PEOPLE--UNITED STATES

Private First Class Henry Gurke, USMC, (1922-1943)

Henry Gurke was born on 6 November 1922 in Neche, North Dakota. He enlisted from that same state in the U.S. Marine Corps in April 1942. Completing Basic Training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, California, he was briefly assigned to C Battery of the Second Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion of the Twenty Second Marines. Receiving orders for combat duty in the Pacific, he transferred to the Third Marine Raider Battalion of the Twenty Second Marines and was assigned to Company D. In January 1943, he served on Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides and later participated in battle at Pavuvu Island, Russell Islands. Returning to Espiritu Santo, he joined Company M, Third Marine Raider Battalion, Second Marine Raider Regiment of the I Marine Amphibious Corps and later had duty on Noumea, New Caledonia. In August, he was promoted to Private First Class.

On 9 November 1943, Gurke participated with the Third Marine Raider Battalion in action against the Japanese enemy near Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville Island. Along with his comrade, he was fiercely defending a road block when the enemy dropped a grenade in their foxhole. Immediately, Gurke threw himself on the missile, absorbing the blast and sacrificing his life to ensure his comrade would survive to continue the fight. For his "extraordinary heroism" on this occasion, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Henry Gurke is buried at Neche Union Cemetery, Neche, North Dakota.

USS Gurke (DD 783), 1945-1976, was named in honor of Private First Class Henry Gurke.

This page features the only images we have concerning Henry Gurke.

Photo #: NH 106147

Private First Class Henry Gurke, USMC


Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 196.
Henry Gurke was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism" while serving with the Third Marine Raider Battalion in action against the Japanese near Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville Island, 9 November 1943.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 69KB; 580 x 765 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 76083

Private First Class Henry Gurke, USMC


Photograph of a silk screen painting once held on board USS Gurke (DD 783) in 1970.
Henry Gurke was killed in action against the Japanese near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island, 9 November 1943. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism" in the action.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 51KB; 580 x 765 pixels

 


Medal of Honor citation of Private First Class Henry Gurke, USMC (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 196):

"For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while attached to the Third Marine Raider Battalion during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area on 9 November 1943. While his platoon was engaged in the defense of a vital road block near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island, Private First Class Gurke, in company with another Marine, was delivering a fierce stream of fire against the main vanguard of the Japanese. Concluding from the increasing ferocity of grenade barrages that the enemy was determined to annihilate their small, two-man foxhole, he resorted to a bold and desperate measure for holding out despite the torrential hail of shells. When a Japanese grenade dropped squarely into the foxhole, Private Gurke, mindful that his companion manned an automatic weapon of superior fire power and therefore could provide more effective resistance, thrust him roughly aside and flung his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Private Gurke sacrificed himself in order that his comrade might live to carry on the fight. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.



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