Charles Howard Roan was born on August 26, 1923 in Claude, Texas. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in December 1942. After his training as a Marine rifleman, he joined the active Marine Corps’ 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and the 1st Marine Division. Like Arthur J. Jackson, Roan’s first combat experience was during the Battle of Cape Gloucester.
After their withdrawal from Cape Gloucester during April 1944, the 1st Marine Division prepared for the invasion of Peleliu. That operation began on September 15, 1944. On the third day of the battle, seventy years ago today, Roan had already been wounded by one Japanese grenade explosion when a second deadly explosive landed amongst himself and four fellow Marines. Without hesitation, Roan did the only thing he could do to save the lives of his comrades and laid his own life down for them. His sacrifice was later posthumously recognized with the Medal of Honor.
*ROAN, CHARLES HOWARD
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands, 18 September 1944. Shortly after his leader ordered a withdrawal upon discovering that the squad was partly cut off from their company as a result of the rapid advance along an exposed ridge during an aggressive attack on the strongly entrenched enemy, Pfc. Roan and his companions were suddenly engaged in a furious exchange of handgrenades by Japanese forces emplaced in a cave on higher ground and to the rear of the squad. Seeking protection with 4 other marines in a depression in the rocky, broken terrain, Pfc. Roan was wounded by an enemy grenade which fell close to their position and, immediately realizing the eminent peril to his comrades when another grenade landed in the midst of the group, unhesitatingly flung himself upon it, covering it with his body and absorbing the full impact of the explosion. By his prompt action and selfless conduct in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of 4 men. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.
Roan is listed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. It is likely that he was buried at sea off Peleliu. A cenotaph was also placed in his memory in the Claude Cemetery, Claude, Texas. The USS Charles H. Roan (DD-853), a Gearing-class destroyer, carried the young Marine’s name for 27 years between 1946 and 1973.