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This Day in History: Robert McTureous's bravery at Okinawa

On this day in 1946, a United States Marine receives the Medal of Honor. Robert “Bobby” McTureous’s parents would receive the Medal on their son’s behalf.

Bobby almost didn’t make it into the Marines. When he first tried, he was denied because he was underweight and had a hernia. “He seemed disturbed in that he wasn’t in any branch of the service, unable to do his share,” Bobby’s high school friend later said of that time.

Bobby worked long hours as a night watchman, saving money for a hernia operation. Would you believe that another hernia was found, and he had to go through this process twice? He was finally pronounced fit for service, and he joined the Marines in 1944.

Private McTureous’s first active combat occurred during the bloody battle of Okinawa. He’d been there for just a few weeks when the Japanese began retreating towards the Oroku Peninsula. The 6th Marines were in hot pursuit. By June 7, they had captured an important hill, but McTureous soon noticed that something was amiss.

Company stretcher bearers were attempting to evacuate the wounded from the rear of the newly won position, but they’d come under attack. McTureous’s Medal citation would later note the “slashing machine-gun fire” that was complicating the medics’ attempts to save wounded Marines.

McTureous leapt into action, grabbing handfuls of grenades and shoving them in his pockets. He could see where the enemy fire was coming from: some nearby caves. He turned and charged “Coolly disregarding all personal danger as he waged his furious one-man assault,” McTureous’s Medal citation describes, “he smashed grenades into the cave entrances, thereby diverting the heaviest fire from the stretcher bearers to his own person.”

The young private did this not once, but twice. He survived the first charge relatively unscathed. He was not so lucky the second time.

He’d been seriously injured. He knew it, but he would not put any more medics in danger. Rather than call for help, he crawled 200 yards to shelter within friendly lines.

McTureous has been credited with taking out six of the enemy, silencing “a large number” of the enemy guns, and throwing the enemy into disarray. He made it as far as a hospital ship before passing away on June 11.

His parents would receive his Medal just over a year later.

His community and home state of Florida are immensely proud of their native son. A highway has been named in his honor, as has a park. His childhood home has been turned into a small history museum. McTureous’s heroism has so inspired the next generation that a local Boy Scout raised money to have a proper memorial built for the war hero.

His family remains humble—and proud. “Bobby would have been amazed at all this,” his brother concluded.

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