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b. 19/04/1914 Fort Scott, Kansas. d. 21/11/1943 Tarawa, Gilbert Islands.


DATE OF MOH ACTION: 21/11/1943 Tarawa, Gilbert Islands.


Hawkins was born on April 18, 1914 in Fort Scott, Kansas. When he was a baby, he suffered an accident which scarred him for life. A neighbor accidentally spilled a can of scalding hot water over him and it was a year before his mother was able to cure the muscular damage by massage and he could walk again.


When he was five, the family moved to El Paso, Texas; when he was eight, his father died and his mother had to seek outside employment. She was employed as the secretary to a high school principal and, later, as a teacher in the El Paso Technical Institute.


An excellent student, he skipped fifth grade at LaMar and Alta Vista Schools and graduated from El Paso High School when he was 16. He won a scholarship to the Texas College of Mines, where he studied engineering. During summer vacations, he delivered magazines and sold newspapers, and worked as a bellhop, ranch hand, and railroad laborer.


When he was 21, he went to Tacoma, Washington, to work. At 23, he was an engineer for a Los Angeles title-insurance company. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on January 5, 1942, and was assigned to the 7th Recruit Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. He had tried unsuccessfully to enter both the Army and the Navy Air Corps, but his scars prevented his being accepted. Now, as a Marine, he joined the 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, completed Scout Snipers' School at Camp Elliott, San Diego, and on July 1, 1942 embarked on board the USS Crescent City for the Pacific area.


A private first class when he went overseas, he was quickly promoted to corporal and then sergeant. On November 17, 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant while taking part in the Guadalcanal campaign in the battle for the Solomons. On June 1, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant.


Less than six months later, he was killed in action leading a scout-sniper platoon in the attack on Betio Island during the assault on Tarawa.





For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Second Marines, Second Marine Division, in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, November 20 and 21, 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 breach 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 pill boxes and installations with grenades and demolition. At dawn on the following day, First Lieutenant Hawkins returned to the dangerous mission of clearing the limited beachhead of Japanese resistance, personally initiating an assault on a hostile 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 pill boxes before he was caught in a burst of Japanese shell fire and mortally wounded. His relentless fighting spirit in the face of formidable opposition and his exceptionally daring tactics were 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.



Section B, Grave 646

William Deane Hawkins

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