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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Sorenson

Birthplace: Anoka, MN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Keith

Date of Birth: 28 August 1924

Date of Death: 09 October 2004

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1943-1946, 1947-1955
Richard Keith Sorenson

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Richard Keith Sorenson

First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

First Lieutenant Richard Keith Sorenson (28 August 1924 - 9 October 2004) was a U.S. Marine officer who, as a Private, received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroism during the Marine landing on Kwajalein Atoll during World War II.

Richard Keith Sorenson was born on 28 August 1924 in Anoka, MN, the son of a U.S. Navy World War I veteran. He graduated from high school in 1942 and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 13 December. He reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA, in January 1943 for recruit training. In April 1943, he joined Company M, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, at Camp Pendleton, where he underwent intensive training before sailing for Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands on 11 January 1944.

Private Sorenson landed with his battalion at Namur, Kwajalein, on 1 February 1944 and that night he threw himself on an exploding Japanese grenade to save the lives of five fellow Marines. Miraculously, although fragments of the grenade ripped through his thighs, hips, right arm and right leg, a corpsman tied off a severed artery and covered the severe wounds, and Sorenson was evacuated to a transport to Hawaii. He would undergo six surgeries in the next nine months.

He was hospitalized at Pearl Harbor until May, and then was transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Seattle, WA. In mid-1944, he was informed - by the commanding officer of the hospital, Captain Joel Boone, who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War I - that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor. On 19 July 1944, a month after being promoted to Private First Class, Sorenson was presented the Medal of Honor by Major General Joseph C. Fegan, then commanding the Department of the Pacific.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 4th Marine Division.

Place and date: Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll Marshall Islands, 1-2 February 1944.

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with an assault battalion attached to the 4th Marine Division during the battle of Namur Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1-2 February 1944. Putting up a brave defense against a particularly violent counterattack by the enemy during invasion operations, Pvt. Sorenson and 5 other marines occupying a shell hole were endangered by a Japanese grenade thrown into their midst. Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his own safety, Pvt. Sorenson hurled himself upon the deadly weapon, heroically taking the full impact of the explosion. As a result of his gallant action, he was severely wounded, but the lives of his comrades were saved. His great personal valor and exceptional spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of almost certain death were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Released from the hospital later in July, PFC Sorenson was ordered to the Marine Air Detachment at the Naval Air Station, Minneapolis, where he was promoted to Corporal that August. The following month he was assigned to the headquarters of the Central Recruiting Division in Chicago, IL, and promoted to Sergeant. He was transferred from Chicago to the Midwestern Recruiting Division in St. Louis, MO, in September 1945, and while attached to that division, served at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, Fargo, ND. From there he was ordered to Great Lakes, IL, where he was discharged on 23 February 1946.

Post-World War II

Back in civilian life, Sorenson worked as a contact representative for the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis and Alexandria, MN. He also attended St. John's University at Collegeville, MN, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 10 July 1947. He was ordered back to extended active duty on 17 November 1950, and for the next three years, was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Minneapolis. There, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant in May 1951, and to Master Sergeant in June 1953. In November 1953, following his appointment as a Second Lieutenant, he was ordered to the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, VA, where he completed the Basic School for Marine officers in April 1954.

Sorenson then served as Assistant Supply Officer of the 7th Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton, where he was appointed a First Lieutenant in September 1954. He was transferred to the 2nd Replacement Battalion at Camp Pendleton in January 1955 and, that March, was ordered overseas for duty with the 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. With that unit he served in Japan and on Okinawa before returning to the U.S. that November to be discharged after voluntarily reverting back to the rank of Master Sergeant.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1955, Sorenson returned to work for the Veterans Administration until 1957. For the next 10 years, he worked as an insurance underwriter, but then returned to the VA. He remained with the VA until his retirement as director of Veterans Affairs for the state of Nevada and nine counties of California in 1985.

As a civilian, Sorenson was active in his community - serving on the board of directors for the United Way, the regional Boy Scout Council, and the board of directors for the Navy League.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with 1 Bronze Star
Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with 1 Bronze Star
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal


Richard K. Sorenson 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 James D. La Belle.

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Richard Keith Sorenson died on 9 October 2004, at age 80, in Reno, NE. He was buried with full military honors at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN.

He was survived by his wife and five children.

Honoree ID: 1656   Created by: MHOH




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