HomeResearchMarine Corps History DivisionInformation for UnitsMedal of Honor Recipients By UnitPvt Harold Gonsalves

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS
HAROLD GONSALVES, USMCR (DECEASED)

 

Medal of Honor Citation

Harold Gonsalves was born in Alameda, California, on 28 January 1926. He attended school at Alameda and after two and one half years of high school, quit to take a job as a stock clerk with Montgomery Ward and Company in Oakland, California. In high school he had taken part in football, baseball, track, and swimming, besides singing tenor in the school glee club.

The five-foot, nine-inch, 178-pound Californian enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 27 May 1943 and was called to active duty on 17 June. He went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, and then, at his own request, was sent to the Raiders at Camp Pendleton, California. After three weeks with them, he was transferred to the artillery at the same camp. He was classified as a cannoneer on 75 and 105 millimeter guns before he joined the 30th Replacement Battalion in the fall of 1943. Pvt Gonsalves left the United States on 8 November and at the end of that month was assigned to the 2d Pack Howitzer Battalion, which was then in Hawaii. He was promoted to private first class in March 1944 and with his battalion became part of the 22d Marines two months later.

With the 22d Marines, he participated in the assault, capture, and occupation of Engebi and Parry Islands, in the Marshall Islands. At Engebi, the Marines took the island in six hours, killing more than one thousand of the enemy. The regiment was cited by MajGen Thomas E. Watson, commanding general of Tactical Group I, for their part in the Marshalls' campaign. From Eniwetok, PFC Gonsalves accompanied the 22d Marines to Kwajelein, to Guadalcanal, back to Kwajelein and Eniwetok, then up to Guam in July where he took part in the liberation of that pre-war American island.

After Guam, the regiment went back to Guadalcanal, where in November they were detached from the 22d Marines and joined the 15th Marines of the 6th Marine Division. It was with that outfit that PFC Gonsalves landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945.

Two weeks later, on 15 April, the 19-year-old Marine was a member of an eight-man forward observer team which was engaged in directing artillery fire in support of an attack by the infantry on Japanese positions on Motobu Peninsula. When it finally became necessary for the team to advance to the actual front lines, the officer in charge took PFC Gonsalves and one other man with him. PFC Gonsalves was acting Scout Sergeant of the team. He and the other Marine were to lay telephone lines for communication with the artillery battalion.

As the team advanced to the front, they were brought under heavy enemy rifle, grenade and mortar fire. Just as the three had reached the front lines, a Japanese grenade landed among them. It was less than a foot from the two Marines with PFC Gonsalves. Without a moment's hesitation, he flung himself on the deadly missile, taking the full explosion into his own body. He gallantly gave his life for his fellow Marines and his country. The other two were not even touched by grenade fragments and they successfully completed their mission.

The Medal of Honor, with citation signed by President Harry S. Truman, was presented on 19 June 1946 to PFC Gonsalves' sister in the presence of his parents at ceremonies in the office of the commanding general of the Department of the Pacific, MajGen Henry L. Larsen, USMC in San Francisco, California.

Following the war, PFC Gonsalves' remains were returned to the United States for reinterment. He was buried with full military honors in the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, 20 March 1949.

World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor