John Vincent Power, “Jack” to family and friends, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on November 20, 1918. He spent his entire childhood there, and stayed in his hometown to study at the College of the Holy Cross, from which he graduated with the class of 1941. With the United States’ entry into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he answered America’s call in July of 1942 with his volunteer enlistment in the United States Marine Corps Reserve.
Power was sent to Officer Candidates’ School and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant on October 31, 1942. He was assigned in January 1943 to Company E of the 3rd Separate Battalion which, after transfer to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, was redesignated as Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment as the Marine Corps swelled for combat across the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean. Power was promoted to First Lieutenant in August 1943.
The 24th Marines sailed from California in January 1944 as part of the 4th Marine Division for the assault on Kwajalein Atoll.
The 24th Marines were designated as the assault force for the Namur side of the Roi-Namur islands at Kwajalein. They stormed ashore on February 1, 1944 and began reducing the Japanese beach defenses to rubble and annihilating the defenders.
First Lieutenant Power, commanding one of Company K’s rifle platoons, was shot in the stomach while leading his Marines forward against a Japanese strongpoint. Unwilling to give up his own attack to receive care and leave his Marines leaderless, he pressed forward until he was struck down by a second wound to his stomach and a bullet to the head while reloading his weapon.
Lieutenant Power’s courageous charge rallied his Marines and saw him posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):
*POWER, JOHN VINCENT
Rank and organization. First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as platoon leader, attached to the 4th Marine Division, during the landing and battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, 1 February 1944. Severely wounded in the stomach while setting a demolition charge on a Japanese pillbox, 1st Lt. Power was steadfast in his determination to remain in action. Protecting his wound with his left hand and firing with his right, he courageously advanced as another hostile position was taken under attack, fiercely charging the opening made by the explosion and emptying his carbine into the pillbox. While attempting to reload and continue the attack, 1st Lt. Power was shot again in the stomach and head and collapsed in the doorway. His exceptional valor, fortitude and indomitable fighting spirit in the face of withering enemy fire were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Jack Power was initially buried in the 4th Marine Division Cemetery on Roi-Namur. At war’s end, his remains were repatriated to the United States and reburied in the Saint John’s Cemetery in Worcester. Power’s Medal was presented to his mother at the White House by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in November 1944; the Medal was later given to the College of the Holy Cross by his sisters.
While Lieutenant Power led his charge on Namur, PFC Richard B. Anderson saved three of his comrades on Roi from a dropped live grenade. On the other side of the world, Army PFC Alton W. Knappenberger held off a Nazi counter-attack with deadly accurate fires.
The Gearing-class destroyer USS Power (DD-839), named for the brave lieutenant of Roi-Namur, Kwajalein, served with the United States Navy from September 1945 to September 1977. The ship was later sold to the Taiwanese Navy and served with them until November 2005.
The entire 24th Marine Regiment was disbanded in 2013 and its battalions reallocated to other components of the present 4th Marine Division in the Marine Forces Reserve.