Jack Lummus was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II. According to a May, 1945 newspaper report based upon an interview with a fellow Marine, 1st Lt. Lummus was killed while leading an infantry and tank attack on the island on March 8, 1945.
Jack Lummus was born October 22, 1915 to Andrew Jackson and Laura Frances Warren Lummus in Ennis, Texas. Jack was an outstanding three sport athlete at Ennis High School. He did not graduate from Ennis, perhaps due to some illness. He enrolled at Texas Military College in Terrell after which he secured a scholarship from Baylor University in Waco. While at Baylor, Lummus played baseball and football, earning All-Southwest Conference honors at Baylor and being named an NEA honorable mention for All American honors in 1939. Lummus was signed by the New York Giants and played two seasons with the club before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1942. He also had played one year of minor league baseball in Wichita Falls with the Wichita Spudders.
In his early days in the Marine Corps, Lummus also played on USMC baseball teams while serving. Lummus completed Officer’s Training School at Quantico, Virginia and was sent to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California before being assigned overseas. He had been serving in the South Pacific for about five months when he was killed in action.
During this period, Lt. Lummus suffered a personal tragedy when his father, also known as Jack Lummus, was killed outside a restaurant in Ennis. The elder Jack had been serving as assistant police chief in Ennis when on the evening of May 13, 1944 he was fatally wounded by Oran L. Mounts, also from Ennis, who was a special agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
One of the best known images of the war was the second flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt. Suribachi which occurred on February 23, 1945. Iwo Jima was a volcanic island that was situated between the Mariana Islands and mainland Japan. It was important to the Japanese as a landing strip, although by February, 1945, its air power was depleted. It had been bombed intermittently by Allied forces since the summer of 1944. If it were controlled by the Allies, it would provide them with a base from which to launch bombing raids on the Japanese mainland. However the island was riddled with tunnels and other features that the Japanese troops used for defense. The battle began the week of February 19, 1945, less than a week before the historic flag raising occurred. However, the effort to secure the island continued for more than a month with the final Japanese defenders being subdued and their threat eliminated on March 26, 1945.
Lt. Lummus is thought to have been in the first wave of Marines to attack the island and lost his life during the latter part of the battle. His Medal of Honor citation reads as follows, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a Rifle Platoon attached to the 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 8 March 1945. Resuming his assault tactics with bold decision after fighting without respite for 2 days and nights, 1st Lt. Lummus slowly advanced his platoon against an enemy deeply entrenched in a network of mutually supporting positions. Suddenly halted by a terrific concentration of hostile fire, he unhesitatingly moved forward of his front lines in an effort to neutralize the Japanese position. Although knocked to the ground when an enemy grenade exploded close by, he immediately recovered himself and, again moving forward despite the intensified barrage, quickly located, attacked, and destroyed the occupied emplacement. Instantly taken under fire by the garrison of a supporting pillbox and further assailed by the slashing fury of hostile rifle fire, he fell under the impact of a second enemy grenade but, courageously disregarding painful shoulder wounds, staunchly continued his heroic 1-man assault and charged the second pillbox, annihilating all the occupants. Subsequently returning to his platoon position, he fearlessly traversed his lines under fire, encouraging his men to advance and directing the supporting tanks against other stubbornly holding Japanese emplacements. Held up again by a devastating barrage, he again moved into the open, rushed a third heavily fortified installation, and killed the defending troops. Determined to crush all resistance, he led his men indomitably, personally attacking foxholes and spider traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the fanatic opposition until, stepping on a land mine, he sustained fatal wounds. By his outstanding valor, skilled tactics, and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, 1st Lt. Lummus had inspired his stouthearted marines to continue the relentless drive northward, thereby contributing materially to the success of his regimental mission. His dauntless leadership and unwavering devotion to duty throughout sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”
(Image credit: history.navy.mil)
Lt. Lummus was mortally wounded when he stepped on a land mine as he led other Marines. As he lay wounded, Lummus relayed a report to his commanding officer a short time before he passed away. One of his superior officers offered this quote on behalf of Lummus. He said,” I never knew him [Lummus] not to do more than required of him. He was that kind of man.” A soldier serving under him offered this quote, “No matter where we were or how much enemy fire there was, he was always moving up and down the line giving us tips and encouragement.” Another said of Lummus’ leadership, “We would have followed him anywhere.”
Lummus is interred at Myrtle Cemetery, Ennis, Ellis County, Texas.
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