John Edward “Jackie” Kilmer was born in Highland Park, Illinois, on 15 August 1930. He quit high school at age 17 to join the U. S. Navy on 16 August 1947. He enlisted as an apprentice seaman at the Navy Recruiting Station, Houston, Texas, and trained at Naval Hospital Corps School, San Diego, California. After graduation in April 1948, he advanced in rate to hospital apprentice, then to hospitalman on 1 September 1950.

Hospitalman Kilmer was assigned to the hospital ship USS Repose when war broke out in Korea. On board ship, he had gained a good deal of experience and decided the Navy afforded him wide opportunities in medicine so, when his contract expired in August 1951, HN Kilmer reenlisted.

He received further training at the Marine Barracks, Camp Pendleton, California, in April 1952 and, upon graduating in June, he joined the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force Pacific. On 12-13 August 1952, HN Kilmer took part in the attack on “Bunker Hill” in Korea.

During battle, HN Kilmer repeatedly braved enemy fire to reach wounded Marines and render aid, carrying many to safety. He defied warnings of danger and started crawling towards a seriously wounded Marine who was lying in the open field. Mortar fragments struck HN Kilmer, but he continued crawling until he reached the wounded man. As the attack intensified, HN Kilmer unhesitatingly shielded his patient with his own body. HN Kilmer was mortally wounded by flying shrapnel, but saved the Marine’s life. For his exceptional fortitude, determined efforts, and unyielding devotion to duty, HN Kilmer was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his mother by Secretary of the Navy Robert B. Anderson on 18 June 1953.

Hospitalman Kilmer was laid to rest in San Jose Burial Park, San Antonio, Texas.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, his decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.

Navy Medal of Honor recipients serving with Marine units at the time of award 

Marine Corps University