Medal of Honor Citation

Private Jack W. KeIso, of Fresno, California, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on the night of 2 October 1952, when he was killed while covering the escape of fellow Marines from a besieged bunker. He was the 31st Marine to receive the Nation’s highest decoration for heroism in Korea.

Private Kelso was a rifleman with the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on the night of the action. He was serving at a vital outpost near Sokchon when a numerically superior enemy attack, under cover of small arms, grenade and mortar fire, made casualties of both his platoon commander and platoon sergeant.

After exposing himself to a hail of enemy fire to try and reorganize the unit, he was driven to cover with four other Marines in a nearby bunker, where an enemy grenade landed among them. He picked it up, ran into the open and threw it back at the enemy, receiving painful wounds as the missile exploded on leaving his hand.

He was again forced into the shelter by even more intense enemy fire, but refused to remain there. Moving out into the fire-swept area, he fired away at the enemy until he was mortally wounded, thereby covering the escape of the other Marines from the bunker.

Private Kelso had been with Company I, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, in Korea since April 1952. He earned the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action from 13-15 August 1952, when he made some 20 trips through enemy mortar and artillery fire to carry ammunition from his company to another unit defending an important hill. Although the heat and enemy fire forced most of the men to be relieved after three trips, he continued to carry up ammunition and return with casualties until he collapsed and had to be evacuated. He was also awarded the Purple Heart Medal for the wounds he received in his final action.

Jack William Kelso was born on 23 January 1934 in Madera, California, and attended grade and high school in Carutherst, California. He also worked on his father’s farm until he enlisted in the Marine Corps on 15 May 1951. He completed recruit training in San Diego, California, in July 1951 and that September was ordered from San Diego to Camp Pendleton, California. In January 1952, he left for Hawaii, where he served until April 1952, when he embarked for Korea. His body was returned to the United States for burial.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Silver Star and Purple Heart, Pvt Kelso was entitled to the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars and the United Nations Service Medal.

Korean War Medal of Honor

Marine Corps University