Justice Marion Chambers

Posted on Aug 1, 2016

Justice M ChambersColonel Justice Marion Chambers, who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Iwo Jima campaign, was born 2 February 1908 in Huntington, West Virginia. He went to school there and completed three years at Marshall College in Huntington. He attended George Washington University for two years and National University, both in Washington, D.C., where he obtained his law degree.

Following the completion of two years enlistment in the naval reserve in 1930, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve as a private. He was commissioned in 1932 and continued his studies toward promotion. He was a major, attending summer camp, when Washington’s 5th Battalion was called up in 1940. He was well known for the enthusiasm and energy with which he trained his men.

Lieutenant Colonel Chambers received the Silver Star Medal for evacuating the wounded and directing the night defense of a battalion aid station on Tulagi, where he himself was a patient already seriously wounded. He commanded the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines in the Roi-Namur campaign. On Saipan he suffered blast concussion, but returned to lead his command there and on Tinian. He was known in the Third Assualt Battalion as “Jumpin Joe”. He had trained his command so thoroughly and his leadership was so conspicuous that he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V.”

Lieutenant Colonel Chambers commanded the 3d Battalion, 25th Marines in the Iwo Jima landing on 19 February 1945. His sector was beneath high ground from which heavy enemy fire raked the whole landing beach. “Capture of the high ground,” the Medal of Honor recommendation stated, “…was essential to the success of the D-Day operations. It is an established fact that had it not been done, it would have constituted a most serious threat to the subsequent operations of the 5th Amphibious Corps.”

The 3d Battalion lost more than half its officers and nearly one-half its enlisted strength on D-Day. But by “fearless disregard for his own life” and leading his depleted battalion “by example rather than command,” Lt Col Chambers won the key heights and anchored the right flank of the Marines’ position.

On the fourth day, directing the Marines’ first rocket barrage and exposed to the enemy’s main line of resistance, Lt Col Chambers fell under enemy machine-gun fire. His wounds were so serious that he was medically retired and, because he had been specially commended for performance of duty in combat, he was promoted to colonel.

Presentation of the Medal of Honor was made at the White House by President Harry S. Truman on 1 November 1950. Col Chambers had been recommended for the award on 7 April 1945 following his evacuation, seriously wounded, from Iwo Jima. He had initially received the Navy Cross for his actions, but upon re-examination of the original recommendation with additional evidence, his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor a few years later.

Colonel Chambers retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve 1 January 1946. After leaving the Marine Corps in 1946, he made his home in Rockville, Maryland. During his post-war career he served as assistant chairman of the Federal Personnel Council, staff advisor to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and deputy director of the Office of Emergency Planning. Later he was president of his own consulting firm. His widow, Mrs. Barbara Chambers Skinner, said that he valued most the following:

  • His service in the United States Marine Corps and the ties with all the men with whom he served
  • His family
  • The Washington Redskins

The Marine Corps Reserve Center in Cleveland, Ohio, is named in his honor. He passed away on 29 July 1982, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (6-5813-A-9), Arlington, Virginia.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Silver Star Medal and Legion of Merit with Combat “V,” Col Chambers’ decorations and medals include the Purple Heart Medal with two gold stars, Presidential Unit Citation with three bronze stars, Organized Marine Corps Reserve Medal with two stars, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star (denoting five campaigns), and the World War II Victory Medal.

Citation

Colonel Justice M. Chambers
United States Marine Corps Reserve

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the Third Assault Battalion Landing Team, Twenty-Fifth Marines, Fourth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands from 19 to 22 February 1945. Under a furious barrage of enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire from the commanding cliffs on the right, Colonel Chambers, then Lieutenant Colonel, landed immediately after the initial assault waves of his Battalion on D-Day to find the momentum of the assault threatened by heavy casualties from withering Japanese artillery, mortar, rocket, machine-gun and rifle fire. Exposed to relentless hostile fire, he coolly reorganized his battle-weary men, inspiring them to heroic efforts by his own valor and leading them in an attack on the critical, impregnable high ground from which the enemy was pouring an encreasing volumn of fire directly onto troops ashore as well as amphibious craft in succeeding waves. Constantly in the front lines encouraging his men to push forward against the enemy’s savage resistance, Colonel Chambers led the 8-hour battle to carry the flanking ridge top and reduce the enemy’s fields of aimed fire, thus protecting the vital foothold gained. In constant defiance of hostile fire while reconnoitering the entire Regimental Combat Team zone of action, he maintained contact with adjacent units and forwarded vital information to the Regimental Commander. His zealous fighting spirit undiminished despite terrific casualties and the loss of most of his key officers, he again reorganized his troops for renewed attack against the enemy’s main line of resistance and was directing the fire of the rocket platoon when he fell, critically wounded. Evacuated under heavy Japanese fire, Colonel Chambers, by forceful leadership, courage and fortitude in the face of staggering odds, was directly instrumental in insuring the success of subsequent operations of the Fifth Amphibious Corps on Iwo Jima, thereby sustaining and enhancing the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Harry S. Truman
President of the United States