“Pharmacist’s Mate, Second Class” isn’t the type of rank you’d expect to see associated with a Medal of Honor winner. But William “Doc” Halyburton was no average man.
A Navy corpsman serving with a Marine Rifle Company in the 2nd Battalion on Okinawa in 1945, Halyburton administered aid to his battalion as it pushed through a hail of Japanese gunfire. The Japanese defenders of Okinawa laid down so much concentrated mortar, machine-gun, and sniper fire on Doc’s position, it was as though they were trying to kill every blade of grass on the island.
Halyburton ran across the battlefield from fallen Marine to fallen Marine, pulling them out of fire as quickly as possible, administering aid. While having a wound in his femoral artery sealed, one of Halyburton’s patients was (non-fatally) hit by sniper fire. Halyburton quickly positioned himself between his patient and the sniper, who proceeded to hammer the medic with round after round, all while mortar fell all around, slashing his face and body with shrapnel.
While repeatedly shot in the back, Halyburton continued to work. After administering the final bit of gauze, Halyburton collapsed, using his own dying body to shield the Marine from mortar rounds. That Marine survived, and made it home to tell the tale.
We honor you, William Halyburton.