Private First Class Luther Skaggs, Jr., USMCR (July 21-22, 1944)

Luther Skaggs, Jr. was born in Henderson, Kentucky on March 3, 1923. He volunteered for the United States Marine Corps Reserve on October 6, 1942. After his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina he was placed with the active Marine Corps in the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

3/3 Marines, as part of the 3rd Marine Division, stormed ashore during the opening phases of the Battle of Guam, the largest of the Marianas Islands, on July 21, 1944.

On that day and into the next, Skaggs, a mortar squad leader, took command of his company’s weapons section when its leader became a casualty. After a Japanese grenade detonated in his foxhole, he placed a tourniquet around his shattered leg, propped himself up, and continued to beat back the enemy with rifle fire and grenades for eight hours. His comrades didn’t even realize he had been wounded until the battle was over, so great was his fortitude and courage.

His Medal of Honor was presented to him by President Harry S. Truman at the White House on June 15, 1945.

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

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

SKAGGS, LUTHER, JR.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Asan-Adelup beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, 21-22 July 1944. Entered service at: Kentucky

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as squad leader with a mortar section of a rifle company in the 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on the Asan-Adelup beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, 21 -22 July 1944. When the section leader became a casualty under a heavy mortar barrage shortly after landing, Pfc. Skaggs promptly assumed command and led the section through intense fire for a distance of 200 yards to a position from which to deliver effective coverage of the assault on a strategic cliff. Valiantly defending this vital position against strong enemy counterattacks during the night, Pfc. Skaggs was critically wounded when a Japanese grenade lodged in his foxhole and exploded, shattering the lower part of one leg. Quick to act, he applied an improvised tourniquet and, while propped up in his foxhole, gallantly returned the enemy’s fire with his rifle and handgrenades for a period of 8 hours, later crawling unassisted to the rear to continue the fight until the Japanese had been annihilated. Uncomplaining and calm throughout this critical period, Pfc. Skaggs served as a heroic example of courage and fortitude to other wounded men and, by his courageous leadership and inspiring devotion to duty, upheld the high traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Skaggs was discharged back to civilian life as a Corporal on April 4, 1946. He passed away on April 6, 1976 and was buried with full military honors among the United States’ most honored dead in Arlington National Cemetery.

3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment is still active as a component of the 3rd Marine Division. Their home station is Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, O’ahu.

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