Medal of Honor Recipients
Major Henry A. Courtney Jr.
2d Battlion, 22nd Marines
14-15 May 1945
Major Courtney, the Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, was on Okinawa 14 and 15 May 1945. After leading his command in a prolonged fire fight, he was ordered to hold for the night in static defense behind Sugar Loaf Hill. Major Courtney weighed the effect of a hostile night counterattack against the tactical value of an immediate marine assault. Deciding in favor of initiating the assault, he sought and gained permission to advance and seize the forward slope of the hill.
After instructing his small remaining force, Major Courtney led the way forward, blasting nearby cave positions and neutralizing enemy guns as he went. Inspired by his courage, his men followed, braving concentrated Japanese gunfire to skirt the hill on the right and reach the reverse slope. Temporarily halting, Major Courtney sent guides to the rear for more ammunition and possible replacements. Subsequently reinforced by 26 men and an LVT load of grenades, he determined to storm the crest of the hill and crush any planned counterattack. Leading his men by example, he pushed ahead hurling grenades into cave openings on the slope with devastating effect. Upon reaching the crest, he observed large numbers of Japanese forming for action less than 100 yards away. Major Courtney immediately attacked and succeeded in killing many of the enemy while forcing the rest to take cover in the caves. Determined to hold, he ordered his men to dig in. Disregarding flying enemy shrapnel, he rallied his weary troops, assigned his men to more advantageous positions, and aided casualties. In so doing, Major Courtney was killed by a hostile mortar burst. Through his leadership, military acumen, and decisive action in the face of overwhelming odds, he contributed significantly to the success of the Okinawa campaign. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
On 30 December 1947, General Alexander A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the Medal of Honor to Major Courtney’s parents.
Henry A. Courtney was born on 6 January 1916 in Duluth, Minnesota. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Loyola University in Chicago. In 1940 he was admitted to the bar in Minnesota and Illinois, shortly after joining his father’s law firm. Courtney was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserves in February 1940. A month later he was placed in command of the Duluth unit of the Marine Corps Reserve which was mobilized and sent to San Diego for training. He participated in the first US offensive of World War II when he commanded a company of the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal. His next and last combat action was Okinawa.
In 1948, Major Courtney’s remains were moved from the Sixth Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa and reinterred in Calvary Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota.
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