Private Joseph W. Ozbourn, USMC (July 30, 1944)

Joseph William Ozbourn was born on October 24, 1919 in Herrin, Illinois. At the outset of World War II, he was working as a coal miner and was not subject to being drafted as that was considered a war-essential occupation. Nonetheless, he felt the call to bear arms and volunteered for the United States Marine Corps on October 30, 1943.

Less than one year later as a member of the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment he landed on Tinian in the Marianas Islands with the 4th Marine Division on July 24, 1944. Six days later as Ozbourn and his comrades were mopping up the last remaining Japanese resistance on the island, he had pulled the pin on a grenade when an explosion prevented him from throwing it against the enemy and wounded himself and four others.

Ozbourn then chose to sacrifice himself to save his four fellow Marines from the grenade that was about to detonate, and was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

*OZBOURN, JOSEPH WILLIAM

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps. 

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Browning Automatic Rifleman serving with the 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division, during the battle for enemy Japanese-held Tinian Island, Marianas Islands, 30 July 1944. As a member of a platoon assigned the mission of clearing the remaining Japanese troops from dugouts and pillboxes along a tree line, Pvt. Ozbourn, flanked by 2 men on either side, was moving forward to throw an armed handgrenade into a dugout when a terrific blast from the entrance severely wounded the 4 men and himself. Unable to throw the grenade into the dugout and with no place to hurl it without endangering the other men, Pvt. Ozbourn unhesitatingly grasped it close to his body and fell upon it, sacrificing his own life to absorb the full impact of the explosion, but saving his comrades. His great personal valor and unwavering loyalty reflect the highest credit upon Pvt. Ozbourn and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Ozbourn was initially buried in the Marines’ cemetery on Tinian. After war’s end, his remains were transported to and reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Gearing-class destroyer USS Ozbourn (DD-846), named by the United States Navy in honor of their fallen Marine comrade, served our nation from 1946 to 1975, after which she was scrapped.

1st Battalion 23rd Marines is a present unit of the Marine Forces Reserve‘s modern 4th Marine Division. The battalion is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

 

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