PEOPLE--UNITED STATES

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMCR, (1914-1943)

William Deane Hawkins was born on 18 April 1914 in Fort Scott, Kansas. He moved to El Paso, Texas with his family and graduated from high school and the Texas College of Mines. Returning to Texas after working at Tacoma, Washington and Los Angeles, California, he enlisted from that state in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in January 1942. Following recruit training with the Seventh Recruit Battalion at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, California, he received orders to the Second Marines, Second Marine Division. He then had additional training at the Scout Snipers' School at Camp Elliott and departed for combat duty in the Pacific War Zone. During his time in service, Hawkins attained the rank of Sergeant. In the fall, he participated at the Battle of Guadalcanal. Due to his actions in battle, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. In June 1943, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

On 20 November 1943, First Lieutenant Hawkins was serving as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon against Japanese forces at Betio Pier, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands. For two days, he fearlessly led his men to attack pillboxes and installations to gain control of the beachhead. Initiating an assault on an enemy position with five machine guns and refusing to withdrawal after being wounded, Hawkins continued to fight and destroyed three more pillboxes before becoming mortally wounded by enemy shellfire. For his "valorous and gallant conduct" on these occasions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. William D. Hawkins is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.

This page features the only images we have concerning William D. Hawkins.


Photo #: NH 106215

First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMCR


Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 204.
William D. Hawkins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for "valorous and gallant conduct" while serving as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon against Japanese forces at Tarawa, Gilbert Islands in the fall of 1943.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 74KB; 605 x 765 pixels

 
Photo #: USMC 100235 (Color)

Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands

British and American officers and members of a native labor corps stand in silent prayer in memory of Second Division Marines killed in the island's conquest in November 1943.
Personnel shown are:

Second officer from right:
Lieutenant Colonel Edmund L. Zonne, USMC,
Piloted the first transport to land on Tarawa after the field was captured. He later placed a wreath on the grave of the First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMCR, hero of the Betio assault.

Other officers are left to right:
Captain Percy Roberts, (British) Royal Navy
(Officer in Charge of the Native Labor Corps);
Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Fox-Strangways,
(British) Royal Army, (Resident Commissioner);
and
Captain Paul E. Gillespie, USN,
(Island Commander)

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph.

Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions may be available at National Archives.

 
Photo #: USMC 100237 (Color)

Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands

Lieutenant Colonel Edmund L. Zonne, USMC, places a wreath on the grave of First Lieutenant William D. Hawkins, USMCR, on the first anniversary of the invasion of the island, November 1944. First Lieutenant Hawkins was killed in action on 21 November 1943. Lieutenant Colonel Zonne had landed the first U.S. twin-engine plane on the island airstrip soon after that.

Officers behind Lieutenant Colonel Zonne are:
Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Fox-Strangways,
(British) Royal Army, (Resident Commissioner);
and
Captain Paul E. Gillespie, USN,
(Island Commander)
Photographed by Warrant Officer R. L. Chapel, Fourth Air Wing, U.S. Marine Corps.

U.S. Marine Corps Photograph

Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions may be available at National Archives.

 


Medal of Honor citation of First Lieutenant William Dean Hawkins, USMCR (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 204):

"For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Assault Regiment in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20 and 21 November 1943. The first to disembark from the jeep lighter, First Lieutenant Hawkins unhesitatingly moved forward under heavy enemy fire at the end of the Betio Pier, neutralizing emplacements in coverage of troops assaulting the main beach positions. Fearlessly leading his men on to join the forces fighting desperately to gain a beachhead, he repeatedly risked his life throughout the day and night to direct and lead attacks on pillboxes and installations with grenades and demolitions. At dawn on the following day, First Lieutenant Hawkins resumed the dangerous mission of clearing the limited beachhead of Japanese resistance, personally initiating an assault on a hostile position fortified by five enemy machine guns, and, crawling forward in the face of withering fire, boldly fired point-blank into the loopholes and completed the destruction with grenades. Refusing to withdraw after being seriously wounded in the chest during this skirmish, First Lieutenant Hawkins steadfastly carried the fight to the enemy, destroying three more pillboxes before he was caught in a burst of Japanese shellfire and mortally wounded. His relentless fighting spirit in the face of formidable opposition and his exceptionally daring tactics served as an inspiration to his comrades during the most crucial phase of the battle and reflect the highest credit upon the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for 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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