Harold Gonsalves

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Harold Gonsalves
Gonsalves H USMC.jpg  A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
PFC Harold Gonsalves, Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1926-01-28)January 28, 1926
Alameda, California
Died April 15, 1945(1945-04-15) (aged 19)
Okinawa, Japan
Place of burial Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1943-1945
Rank Private First Class
Unit 4th Battalion, 15th Marines
Battles/wars World War II
*Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign
*Battle of Guam
*Battle of Okinawa
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Unit Commendation (2)

Harold Gonsalves (January 28, 1926-April 15, 1945) was a United States Marine Corps private first class who was killed in action during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. He was awarded the nation's highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his heroic action on April 15, 1945.

Early years[edit]

Harold Gonsalves was born in Alameda, California, on January 28, 1926. He attended school at Alameda and after two and one half years of high school, quit to take a job as a stock clerk with Montgomery Ward in Oakland. In high school he had taken part in football, baseball, track, and swimming, and sang tenor in the school glee club.

World War II[edit]

U.S. Marine Corps

Gonsalves enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 27, 1943 and was called to active duty on June 17, 1943. He went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, and then, at his own request, was sent to the Marine Raiders at Camp Pendleton, California. After three weeks, he was transferred to the artillery at the same camp. He was classified as a cannoneer on 75 and 105 millimeter guns before he joined the 30th Replacement Battalion in the fall of 1943.

Overseas

Pfc. Gonsalves left the United States on November 8, 1943 and at the end of that month was assigned to the 2nd Pack Howitzer Battalion, which was then in Hawaii. He was promoted to private first class in March 1944 and with his battalion became part of the 22nd Marine Regiment two months later.

He participated in the assault, capture, and occupation of Engebi and Parry Islands, in the Marshall Islands. The 22nd Marines was cited by Major General Thomas E. Watson, commanding general of Tactical Group I, for their part in the Marshalls' Campaign. From Eniwetok, Gonsalves accompanied the 22nd Marines to Kwajalein, to Guadalcanal, back to Kwajelein and Eniwetok, then up to Guam in July where he took part in the liberation of that pre-war American island.

After Guam, the 22nd Marines returned to Guadalcanal. In November, he was detached from the regiment and joined Battery L, 4th Battalion, 15th Marine Regiment, 6th Marine Division.

Okinawa

Pfc. Gonsalves landed with the 22nd Marines on Okinawa on April 1, 1945. On April 15, he was a member of an eight-man forward observer team which was engaged in directing artillery fire in support of an attack by the infantry on Japanese positions on Motobu Peninsula. When it finally became necessary for the team to advance to the actual front lines, the officer in charge took Gonsalves and one other man with him. Gonsalves was acting Scout Sergeant of the team. He and the other Marine were to lay telephone lines for communication with the artillery battalion. As the team advanced to the front, they were brought under heavy enemy rifle, grenade and mortar fire. Just as the three had reached the front lines, a Japanese grenade landed among them. It was less than a foot from the three. Without a moment's hesitation, Gonsalves flung himself on the grenade, taking the full explosion. The other two Marines were not even touched by grenade fragments and successfully completed their mission.

Post-World War II[edit]

Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor, with citation signed by President Harry S. Truman, was presented on June 19, 1946 to Pfc. Gonsalves' sister in the presence of his parents at ceremonies in the office of the commanding general of the Department of the Pacific, Major General Henry Louis Larsen, USMC in San Francisco, California.

Burial

Pfc. Gonsalves' remains were returned to the United States for reinternment after the war. He was buried with full military honors in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, on March 20, 1949.

Namesake[edit]

In 1958, the Northern Training Area, a US Marine Corps training base located in 20,000 acres (80 km²) of single and double canopy jungle on the northern end of Okinawa, was named after Pfc. Gonsalves in 1986. Its name was later changed in 1998 to the Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center.

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Gonsalves' headstone

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS HAROLD GONSALVES
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Acting Scout Sergeant of a Forward Observer Team, serving with Battery L, Fourth Battalion, Fifteenth Marines, Sixth Marine Division, during action against enemy Japanese forces in Okinawa Shima in the Ryūkyū Chain, 15 April 1945. Undaunted by the powerfully organized opposition encountered on Motobu Peninsula during a fierce assault waged by a Marine infantry battalion against a Japanese strong-hold, Private First Class Gonsalves repeatedly braved the terrific hostile bombardment to aid his Forward Observation Team in directing well-placed artillery fire and, when his commanding officer determined to move into the front lines in order to register a more effective bombardment in the enemy's defensive position, unhesitatingly advanced uphill with the officer and another Marine despite a slashing barrage of enemy mortar and rifle fire. As they reached the front, a Japanese grenade fell close within the group. Instantly Private First Class Gonsalves dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting the others from serious and perhaps fatal wounds. Stouthearted and indomitable, Private First Class Gonsalves readily yielded his own chances of survival that his fellow Marines might carry on the relentless battle against the fanatic Japanese and his cool decision, prompt action and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

/S/ HARRY S. TRUMAN

Military decoration & awards[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.