Medal of Honor Recipient Jumps On Grenade to Save Marines in Vietnam

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Vietnam War
Vietnam War
Department of Defense
Department of Defense

U.S.A.-( This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the honor of wearing the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

The next hero to be honored in our Medal of Honor Monday series gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and it happened nearly 50 years ago to the day of this posting.

James Anderson Jr. was born in Los Angeles, California, in January 1947. He went to a local junior college for a year and a half before he decided that his real calling was with the Marine Corps. Within a year of enlisting, the private first class was sent to Vietnam.

Marine PFC James Anderson Jr.
Marine PFC James Anderson Jr.

On Feb. 28, 1967, Anderson had just celebrated his 20th birthday and his one-year anniversary in the Marines when he was put to the ultimate test.

Anderson was serving as a rifleman in Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, in the Quan Tri province on Vietnam’s central coast. He and his platoon were on a mission to rescue a heavily besieged reconnaissance patrol when they came upon heavy fire in dense jungle northwest of Cam Lo.

The platoon reacted quickly and began firing back. Anderson found himself on the ground in a tightly packed group of Marines within about 20 meters of the enemy, firing back on them.

All of a sudden, a grenade landed within feet of Anderson’s head. Without hesitation, Anderson grabbed the grenade, pulled it into his chest and wrapped himself around it before it detonated.

Anderson’s body absorbed the blast. He was immediately killed. Thanks to his actions, though, the Marines around him survived with just minor injuries.

Most of us would never be able to understand that selflessness and self-sacrifice. Anderson’s extraordinary valor and the giving of his life to save the men around him can’t be overstated, and that’s why he received the Medal of Honor posthumously, Aug. 21, 1968. His parents accepted it for him.

Anderson was the first African-American Marine to receive the honor.

UNSNS Pfc. James Anderson Jr.
UNSNS Pfc. James Anderson Jr.

It wouldn’t be his last, either. In 1983, the U.S. Navy showed its appreciation for his gallantry by renaming a maritime prepositioning ship after him. The USNS Pfc. James Anderson Jr. was based in the Indian Ocean and carried equipment to support a Marine expeditionary brigade until 2009.

A park in Carson, California, was also named in his honor.

Read More: African-Americans Who Broke Barriers

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2nd Amender

March 29th..!.!. Vietnam Veterans Day…….

for soldiers, for marines, for airman, for coast guardsman, for sailors..!..for all who served in Vietnam…..

All Americans, in a uniform…..doing their duty, some making the ultimate sacrifice to save their comrades.

skin color means nothing, when you’re ducking bullets! I served w/ A 1/28th, 1st ID, ’68 – ’69.


I weep as I read this. You cannot be replaced but you can inspire.

Wild Bill

Pfc James Anderson, Jr makes me proud to be his fellow American.


I see a brave young man who is green and wears the Red, White and Blue. Thank you God for loaning him to us for a little while. RIP Marine, Semper Fi.

M. B. Ingersoll

I hope his family sees this. As the years go on, PFC Anderson’s story wil be read by others; here and through other venues; by Veterans such as those who posted before me and myself – but also, perhaps more importantly, by regular citizens, school children in particular, who will learn of his incredible bravery and selflessness. And they’ll understand a little better, and honor those who served and are still serving all of us. Let us never forget.


Though I’m not an Marine, but Air Force, Many Marines I know and respect would not give it a second thought of not giving themselves to save other. From Military brother, I agree Marines come in one color Marine Green! Bless this Marine family forever and for their sacrafice to this country.

stan beck

Anderson was not an afro-anything. He was a Marine. Marines don’t come in colors, they come in courage and he shined.


Marines come in only one color Marine Green ! Semper Fi.