Elbert L. Kinser

Posted on Nov 1, 2015

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser

Sergeant Elbert Luther Kinser (October 21, 1922 – May 4, 1945) was a United States Marine who sacrificed his life at the Battle of Okinawa during World War II. He threw himself on a grenade, absorbing the explosion with his body and protecting his men, for which received the Medal of Honor. It was presented to his parents on July 4, 1946 in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Early years

Elbert Kinser was born in Greeneville, Tennessee on October 21, 1922. He worked on his father’s farm prior to joining the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps service

Kinser enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December, 1942, and received his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.

He sailed from the United States in March, 1943, and joined the 7th Replacement Battalion in Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa. Later, that battalion joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia, and Sgt Kinser was assigned to Company I, 1st Marines.

Action with the 1st Marines followed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain in Operation Cartwheel, and later at Battle of Peleliu in Peleliu, Palau Islands.

On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Sgt Kinser landed with his unit on the Japanese island Okinawa. There Sergeant Kinser, acting as a leader of a rifle platoon, served with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, and was subsequently killed in action on May 4, 1945. During a hand grenade battle, a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity. Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. This won him the nation’s highest military decoration.

Sergeant Kinser was buried in the 1st Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa and his remains were returned to the United States in early 1949 for burial. His final resting place is the Solomon Lutheran Cemetery in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Decorations

The Medal of Honor was presented to Sgt Kinser’s parents by Maj Gen Clifton B. Cates (future Commandant of the Marine Corps) on July 4, 1946 in Greeneville, Tennessee. In addition, Sgt Kinser was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart; Presidential Unit Citation; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to SERGEANT ELBERT L. KINSER UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE for service as set forth in the following citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while acting as Leader of a Rifle Platoon, serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division, in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, May 4, 1945. Taken under sudden, close attack by hostile troops entrenched on the reverse slope while moving up a strategic ridge along which his platoon was holding newly won positions, Sergeant Kinser engaged the enemy in a fierce hand grenade battle. Quick to act when a Japanese grenade landed in the immediate vicinity, Sergeant Kinser unhesitatingly threw himself on the deadly missile, absorbing the full charge of the shattering explosion in his own body and thereby protecting his men from serious injury and possible death. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had yielded his own chance of survival that his comrades might live to carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His courage, cool decision, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

HARRY S. TRUMAN

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser Memorial

Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser Memorial

Memorials

In Kinser’s home county of Greene County, Tennessee several things are named in his honor. Downtown Greeneville, Tennessee has a historical marker about Kinser, south of Greeneville is Kinser Park and in the city of Tusculum a bridge over the Nolichucky River on Tennessee State Route 107 is named in his honor. Camp Kinser, a Marine Corps installation at Urasoe on Okinawa Island was named after him.