William David Halyburton, Jr.

Posted on Sep 15, 2015

Halyburton_WDThe United States Marine Corps is one of the big four independent services in the US armed forces; Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army. However, the Marine Corps is a Department of the Navy. The Navy provides the Marine Corps with religious and medical needs. In other words, the Marine Corps has no Chaplins or Doctors.

William David Halyburton, Jr., (October 2, 1924 – May 10, 1945) was a United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. He earned the medal while serving as a hospital corpsman attached to a U.S. Marine Corps unit in the Battle of Okinawa.

Born on August 2, 1924, in Canton , North Carolina, Halyburton moved to Wilmington , North Carolina . He entered seminary at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, but left to enlist in the U.S. Naval Reserve in August 1943. Receiving additional training, he was promoted to pharmacist’s mate second class and departed for the Pacific war zone in December 1944 aboard the transport USS General M. M. Patrick. Arriving in the area, he joined the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

On May 10, 1945, Halyburton first combat action was against the Japanese on Okinawa when they suffered numerous casualties after advancing into Awacha Draw. Exposed to enemy fire, he rushed to aid a fallen Marine the furthest away. Shielding the man with his own body while administering aid, Halyburton was mortally wounded. For this action, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was one of two people from Haywood County, North Carolina, to receive the medal in World War II, the other being Max Thompson.

A number of military structures have been named for him, including the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and a barracks at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.

A public park in Wilmington is named for him, and in his birth city of Canton , Halliburton Street was re-spelled Halyburton Street in his honor.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with a Marine Rifle Company in the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 10 May 1945. Undaunted by the deadly accuracy of Japanese counter fire as his unit pushed the attack through a strategically important draw, Halyburton unhesitatingly dashed across the draw and up the hill into an open fire-swept field where the company advance squad was suddenly pinned down under a terrific concentration of mortar, machinegun and sniper fire with resultant severe casualties. Moving steadily forward despite the enemy’s merciless barrage, he reached the wounded marine who lay farthest away and was rendering first aid when his patient was struck for the second time by a Japanese bullet. Instantly placing himself in the direct line of fire, he shielded the fallen fighter with his own body and staunchly continued his ministrations although constantly menaced by the slashing fury of shrapnel and bullets falling on all sides. Alert, determined and completely unselfish in his concern for the helpless marine, he persevered in his efforts until he himself sustained mortal wounds and collapsed, heroically sacrificing himself that his comrade might live. By his outstanding valor and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of tremendous odds, Halyburton sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.