Cheating Death; Hero Jack Lucas Survived Jumping On 2 Grenades And A Total Parachute Failure
When his gun jammed shortly after arriving on Iwo Jima, Private Jacklyn H. Lucas looked down to unjam it.
That was when he noticed the two grenades on the floor of the trench. He had no idea how long they’d been sitting there, but he knew he had a split-second to react.
This would be the first of two times Lucas cheated death, but that wasn’t the only rebellious thing he did in his life. From the start, he fought conventions for his right to kick some ass.
Like a pair of jeans and white t-shirt, Lucas’s story is one of rebellious patriotic spirit, carved straight out of the American revolution. Lucas essentially broke into Iwo Jima, if that’s possible.
Some might see his actions as reckless, but the United States regarded him as a patriot, one deserving of the highest honor awarded to a soldier.
August 8th, 1942: When Lucas enlisted in the Marine Corps, he was only 14. At the time, the United States had not yet developed a thorough means for managing underage enlistees.
For Lucas, at five-foot-eight and 180 pounds, fooling the military was a cinch. He’d already forged his mother’s signature to get that far.
He passed boot camp, qualified to become a sharpshooter, but later qualified to work as a heavy machine gun crew member.
His unit left San Diego for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on November 4th, 1943. Three months later, the Marines promoted him to private first class.
Lucas was anxious to see combat, but he knew little of the world. He was a hot-headed kid who needed an outlet. This hot-headedness got Lucas into trouble while stationed in Pearl Harbor.
He started bar fights, snuck out of camp to meet girls, even punched an MP in the face once. He spent his fair share of time in the brig.
A year after his promotion, toting his combat uniform in a roll under his arm, he walked out of camp determined to find action.
Lucas stowed away on the USS Deuel, en route to Iwo Jima. He didn’t even know where that was, but he knew he’d get to fight there.
Failing to report to the base in Hawaii, the Marines listed him as an unauthorized absence and lowered his rank to private. He nearly made it to the deserter’s list but turned himself over to a captain on the ship, Captain Robert Dunlap.
Dunlap turned the situation over his commanding officer, who reassigned Lucas to the rifle company in Dunlap’s command, C company.
Five days from Iwo Jima, Lucas turned 17 years old. He was still not old enough to enlist, but none of it seemed to matter. He was going kick some ass.
February 19th, 1945: C company landed in Iwo Jima. They were not the first soldiers there. The island had already suffered massive shelling and combat. There were trenches and scorched Earth everywhere.
His unit was there one day when enemy fire pinned Lucas and three other Marines in a trench. The four had been scouting for Japanese soldiers when they spotted enemy pillbox in the distance.
When they got closer to the box, they realized the men from the box had tunneled out and come up on the other side of them. There were 11 Japanese soldiers in the trench, and they were shooting at Lucas and his pals.
The Marines shot back but that was when Lucas’ weapon jammed, not before Lucas put one bullet through the head of one of the other guys. When he jammed, he looked down to fix his weapon.
Nobody had noticed the two grenades on the floor of the trench. Had he not jumped on them, they could have killed all four men.
The story didn’t end there, though. One of the grenades did not detonate, but one did. For better or worse, it did not kill Lucas, but he might have wished for death. His body was riddled with shrapnel in his arms, legs, and chest.
After so much kicking and screaming, hiding and lying, he’d only spent a day at war and was already wounded, but alive. The only problem was he didn’t look alive.
The men took out all 11 Japanese soldiers then left Lucas for dead.
Another unit passing the same spot noticed something moving in the trench. It was Lucas, wagging as many fingers as he could. After calling for a Navy corpsman, who attended to Lucas’ wounds, the unit put him on a stretcher and hauled him to the beach.
The ships were brimming with wounded so Lucas went to a cargo ship for treatment. Even when wounded he carved his own path. That ship stabilized Lucas’ condition then put him on a ship home.
After 21 surgeries, his conditioned stabilized enough to discontinue treatment. He retained around 200 fragments of metal in his body after the fact, forever causing problems when passing through airport security.
October 5th, 1945: Jack Lucas received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman. He went on to study business at High Point University, then joined the U.S. Army in 1961.
He’d faced war, but he’d not yet faced his fear of heights, so he trained as a paratrooper. In a twist of irony, during one jump, Lucas’ shoot didn’t open. Then his backup failed.
As if Lucas didn’t know how to die, he survived the fall, with what he called a split second body roll on the ground. Who knows what really happened?
Don’t forget, we’re talking about the guy who lied about his age by four years to go to war, then snuck onto a boat to fight. It seems as long as he was kicking ass, nobody cared about the details.
Lucas spent some time training new soldiers, then eventually retired from the army on his own terms. He settled into a normal life until he faced death one more time. This time he wouldn’t sneak by.
June 5th, 2008: Overcome with the symptoms of Leukemia, Captain Jack Lucas of the United States Army and private first class of the U.S. Marines slipped the surly bonds of Earth in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Source: NY Times