Only three Medals for this day in history, all in the modern era – one for World War II the other two for those dark desperate days of Korea, 1950. While it looks like the Medal was a particularly harsh mistress on this day – in truth, only two of these awards, the ones for Korea, went to two Marines who died earning them. Tech 5 Okubo survived World War II, and died in 1967, 34 years before the Army was forced to face the racist realities of it’s WWII awards policies, and 22 Medals were presented to Nisei soldiers or their surviving families.
*OKUBO, JAMES K.
Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 28 and 29 October and 4 November 1944, in the Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, eastern France. On 28 October, under strong enemy fire coming from behind mine fields and roadblocks, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo, a medic, crawled 150 yards to within 40 yards of the enemy lines. Two grenades were thrown at him while he left his last covered position to carry back wounded comrades. Under constant barrages of enemy small arms and machine gun fire, he treated 17 men on 28 October and 8 more men on 29 October. On 4 November, Technician Fifth Grade Okubo ran 75 yards under grazing machine gun fire and, while exposed to hostile fire directed at him, evacuated and treated a seriously wounded crewman from a burning tank, who otherwise would have died. Technician Fifth Grade James K. Okubo’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.
*PHILLIPS, LEE H.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Company E, 2d Battalion, 7 Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Korea, 4 November 1950. Entered service at: Ben Hill, Ga. Born: 3 February 1930, Stockbridge, Ga. Cpl. Phillips was killed in action 27 November 1950. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a squad leader of Company E, in action against enemy aggressor forces. Assuming the point position in the attack against a strongly defended and well-entrenched numerically superior enemy force occupying a vital hill position which had been unsuccessfully assaulted on 5 separate occasions by units of the Marine Corps and other friendly forces, Cpl. Phillips fearlessly led his men in a bayonet charge up the precipitous slope under a deadly hail of hostile mortar, small-arms, and machine gun fire. Quickly rallying his squad when it was pinned down by a heavy and accurate mortar barrage, he continued to lead his men through the bombarded area and, although only 5 members were left in the casualty ridden unit, gained the military crest of the hill where he was immediately subjected to an enemy counterattack. Although greatly outnumbered by an estimated enemy squad, Cpl. Phillips boldly engaged the hostile force with handgrenades and rifle fire and, exhorting his gallant group of marines to follow him, stormed forward to completely overwhelm the enemy. With only 3 men now left in his squad, he proceeded to spearhead an assault on the last remaining strongpoint which was defended by 4 of the enemy on a rocky and almost inaccessible portion of the hill position. Using 1 hand to climb up the extremely hazardous precipice, he hurled grenades with the other and, with 2 remaining comrades, succeeded in annihilating the pocket of resistance and in consolidating the position. Immediately subjected to a sharp counterattack by an estimated enemy squad, he skillfully directed the fire of his men and employed his own weapon with deadly effectiveness to repulse the numerically superior hostile force. By his valiant leadership, indomitable fighting spirit and resolute determination in the face of heavy odds, Cpl. Phillips served to inspire all who observed him and was directly responsible for the destruction of the enemy stronghold. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and enhances and sustains the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
*POYNTER, JAMES I.
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein.). Place and date: Near Sudong, Korea, 4 November 1950. Entered service at: Downey, Calif. Born: 1 December 1916, Bloomington, Ill. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a squad leader in a rifle platoon of Company A, in action against enemy aggressor forces during the defense of Hill 532, south of Sudong, Korea. When a vastly outnumbering, well-concealed hostile force launched a sudden, vicious counterattack against his platoon’s hasty defensive position, Sgt. Poynter displayed superb skill and courage in leading his squad and directing its fire against the onrushing enemy. With his ranks critically depleted by casualties and he himself critically wounded as the onslaught gained momentum and the hostile force surrounded his position, he seized his bayonet and engaged in bitter hand-to-hand combat as the breakthrough continued. Observing 3 machineguns closing in at a distance of 25 yards, he dashed from his position and, grasping handgrenades from fallen marines as he ran, charged the emplacements in rapid succession, killing the crews of 2 and putting the other out of action before he fell, mortally wounded. By his self-sacrificing and valiant conduct, Sgt. Poynter inspired the remaining members of his squad to heroic endeavor in bearing down upon and repelling the disorganized enemy, thereby enabling the platoon to move out of the trap to a more favorable tactical position. His indomitable fighting spirit, fortitude, and great personal valor maintained in the face of overwhelming odds sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
*Asterisk indicates posthumous award