LTJG Rufus G. Herring, USNR (February 17, 1945)

Rufus Geddie Herring was born in Roseboro, North Carolina on June 11, 1921. After graduating from Davidson College in the spring of 1942, he enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve, was sent to the Midshipman’s School in New York, and commissioned as an Ensign in December, 1942.

Herring was sent to the Pacific and served in the United States Navy‘s amphibious warfare vessels. In August of 1943, he was given command of the landing craft infantry LCI(L)-449. In March 1944 he was promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade and later took part in the invasions of Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam.

On February 17, 1945 in preparation for the assault on Iwo Jima, Herring brought his now-equipped as a gunboat LCI(G)-449 close in shore in support of underwater demolition teams who were clearing the way for the Marines who would land in just two days. After LCI(G)-449 received heavy enemy fire from the Japanese defenders ashore, killing most of the officers and severely wounding Herring, he remained in command and kept his ship in the fight. He was later decorated with the Medal of Honor for his courage.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (G-L):

Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Medal of Honor ribbon (foreground); World War II Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon (background)
Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve, LCI (G) 449
Place and date: Iwo Jima, 17 February 1945. Entered service at: North Carolina

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of LCI (G) 449 operating as a unit of LCI (G) Group 8, during the preinvasion attack on Iwo Jima on 17 February 1945. Boldly closing the strongly fortified shores under the devastating fire of Japanese coastal defense guns, Lt. (then Lt. (j.g.)) Herring directed shattering barrages of 40mm. and 20mm. gunfire against hostile beaches until struck down by the enemy’s savage counterfire which blasted the 449’s heavy guns and whipped her decks into sheets of flame. Regaining consciousness despite profuse bleeding he was again critically wounded when a Japanese mortar crashed the conning station, instantly killing or fatally wounding most of the officers and leaving the ship wallowing without navigational control. Upon recovering the second time, Lt. Herring resolutely climbed down to the pilothouse and, fighting against his rapidly waning strength, took over the helm, established communication with the engineroom, and carried on valiantly until relief could be obtained. When no longer able to stand, he propped himself against empty shell cases and rallied his men to the aid of the wounded; he maintained position in the firing line with his 20mm. guns in action in the face of sustained enemy fire, and conned his crippled ship to safety. His unwavering fortitude, aggressive perseverance, and indomitable spirit against terrific odds reflect the highest credit upon Lt. Herring and uphold the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Herring was later promoted (as the citation indicates) to Lieutenant. He left the Navy in 1947 and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on the retired list as a further recognition of his wartime heroism and service. He returned to Roseboro and was a businessman in civilian life. Herring passed away there at age 74 on January 31, 1996 and rests in peace in the town’s cemetery.

As yet, the Navy has not honored this hero of Iwo Jima with a namesake warship. But remember, we are getting a USS Gabrielle Giffords. Yes, really.


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