On this day in 1924, an American hero and a future U.S. Marine is born. Louis J. Hauge, Jr. would give his life in the Battle of Okinawa when he was only 20 years old. His gallant actions on that day would be posthumously recognized with a Medal of Honor.
The Battle of Okinawa was the last and the biggest of the Pacific island battles during World War II. It lasted for close to three months! Americans ultimately won, but the cost was extraordinarily high.
During the course of those months, we lost 12,520 men (killed or missing). More than 36,000 were wounded. We lost 36 ships and 763 aircraft. The Japanese army suffered even worse losses. Both the American commanding general and the Japanese general died during the course of the battle.
One of the killed on the American side was Hauge. On May 14, 1945, he was the leader of a machine gun squad as it assaulted a heavily fortified Japanese hill. Toward the end of the day, one flank of his unit found itself pinned down by heavy fire.
Hauge located the two Japanese guns that were causing the problem. He decided to act.
Hauge rushed out into the open, throwing hand grenades at the Japanese guns as he went. He had to have known that he was unlikely to survive the experience? Indeed, he was already severely wounded by the time he took out the first gun—but he kept going. The wounded Corporal managed to hurl some well-aimed grenades at the second gun, destroying it before a final lethal shot was levied at him by a Japanese sniper.
His Medal of Honor citation notes that because of Hauge’s “heroic 1-man assault tactics” he “eliminated 2 strategically placed enemy weapons, thereby releasing the besieged troops from an overwhelming volume of hostile fire and enabling his company to advance.” His Medal was awarded in recognition of his “indomitable fighting spirit and decisive valor in the face of almost certain death.”
Unfortunately, it turned out to be more than “almost certain death.”
Hauge was a young man with his whole life in front of him. Yet, as so many others have done, he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Sadly, his sacrifice came mere months before the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war to an end.
He was so close to surviving the war. And yet he didn’t quite make it.