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First Name: Henry

Last Name: Courtney

Birthplace: Duluth, MN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Duluth, MN
Middle Name: Alexius

Date of Birth: 06 January 1916

Date of Death: 15 May 1945

Rank: Major

Years Served: 1940-1945
Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr.

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr.
Major, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Major Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr. (6 January 1916 - 15 May 1945) was a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve officer who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II.

Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr. was born on 6 January 1916 at Duluth, MN. Before entering the service, he received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and his Law degree from Loyola University Law School in Chicago. He was admitted to practice law in Illinois and Minnesota in 1940, shortly after joining his father's law firm in Duluth.

He received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve in February 1940 and, in March of that year, was placed in command of the Duluth unit of the Marine Corps Reserve which was mobilized and sent to San Diego for training.

He later served for ten months in Iceland. At Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, he participated in the first U.S. offensive of World War II, commanding a company of the 1st Marine Division.

His next combat action was in the Battle of Okinawa where his valor earned for him the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor. While serving as executive officer of a battalion of the 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Division on Okinawa, he was killed in action after exhibiting great courage and self-sacrifice leading a successful night attack against enemy positions on Sugar Loaf Hill 14-15 May 1945. He was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart with Gold Star (in lieu of a second Purple Heart) for wounds received in that campaign.

Medal of Honor

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

Place and date: Okinawa Shima, Ryukyu Islands, 14 and 15 May 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion, 22d Marines, 6th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Islands, 14 and 15 May 1945. Ordered to hold for the night in static defense behind Sugar Loaf Hill after leading the forward elements of his command in a prolonged fire fight, Maj. Courtney weighed the effect of a hostile night counterattack against the tactical value of an immediate marine assault, resolved to initiate the assault, and promptly obtained permission to advance and seize the forward slope of the hill. Quickly explaining the situation to his small remaining force, he declared his personal intention of moving forward and then proceeded on his way, boldly blasting nearby cave positions and neutralizing enemy guns as he went. Inspired by his courage, every man followed without hesitation, and together the intrepid marines braved a terrific concentration of Japanese gunfire to skirt the hill on the right and reach the reverse slope. Temporarily halting, Maj. Courtney sent guides to the rear for more ammunition and possible replacements. Subsequently reinforced by 26 men and an LVT load of grenades, he determined to storm the crest of the hill and crush any planned counterattack before it could gain sufficient momentum to effect a breakthrough. Leading his men by example rather than by command, he pushed ahead with unrelenting aggressiveness, hurling grenades into cave openings on the slope with devastating effect. Upon reaching the crest and observing large numbers of Japanese forming for action less than 100 yards away, he instantly attacked, waged a furious battle and succeeded in killing many of the enemy and in forcing the remainder to take cover in the caves. Determined to hold, he ordered his men to dig in and, coolly disregarding the continuous hail of flying enemy shrapnel to rally his weary troops, tirelessly aided casualties and assigned his men to more advantageous positions. Although instantly killed by a hostile mortar burst while moving among his men, Maj. Courtney, by his astute military acumen, indomitable leadership and decisive action in the face of overwhelming odds, had contributed essentially to the success of the Okinawa campaign. His great personal valor throughout sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

The Medal of Honor was presented to the Major's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry A. Courtney, Sr. of Duluth, Minnesota, on 30 December 1947, by the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander A. Vandegrift.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart with Gold Star


In 1955, the destroyer escort USS Courtney (DE-1021) was named for him.

Marine Corps Base Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, Courtney's place of death, is named in honor of him.

Death and Burial

Major Henry Alexius Courtney, Jr. was killed in action on 15 May 1945. His remains were initially buried in the 6th Marine Division Cemetery on Okinawa. In 1948, his remains were re-interred at Calvary Cemetery in Duluth, MN.

Honoree ID: 1342   Created by: MHOH




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