By John Sowell
Gov. Butch Otter has proclaimed Wednesday as Art Jackson Day, in honor of the Boise man who single-handedly destroyed a dozen concrete guard posts and killed 50 Japanese soldiers during a fierce World War II battle on the island of Peleliu in the Western Pacific.
A ceremony to honor Jackson will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the rotunda at the Idaho Capitol. Otter will present Jackson, 91, with a proclamation and there will be performances by the Boise Police Department Honor Guard Pipe & Drums, the department’s Honor Guard Choir and by The Divas of Boise.
President Harry S. Truman pins the Medal of Honor on Art Jackson during an Oct. 5, 1945, ceremony on the lawn outside the White House. Photo provided by Art Jackson.
In September 1944, Peleliu was held by Japanese soldiers entrenched in caves. Fighting for control of it lasted two months. When it was over, 1,800 Americans had been killed and 8,000 more wounded. Nine Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for their roles in the battle. Jackson was one of them.
“All of local military, and in particular local Marines, consider Art Jackson to be a rock star among our military heroes,” said Rocci Johnson, one of the organizers of the tribute. “If not for him, and those of his mettle, it would be a very different world, and we would all probably not be speaking English.”
Citations issued to Jackson, who retired as a captain, and other Marines are used in entry-level training to create a warrior spirit in new Marines, said Capt. Adam Ayriss, an inspector instructor for Company C, 4th Tank Battalion of the Marine Corps Reserves in Boise.
“Reading the words of extreme heroism displayed by Marines throughout history helps build the motivation, inspiration, and esprit de corps that galvanizes all Marines into one cohesive team,” Ayriss said. “Capt. Arthur Jackson is a hero; a true warrior who is an inspiration to all Marines.”
Then 19, Jackson saved his platoon from almost certain destruction. A book about the battle described him as “a one-man Marine Corps.” His Medal of Honor citation credits him with single-handedly confronting enemy barrages and contributing to “the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island.”
Despite a barrage of gunfire, Jackson charged a large pillbox, as the concrete guard posts were known. He threw white phosphorus grenades that provided cover from the white smoke it produced and he set off munitions charges that destroyed the pillbox and killed the 35 soldiers inside.
Jackson kept advancing and picked off one enemy position after another.
“His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service,” according to the Medal of Honor citation.
Additional information on Jackson and his heroism can be found online on a Facebook page dedicated to him.
The article above was originally published in Idaho Statesman on February 22, 2016 and it is published with permission
Arthur Jackson Medal of Honor Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau group, 18 September 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon’s left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Pfc. Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately 35 enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed similar means to smash 2 smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed 1 gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses, and succeeded in wiping out a total of 12 pillboxes and 50 Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds. Pfc. Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon’s left flank movement throughout his valiant 1-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service.
Citation courtesy of the Medal of Honor Society