PHARMACIST'S MATE FIRST CLASS
FRANCIS JUNIOR PIERCE, USN (DECEASED)
Francis Junior Pierce was born on 7 December 1924 in Earlville, Iowa. A farm boy looking for excitement, he enlisted in the U. S. Navy on 14 December 1941 at the Naval Recruiting Station, Great Lakes, Illinois, at the age of 17. He completed recruit training at Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, and Hospital Corps School, Portsmouth, Virginia. He served at the Naval Hospital Parris Island, South Carolina, until August 1942 when he transferred to the Training Center, Fleet Marine Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In January 1944, he was transferred to 4th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California.
Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Pierce took part in the landing on Roi-Namur, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1-7 February 1944. During the fight he learned the grim realities of war, causing him to reject the code that corpsmen be unarmed. He procured a Thompson submachine gun, a “Tommy Gun,” and used it so effectively that the Marines nicknamed him “Angel with a Tommy Gun.” PhM1c Pierce remained continuously in combat from that time, serving in the Marianas’ campaigns of Saipan and Tinian.
During the battle for Iwo Jima in early 1945, PhM1c Pierce, serving with 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division, became an expert on the terrain and disposition of enemy troops. Serving four weeks without relief, his expertise greatly helped the battalion evacuate wounded men. On 15 March, PhM1c Pierce’s unit was caught in a heavy firefight. Distracting the enemy so that the wounded could be evacuated, he drew the enemy’s fire to himself and engaged the enemy with his Tommy Gun. At one point, as he was treating one of the wounded Marines, the injured man was struck again. PM1c Pierce deliberately stood up to gain the attention of the sniper and then used the last of his ammunition to kill the enemy soldier. Finally, he lifted the wounded Marine on to his back and carried him across 200 feet of open terrain under intense rifle fire to an aid station. He crossed once more for the last wounded Marine and brought him to safety as well.
The very next day, PhM1c Pierce was leading a patrol sent to destroy a sniper nest when he was wounded twice, once by sniper fire and the other by grenade fragmentations, while aiding a downed Marine. Refusing aid for himself, he directed the aid for the wounded Marine, all the while maintaining protective fire for his comrades. For his heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima, PhM1c Pierce received the Navy Cross and the Silver Star.
Pharmacist’s Mate First Class Pierce was honorably discharged from the U. S. Navy on 1 December 1945. As a civilian, he became a Michigan State police officer.
Three years after the war ended, he was informed that his Navy Cross and Silver Star were to be recalled and replaced with the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was presented to him at the White House on 25 June 1948.
Mr. Pierce retired from the police force in 1982. Four years later, on 21 December 1986, he died of cancer. He was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Navy Medal of Honor recipients serving with Marine units at the time of award