A Memorial Day Tribute To One of Montana’s Greatest War Heroes
Monday, our nation will remember the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. And while all who have served displayed courage and valor, some extraordinary men went above and beyond the call of duty.
Here's the story of one of Montana's greatest war heroes. Donald Jack Ruhl was a United States Marine from Columbus, Montana, who served on the front lines in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
On February 20, 1945, the day after fighting off 8 Japanese attackers, he volunteered to rescue a wounded comrade. Without the benefit of cover, he carried the man 300 yards under heavy enemy fire.
The next morning, as the Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines continued their assault, he crawled to the top of a Japanese bunker. When a grenade fell between himself and another Marine, Ruhl heroically jumped on the grenade, sparing the life of his fellow soldier and sacrificing his own in the process. Two days later, Company E captured Iwo Jima.
In 1947, Ruhl was awarded with the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation, written by President Harry Truman speaks to his incredible courage and bravery.
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Rifleman in an Assault Platoon of Company E, Twenty-eight Marines, Fifth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese Forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, from 19 to February 21, 1945. Quick to press the advantage after eight Japanese had been driven from a blockhouse on D-Day, Private First Class Ruhl singlehandedly attacked the group, killing one of the enemy with his bayonet and another by rifle fire in his determined attempt to annihilate the escaping troops. Cool and undaunted as the fury of hostile resistance steadily increased throughout the night, he voluntarily left the shelter of his tank trap early in the morning of D-Day plus 1 and moved out under tremendous volume of mortar and machine-gun fire to rescue a wounded Marine lying in an exposed position approximately forty yards forward of the line. Half pulling and half carrying the wounded man, he removed him to a defoliated position, called for an assistant and a stretcher and, again running the gauntlet of hostile fire, carried the casualty to an Aid Station some three hundred yards distant on the beach. Returning to his platoon, he continued his valiant efforts, volunteering to investigate an apparently abandoned Japanese gun emplacement seventy-five yards forward of the flank during consolidation of the front lines, and subsequently occupying the position through the night to prevent the enemy form repossessing the valuable weapon. Pushing forward in the assault against the vast network of fortifications surrounding Mt. Suribachi the following morning, he crawled with his platoon guide to the top of a Japanese bunker to bring fire to bear on enemy troops located on the far side of the bunker, suddenly a hostile grenade landed between the two Marines. Instantly Private First Class Ruhl called a warning to his fellow Marine and dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the full impact of the shattering explosion in his own body and protecting all within range from the danger of flying fragments although he might easily have dropped from his position on the edge of the bunker to the ground below. An indomitable fighter, Private First Class Ruhl rendered heroic service toward to defeat of a ruthless enemy, and his valor, initiative and unfaltering spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."
When you fire up the grill this weekend, remember to raise your glass to this heroic Montana native who laid down his life for our great country.