With an act of almost unbelievable courage, Arthur J. Jackson took out 12 bunkers and killed almost 50 soldiers in a single savage battle for the South Pacific island of Peleliu in 1945, earning him the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.
But it stayed in his hands for only a couple weeks. Jackson was in New York to be saluted at a gala event along with several other World Word II Medal of Honor winners and left it on his bed when he went out for the evening. It was the last time he saw it.
“I had left my —damned medal in its box on the bed in the room,” he told Fox News. “And I knew when I got back …. It’s the first thing I looked for – and it was gone.”
During the savage battle for Peleliu in the South Pacific, his 7th Marines were pinned by withering Japanese fire from dug-in fortifications. That’s when the 19-year-old Jackson drew on an almost superhuman courage and determination.
“When my platoon leader came along,” Jackson told Fox News, “he asked me…Jackson – do you think you can get into that —damned shallow trench that runs across the front of that big bunker? If you can, you could probably do some bad things.”
Dodging a hail of enemy fire and snipers in the surrounding coconut trees, Jackson made for the trench. He and a squad member had rigged a pack with 45 pounds of C2 plastic explosive. Jackson threw a phosphorous grenade into the bunker, then pushed the pack through the aperture and lit the fuse.
“And it just sizzled. And I knew I had about 30 seconds to get the hell out of the area,” he told Fox News.
Jackson spotted a nearby crater from a 500-pound bomb and ran to it like it was the last thing he’d ever do. It almost was.
“Just as I dove in there, the roof of that big bunker — whoooooom..! Up it went…coconut logs, boulders, earth.. I thought – I’ve been done in by my own stupidity.”
That would have been enough for most warriors. But Jackson kept going. By the time it was all over, he had taken out 12 bunkers and killed 50 enemy troops.
Almost singlehandedly, Jackson had secured the southern tip of Peleliu for the Marines.
A year later, at the White House, President Truman slipped the Medal of Honor around Jackson’s neck.
“Well, old Truman is a good old boy,” Jackson said, “and he says “I’m proud of you.” He says “you have a fantastic citation.” And he said,“I appreciate everything you did, and so do the American people.”
Jackson now is one of just 10 living World War II Medal of Honor recipients. He told Fox News he doesn’t think he has many years left. He would just like to hold his medal again before he, like so many other heroes of the ‘greatest generation,’ passes.
The FBI is simply hoping that someone out there will do the right thing.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society has agreed to receive and return Jackson’s medal. They are willing to accept it anonymously, or give credit to whoever chooses to return it.