PRIVATE FIRST CLASS
DONALD JACK RUHL, USMCR (DECEASED)
Medal of Honor Citation
Private First Class Donald J. Ruhl's company commander said of him, "Don was a fine, courageous young man and a good Marine." A higher tribute is seldom paid a Marine, but the United States Government, through the President of the United States, added to the Marine captain's heartfelt praise by presenting its highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, to the late PFC Ruhl.
Donald Jack Ruhl was born in Columbus, Montana, on 2 July 1923. Educated in the grammar schools of Columbus, he graduated from high school in Joliet, Montana, in 1942.
From 1937 to about May 1942, the blue-eyed, brown-haired youth worked as a general farm hand on a 400-acre farm in Joilet. His wages were $15 a week, room and board and, as the farm had no mechanical labor, he worked hard for his pay. In the spring of 1942, shortly before his graduation, he went to work for the Independent Refining Company of Laurel as a laboratory assistant for $32 a week. His only relaxation was found in hunting small game with his 12-gauge shotgun.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 12 September 1942 in Butte, Montana, and went on active duty the same day. He was transferred to the recruit depot at San Diego, California, and during his training fired a score of 224 with the service rifle to qualify as a sharpshooter. Pvt Ruhl also made the grade as a "combat swimmer". For sports activities the five feet, eleven, 147-pound farmer boxed in the recruit matches and also participated in baseball, basketball, and swimming.
Upon the completion of boot camp in November, Pvt Ruhl was transferred to Company B, Parachute Training School, San Diego. Promoted to private first class on 19 December 1942, at the conclusion of the five-week course, the qualified parachutist joined Company C, 3d Parachute Battalion of the 3d Marine Division at Camp Elliott, San Diego.
Private First Class Ruhl went overseas on board the USS Mount Vernon on 12 March 1943 as a 60-millimeter mortar crewman. Enroute to New Caledonia, which was to be a training base for the Parachute Marines, the Montanan crossed the equator on 17 March and was duly initiated into the realm of King Neptune.
After six months of training at New Caledonia, his unit sailed for Guadalcanal on board the USS American Legion in September 1943. In October, the unit which was now Company L, 3d Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, I Marine Amphibious Corps, boarded ship and moved on to the newly-won Vella LaVella Island in the Southern Solomons. About two and one half months later, PFC Ruhl was again aboard ship. This time it was an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry), and the destination was Bougainville Island.
The 3d Parachute Battalion saw its first combat there at Bougainville and then in January returned to Guadalcanal from whence they sailed for the United States aboard the U.S. Army Transport David C. Shanks. Arriving in San Diego on 14 February PFC Ruhl was transferred to Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines of the fledgling 5th Marine Division when the Parachute units were disbanded on 21 February 1944.
Private First Class Ruhl left the United States once more on 19 September 1944, aboard the U.S. Army Transport Sea Corporal. It arrived at Hilo, Hawaii, five days later. He started on his last series of ship rides when he left Hilo on the USS Missoula in January 1945. After stops at Honolulu, Maui, and Eniwetok, he arrived at Saipan in February. There he changed over to the USS LST 481. That ship carried the Marines to the shores of Iwo Jima.
D-Day at Iwo was 19 February 1945. On that day PFC Ruhl single-handedly attacked a group of eight Japanese who had been driven from a blockhouse. Killing one with his bayonet, he killed another with rifle fire before the rest fled. Early the next morning he left the safety of his tank trap and moved out under a tremendous volume of mortar and machine gun fire to rescue a wounded Marine lying in an exposed position about forty yards forward of the front lines.
Half carrying and half pulling the wounded man, PFC Ruhl removed him to a position out of reach of enemy rifles. Calling for an assistant and a stretcher, he again braved the heavy fire to carry the casualty 300 yards back to an aid station on the beach. Returning to his outfit, he volunteered to investigate an apparently abandoned Japanese gun emplacement seventy-five yards forward of the right flank. Subsequently, he occupied the position through the night thus preventing the enemy from again taking possession of the valuable weapon.
The next morning, D-plus two, Company E, 2d Battalion, 28th Marines pushed forward in the assault against the vast network of fortifications surrounding the base of Mt. Suribachi. During the advance, PFC Ruhl with his platoon guide, crawled 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. Calling a warning to his senior noncommissioned officer, PFC Ruhl instantly dived upon the deadly missile and absorbed the full charge of the exploding grenade into his own body. His action not only saved his companion but also prevented the grenade fragments from flying and wounding other nearby Marines. His position on the edge of the bunker would have made it an easy matter for him to drop down into a more protected spot had he so desired.
Two days later Company E raised the American flag on the top of Mount Surbachi. The heroic actions and the death of PFC Ruhl were directly responsible for the placing of Old Glory on Mt. Suribachi by his comrades.
The Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to PFC Ruhl and presented to his parents on 12 January 1947 at Greybull, Wyoming, where they made their home. The ceremonies were conducted by the veteran's organization of Greybull.
Private First Class Ruhl was initially buried in the 5th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima, but was later reinterred in Hillside Cemetery in Greybull, Wyoming.
World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor