Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has proclaimed Wednesday as Art Jackson Day, in honor of the Boise man who single-handedly destroyed a dozen concrete guard posts and killed 50 Japanese soldiers during a fierce World War II battle on the island of Peleliu in the Western Pacific.
A ceremony to honor Jackson will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the rotunda at the Idaho Capitol. Otter will present Jackson, 91, with a proclamation and there will be performances by the Boise Police Department Honor Guard Pipe & Drums, the department’s Honor Guard Choir and by The Divas of Boise.
In September 1944, Peleliu was held by Japanese soldiers entrenched in caves. Fighting for control of it lasted two months. When it was over, 1,800 Americans had been killed and 8,000 more wounded. Nine Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor for their roles in the battle. Jackson was one of them.
“All of local military, and in particular local Marines, consider Art Jackson to be a rock star among our military heroes,” said Rocci Johnson, one of the organizers of the tribute. “If not for him, and those of his mettle, it would be a very different world, and we would all probably not be speaking English.”
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Citations issued to Jackson, who retired as a captain, and other Marines are used in entry-level training to create a warrior spirit in new Marines, said Capt. Adam Ayriss, an inspector instructor for Company C, 4th Tank Battalion of the Marine Corps Reserves in Boise.
“Reading the words of extreme heroism displayed by Marines throughout history helps build the motivation, inspiration, and esprit de corps that galvanizes all Marines into one cohesive team,” Ayriss said. “Capt. Arthur Jackson is a hero; a true warrior who is an inspiration to all Marines.”
Then 19, Jackson saved his platoon from almost certain destruction. A book about the battle described him as “a one-man Marine Corps.” His Medal of Honor citation credits him with single-handedly confronting enemy barrages and contributing to “the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island.”
Despite a barrage of gunfire, Jackson charged a large pillbox, as the concrete guard posts were known. He threw white phosphorus grenades that provided cover from the white smoke it produced and he set off munitions charges that destroyed the pillbox and killed the 35 soldiers inside.
Jackson kept advancing and picked off one enemy position after another.
“His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Pfc. Jackson and the U.S. Naval Service,” according to the Medal of Honor citation.
Additional information on Jackson and his heroism can be found online on a Facebook page dedicated to him.