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First Name: Darrell

Last Name: Cole

Birthplace: Flat River, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Samuel

Date of Birth: 20 July 1920

Date of Death: 19 February 1945

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1941-1945
Darrell Samuel Cole

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Darrell Samuel Cole
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Sergeant Darrell Samuel Cole (20 July 1920 -19 February 1945) was a U.S. marine who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Darrell Samuel Cole was born on 20 July 1920 in Flat River (now part of Park Hills), MO. He attended high school in Esther, MO (now also part of Park Hills) graduating in 1938. Before graduating his main interests were sports, particularly basketball, hunting and photography. He also learned to play the French Horn, which later led to him being assigned as a bugler.

After graduating from high school, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), where he became an assistant forestry clerk and assistant educational advisor for his company. He left after one year and he went to Detroit, MI, where he worked at a company that made engine gaskets.

Military Service

On 25 August 1941, he enlisted in the Marine Corps for the duration of the "National Emergency" brought on by the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Following U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Training at MCRD Parris Island, SC, he was appointed to the Field Music School for training as a Marine Corps Field Musician (a bugler). He was unhappy with being a field musician because he had joined the Marine Corps to fight. He applied for a change in rating to be a machine-gunner, but was refused due to the shortage of buglers. After completing Field Music School he was transferred to the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Battle of Guadalcanal

The Battle of Guadalcanal was fought between 7 August 1942 and 7 February 1943, in the Pacific theatre of World War II and was the first major offensive launched by Allied Forces against the Empire of Japan. Cole arrived on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942 for the first American offensive of World War II and his first opportunity to fill in as a machine-gunner in the absence of the regular gunner.

After completing his first overseas tour he returned to the U.S. in February 1943 and was assigned to the First Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC. When his unit moved to California he again asked for relief as a field musician and for permission to perform line duties. Again, due to the shortage of buglers in the Marine Corps, his request was denied.

Battles of Kwajalein, Saipan and Tinian

After Guadalcanal, Cole served in several more battles throughout the Pacific theatre including the battles of Kwajalein, Saipan and Tinian. The U.S. launched an assault on the main islands of Kwajalein in the south and Roi-Namur in the north from 31 January to 3 February 1944. The Japanese defenders put up a stiff resistance though outnumbered and under-prepared. Although the U.S. won the battle, the determined defenses of Roi-Namur left only 51 Japanese survivors of an original garrison of 3,500. During this engagement of the 4th Division, Cole, again forsaking his bugle, stepped in as a machine-gunner.

When Cole was sent to fight with his unit in Saipan he was assigned to a machine gun unit and was designated as a machine gun section leader. During the battle his squad leader was killed and Cole, although wounded, assumed command of the entire squad. He was awarded the Bronze Star for "…his resolute leadership, indomitable fighting spirit and tenacious determination in the face of terrific opposition." and was awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he received.

When fighting began on the island of Tinian in the Mariana Islands from 24 July to 1 August 1944, Cole's unit was sent in a few days after the battle began. Cole again led his squad ashore in the invasion and defeat of the neighboring islands of Tinian and continued to build his reputation as "The Fighting Field Musician."

Mariana and Palau Islands Campaign

The Mariana and Palau Islands campaign was an offensive launched by U.S. forces against Imperial Japanese forces in the Mariana Islands and Palau in the Pacific Ocean between June and November 1944 during the Pacific War. It was after the Marianas campaign that he submitted a request for a change of rating for the third time. Pointing out his experience and combat record, he stated that he felt he would be of more benefit to the Marine Corps performing line duties than those of field music. This time his request was approved and he was redesignated Corporal and subsequently promoted to Sergeant in November 1944.

Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought between the U.S. and the Japanese Empire in February and March 1945 during the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Ground fighting on the island took place over approximately 35 days, lasting from the landings of 19 February to a final Japanese charge the morning of 26 March 1945. The U.S. invasion, known as Operation Detachment, was charged with the mission of capturing the Island's airfields. The Japanese positions on the island were heavily fortified, with vast bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 kilometers (11 mi) of tunnels.

On 19 February, Sergeant Cole led his machine gun section ashore in the D-Day assault of Iwo Jima. Moving forward with the initial assault wave, a hail of fire from two enemy emplacements halted his section's advance. Sergeant Cole personally destroyed them with hand grenades. His unit continued to advance until pinned down for a second time by enemy fire from three Japanese gun emplacements. One of these emplacements was destroyed by a machine-gunner in Cole's squad. When his machine guns jammed, armed only with a pistol and one hand grenade, Sergeant Cole made a one-man attack against the two remaining gun emplacements. Twice he returned to his own lines for additional grenades and continued the attack under fierce enemy fire until he had succeeded in destroying the enemy strong points.

Upon returning to his own squad, he was killed by an enemy grenade. As a result of his one-man attack, Sergeant Cole's company could move forward against the fortifications and attain their ultimate objective. For his heroic actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as leader of a Machinegun Section of Company B, 1st Battalion, 23d Marines, 4th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Assailed by a tremendous volume of small-arms, mortar and artillery fire as he advanced with 1 squad of his section in the initial assault wave, Sgt. Cole boldly led his men up the sloping beach toward Airfield No. 1 despite the blanketing curtain of flying shrapnel and, personally destroying with hand grenades 2 hostile emplacements which menaced the progress of his unit, continued to move forward until a merciless barrage of fire emanating from 3 Japanese pillboxes halted the advance. Instantly placing his 1 remaining machinegun in action, he delivered a shattering fusillade and succeeded in silencing the nearest and most threatening emplacement before his weapon jammed and the enemy, reopening fire with knee mortars and grenades, pinned down his unit for the second time. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation and evolving a daring plan of counterattack, Sgt. Cole, armed solely with a pistol and 1 grenade, coolly advanced alone to the hostile pillboxes. Hurling his 1 grenade at the enemy in sudden, swift attack, he quickly withdrew, returned to his own lines for additional grenades and again advanced, attacked, and withdrew. With enemy guns still active, he ran the gauntlet of slashing fire a third time to complete the total destruction of the Japanese strong point and the annihilation of the defending garrison in this final assault. Although instantly killed by an enemy grenade as he returned to his squad, Sgt. Cole had eliminated a formidable Japanese position, thereby enabling his company to storm the remaining fortifications, continue the advance, and seize the objective. By his dauntless initiative, unfaltering courage, and indomitable determination during a critical period of action, Sgt. Cole served as an inspiration to his comrades, and his stouthearted leadership in the face of almost certain death sustained and enhanced the highest tradition of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart with Gold Star
Presidential Unit Citation
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal


USS Cole (DDG 67). The second USS Cole (DDG-67), an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyer was named for Sergeant Cole. The Cole is home ported in Naval Station Norfolk, VA. The ship was built by Ingalls Shipbuilding and delivered to the Navy on 11 March 1996. On 12 October 2000, the Cole was damaged by a suicide attack while harbored in the Yemeni port of Aden. The first USS Cole (DD-155), launched in 1919, was named for a Marine who was killed in World War I.

The Marine Corps reserve training center in Camp Las Flores aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA, is also named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Sergeant Darrell Samuel Cole was killed in action on 19 February 1945. He was initially buried in the 4th Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima but, at the request of his father, his remains were returned to the United States and buried at Parkview Cemetery in Farmington, MO.

Honoree ID: 1337   Created by: MHOH




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