b. 06/11/1922 Neche, North Dakota. d. 09/11/1943 Bougainville, Solomon Islands.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 09/11/1943 Bougainville, Solomon Islands.
Henry Gurke was born in Neche, North Dakota on November 6, 1922 to immigrant parents, Julius Gurke (1884-1968), a German-speaking carpenter from Dubno, a city on the Ikva River in the Rivne Oblast (province) of western Ukraine and his wife, Hulda Fischer Gurke (1890-1970). His parents had first immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine and then to the United States from Winnipeg, Manitoba in July 1912. The fifth of eight children, he was baptized in the Lutheran Church, and attended the local schools around Neche, a small town in the northwest corner of North Dakota, one mile from the Canadian bordertown of Gretna, Manitoba. After graduation from high school in 1940, he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in July and was stationed in Larimore, North Dakota. He stayed in the CCC until October 1941 and rose to the position of Assistant Leader, then returned to Neche where he drove a two–ton truck until his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps on April 15, 1942.
Private Gurke went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, then went into the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion of the 22nd Marines and was in C Battery only one month before shipping overseas on the SS Lurline on July 30, 1942 — three and a half months after his enlistment in the Marines. He landed at Apia, Upolu, British Samoa, one month later. Within two weeks the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, with Pvt Gurke's battery attached, went to Uvea Island of the Wallis Islands to relieve the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which left to rejoin the 1st Marine Division then engaged in the grueling fight for Guadalcanal. In September 1942, Pvt Gurke was transferred to Company D, 3rd Raider Battalion. After four months at Wallis, the Raiders left for Pago Pago, American Samoa, stayed there about three weeks, then moved south to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, landing there in January 1943.
For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Marine Raider Battalion during action against the enemy Japanese Forces in the Solomon Islands area on November 9, 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 shallow, 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 First Class 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 flushing his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Private First Class 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.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNION CEMETERY, NECHE, NORTH DAKOTA.