1942. By late January 1944, the unit was deployed to the South Pacific. Ozbourn’s father said it apparently happened with little warning, as his son had asked his family for funds to come home on furlough but was instead shipped overseas.

Pretty quickly, the 1st Battalion was thrown into battle at Roi-Namur, part of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. After defeating the Japanese there, the division island-hopped by May 1944 to the Mariana Islands, which were the last bastion of Japan’s Central Pacific perimeter. The Marines first took Saipan before moving onto Tinian Island. On July 30, 1944, Ozbourn was on Tinian serving as a rifleman in a five-man platoon that was tasked with clearing out the remaining enemy troops from dugouts and pillboxes along a particular treeline. As Ozbourn was about to throw a hand grenade into one of those dugouts, an explosion from its entrance knocked him and the four other men backward, injuring them all.

Ozbourn quickly realized that his grenade was armed and ready to blow at any second. However, he was unable to throw it into the dugout, and he had no place else to get rid of it that didn’t endanger the other Marines with him. Without hesitation, the 24-year-old selflessly pulled the grenade close to his body and fell upon it as it exploded. He absorbed the full impact of the blast and died where he lay. But his sacrifice saved his comrades.

The Marines succeeded in beating the enemy at Tinian, and the Allies eventually took over all of the Marianas. The win severed the Japanese’s southern supply lines and pushed their defense west of the Philippines while also opening the Japanese homeland to aerial assaults. Tinian later became the base of operations for the launch of the atomic bombs that ended the war.

Ozbourn was initially buried on Tinian, but his remains were later reinterred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. His widow, Helen, received the Medal of Honor on his behalf, though the date on which that happened is unclear. She had received it by the time she christened the destroyer named for her fallen husband in March 1946. The USS Ozbourn was commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard.



For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Browning automatic rifleman serving with the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the battle for enemy Japanese-held Tinian Island, Marianas Islands, 30 July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned the mission of clearing the remaining Japanese troops from dugouts and pillboxes along a treeline, Pvt. Ozbourn, flanked by two men on either side, was moving forward to throw an armed hand grenade into a dugout when a terrific blast from the entrance severely wounded the four men and himself. Unable to throw the grenade into the dugout and with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Pvt. Ozbourn unhesitatingly grasped it close to his body and fell upon it, sacrificing his own life to absorb the full impact of the explosion, but saving his comrades. His great personal valor and unwavering loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Pvt. Ozbourn and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.