ON THIS DATE in 1945, nineteen-year-old Douglas T. Jacobson launched a one-man assault on Japanese forces on Iwo Jima that resulted in the destruction of 16 enemy positions and the death of approximately 75 opposing soldiers. The private’s rampage, which included packing and firing a bazooka designed as a two-man weapon, occurred despite the fight-to-the-death mentality of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers fiercely defending the tiny but strategically important South Pacific Island.
Douglas had enlisted in the Marines as a seventeen-year-old in 1943 and fought on three other Pacific islands before the battle for Iwo Jima. Attacking Hill 382, the highest point on the island, he snatched a bazooka from a fallen Marine and proceeded to destroy a 20-millimeter aircraft gun, two blockhouses (concrete military fortifications), seven rifle em- placements, and a tank. According to his Medal of Honor citation, the Marine also “annihilated approximately 75 Japanese, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his division’s operations against the fanatically defended outpost of the Japanese Empire.”