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First Name: James

Last Name: LaBelle

Birthplace: Columbia Heights, MN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Minneapolis, MN
Middle Name: Dennis

Date of Birth: 22 November 1925

Date of Death: 08 March 1945

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served: 1943 - 1945
James Dennis LaBelle

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


James Dennis LaBelle
Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Private First Class James Dennis LaBelle (22 November 1925 - 8 March 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 at Iwo Jima during World War II.

James Dennis LaBelle was born in Columbia Heights, MN, on 22 November 1925. He attended grammar school in his neighborhood in Minneapolis and, in his spare time, played basketball and baseball. His spare time favorite was the raising of homing pigeons. At Columbia Heights High School he starred on the basketball, baseball and boxing teams, while following a vocational course in woodwork and metalwork. During summer vacations he worked as an apprentice acetylene welder for a local air conditioning corporation.

Marine Corps Service

At age 17, with his mother's permission, LaBelle enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in Minneapolis. Recruit training at the MCRD at San Diego, CA, followed. After completing boot camp, he went to Camp Pendleton, CA, where he qualified in the intensive combat training course before embarking for overseas. On 30 June 1944, he joined the regimental Weapons Company, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. The following August he sailed on board the USSĀ George F. Elliott, bound for Hilo, HI, and eventually landed on the lava ash shores of Iwo Jima.

On 19 February 1945, after aerial and naval forces had pounded its desolate surface for many days, the island of Iwo Jima felt the sting of the invading Marine amphibious forces. One of thousands, PFC La Belle fought continuously from the initial landing until 8 March 1945 when he gallantly gave his life and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 8 March 1945.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 8 March 1945. Filling a gap in the front lines during a critical phase of the battle, Pfc. LaBelle had dug into a foxhole with 2 other marines and, grimly aware of the enemy's persistent attempts to blast a way through our lines with hand grenades, applied himself with steady concentration to maintaining a sharply vigilant watch during the hazardous night hours. Suddenly a hostile grenade landed beyond reach in his foxhole. Quickly estimating the situation, he determined to save the others if possible, shouted a warning, and instantly dived on the deadly missile, absorbing the exploding charge in his own body and thereby protecting his comrades from serious injury. Stouthearted and indomitable, he had unhesitatingly relinquished his own chance of survival that his fellow marines might carry on the relentless fight against a fanatic enemy His dauntless courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of certain death reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. LaBelle and upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

LaBelle's mother was presented with his Medal of Honor by Brigadier General William E. Riley, then Director of Marine Corps Public Information, in ceremonies on 21 July 1946 in Minneapolis.


James D. LaBelle is one of three Minnesota Medal of Honor recipients from the Northeast Twin Cities who are named on the Anoka County Veteran's memorial at Bunker Hills Anoka County Park in Coon Rapids, MN. The other two are Richard E. Kraus and Richard K. Sorenson.

Death and Burial

Private First Class James Dennis LaBelle was killed in action on 8 March 1945. His remains were returned to the U.S. in late 1948, and were re-interred at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, MN, in Section 81, Grave 422-S.

Honoree ID: 1492   Created by: MHOH




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