Bronze Star Corpsman

The great Bob Ross has said “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” This can apply to the field of history as well as the field of landscape painting, as I discovered today.

A researcher wrote in asking for information on a Mississippian, “E. D. ‘Dee’ Hamilton” who is referenced in an oral history collection as  a member of Able Company, 1/24. No Marines match that description in Able Company, or indeed in the battalion.

There is, however, a sailor. Hospital Apprentice First Class Elmer D. Hamilton.

Hamilton joined the battalion shortly before they went overseas, and served in the battles of Namur, Saipan, and Tinian. He was wounded on Saipan (or otherwise evacuated; he does not appear in the state roster of Navy casualties) and eventually taken from the battalion and hospitalized. However, before he transferred, he was recommended for the Bronze Star medal for valor on Saipan.

Navy records are not as easy to trace online as Marine ones, and for a while my trail stopped cold. However, this researcher’s question got me looking for the elusive Hamilton, and boy I’m glad I did because this little item turned up courtesy of the Jackson, MS Clarion-Ledger of August 3, 1945.

"Doc" Jackson receives his Bronze Star medal. This item appeared in the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger on 3 August 1945.

Not only is this the first picture I’ve seen of “Dee” Hamilton, it also provided enough clues to learn more about the rest of his life. After the war, he attended the University of Mississippi and went on to Harvard, eventually becoming a banker and quite a prominent citizen in Gulfport, Mississippi. He passed away in 1999 and, in an apparent nod to his time with the Fleet Marine Force, had “USMC” put on his headstone instead of the more regulation “US Navy.”

As for who gave the interview attributed to “E. D. Hamilton” – we aren’t sure. The details of the story ring true – mandy don’t appear in any history published prior to 2002 –  but, as with many oral histories, names and nicknames are difficult to confirm. And the perspective is decidedly that of a rifleman, not a corpsman. Theoretically, he was a Mississippian in Able Company who was twice wounded and served in all four battles. There aren’t many of those. In fact, there’s only one who matches these criteria, and it’s Hubert D. Mauney – whose nickname, coincidentally, was also “Dee” – so perhaps the story was told and accidentally misattributed (Dee Mauney passed away in 2004.)

Either way, this is a neat find that added to the story of a 1/24 corpsman. Many thanks to Dave Davison for the initial question and the insightful follow up.

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