Meagher was an infantryman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division. The 77th, known as the “Statue of Liberty Division” for their shoulder patch, was activated just four days after Meagher’s draft date and trained extensively in the United States before heading for war in the Pacific in March, 1944. They fought in the campaigns on Guam and Leyte before joining the forces for the attack on Okinawa.
Seventy years ago today during the Battle of Okinawa, then 19-year-old Lester, now a Hospitalman Apprentice 1st Class, rescued one wounded Marine from under heavy enemy fire, ignored his own grievous wounds, and instructed his comrades in care for the injured until he perished.
Rank and organization: Hospital Apprentice First Class, U.S. Navy
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Medical Corpsman with an Assault Rifle Platoon, attached to the 1st Battalion, 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 8 June 1945. Quick to spot a wounded marine Iying in an open field beyond the front lines following the relentless assault against a strategic Japanese hill position, Lester unhesitatingly crawled toward the casualty under a concentrated barrage from hostile machineguns, rifles, and grenades. Torn by enemy rifle bullets as he inched forward, he stoically disregarded the mounting fury of Japanese fire and his own pain to pull the wounded man toward a covered position. Struck by enemy fire a second time before he reached cover, he exerted tremendous effort and succeeded in pulling his comrade to safety where, too seriously wounded himself to administer aid, he instructed 2 of his squad in proper medical treatment of the rescued marine. Realizing that his own wounds were fatal, he staunchly refused medical attention for himself and, gathering his fast-waning strength with calm determination, coolly and expertly directed his men in the treatment of 2 other wounded marines, succumbing shortly thereafter. Completely selfless in his concern for the welfare of his fighting comrades, Lester, by his indomitable spirit, outstanding valor, and competent direction of others, had saved the life of 1 who otherwise must have perished and had contributed to the safety of countless others. Lester’s fortitude in the face of certain death sustains and enhances the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
As is usual for members of the Naval Service awarded the Medal of Honor, a warship carried the young hero’s name. The USS Lester (DE-1022), a Dealey-class destroyer escort, served with our Navy from June 14, 1957 through December 14, 1973. The vessel was scrapped in 1974.