Welcome to the third installment of the Men of Honor series. In the last two weeks I have shared the stories of Charles Coolidge and Henry "Red" Erwin. These men were both alive when they received their Medal of Honors (though some worried that Red would die before receiving his medal), however this week's recipient made the ultimate sacrifice. For this week's man of honor we return to the state of Tennessee.
In December 1942, Elbert joined the Marine Corps "and received his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina." (1) Many years later, my husband's maternal grandfather would also go through Marine Corps training at Parris Island.
Then in March 1943, Elbert sailed to the Pacific.
Elbert "joined the 7th Replacement Battalion in Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa. Later, that battalion joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia, and Sgt Kinser was assigned to Company I, 1st Marines.
Action with the 1st Marines followed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain in Operation Cartwheel, and later at Battle of Peleliu in Peleliu, Palau Islands.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Sgt Kinser landed with his unit on the Japanese island Okinawa." (1)
Elbert, the leader of a rifle platoon, landed with his men on Okinawa, Japan and began working on taking a ridge nearby. At one point, Elbert engaged the Japanese in a fierce hand grenade battle.
On 4 May 1945, Elbert gave his men one of the greatest gifts - that of his life. During the fierce hand grenade battle, a hand grenade landed near Elbert and he covered it with his body.
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while acting as Leader of a Rifle Platoon, serving with Company I, Third Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division, in action against Japanese forces on Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu Chain, 4 May 1945. . . . Stout-hearted and indomitable, he had yielded his own chance of survival that his comrades might live to carry on the relentless battle against a fanatic enemy. His courage, cool decision and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the fact of certain death sustained and enhanced the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country." (2)
The Bible acknowledges gifts like Elbert's, in John 15:13 saying:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”(3)
After the battle, Elbert was buried in Okinawa. Following the war's conclusion his remains were returned to a cemetery in his hometown of Greeneville, in 1949.
Elbert's Medal of Honor was presented to his parents in 1946 in Greeneville, TN.
"Kinser also received the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the 1st Marine Division, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. . . . In recognition of Kinser’s service, the U.S. Marine base at Okinawa was named Camp Kinser. His legacy is also apparent throughout Greene County. A historical marker in front of the Greene County Courthouse gives an account of Kinser’s bravery. Kinser Park sits along the Nolichucky River and was created from land donated by TVA in 1976. The sizable Kinser Bridge provides safe passage for vehicles across the river on Highway 107." (4)
Elbert's legacy lives on to inspire other marines both in the United States and in Okinawa, Japan.