by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Dan Smithyman, USS Peleliu Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - A Medal of Honor recipient visited amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) Oct. 6 tying together his legacy from the Battle of Peleliu and the ship that bears its name.
Arthur J. Jackson was not quite 20 years old when his unit, the First Marine Division, attacked the Peleliu Island September 1944. He earned the Medal of Honor when he charged a heavily fortified hillside alone to protect the left flank as his unit advanced. He wiped out 12 machine gun pillboxes and killed 50 Japanese Imperial soldiers to take the hill while being wounded in the process.
Sixty seven years later, Jackson returned to Peleliu, but the steel namesake of the island, where he addressed the crew of more than 1,000 Sailors and Marines assembled in the ship's hangar bay.
"To have Arthur Jackson on board was an incredible treat for the crew," said Capt. James T. Cox, commanding officer of Peleliu. "He is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from among the eight that earned that award during the Battle of Peleliu."
Jackson shared stories of the amphibious attack on the island while carrying a 14-pound canned ham that his mess sergeant had told him to take ashore and stories of destroying a pillbox filled with 35 Japanese soldiers.
"This is such a joy for me to be on this vessel," Jackson said. "I was at the commissioning ceremony with my friend Everett Pope (another MOH recipient from the Battle of Peleliu). I also rode this ship on her maiden voyage from San Diego to Long Beach."
Jackson came aboard with his wife and four other members of his family who joined Jackson in a tour of the ship. He presented a Medal of Honor flag to Capt. Cox - this is one of only two MOH flags recipients are awarded.
"I want to have this framed and placed in our Hall of Heroes across from the photos of the eight Medal of Honor recipients," said Command Master Chief David Dearie.
The ship's main passageway between the hangar and the mess decks, the Hall of Heroes, is lined with the photos, maps, and other items commemorating the Battle of Peleliu.
"It is so incredible to connect Arthur Jackson to this ship in such an intimate way," Dearie said. "We are inexplicably connected through our namesake of the Battle of Peleliu and through the common cloth of our military service."