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First Name: William

Last Name: Bordelon

Birthplace: San Antonio, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: James

Date of Birth: 25 December 1920

Date of Death: 20 November 1943

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served: 1941-1943
William James Bordelon

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William James Bordelon
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Staff Sergeant William James Bordelon (25 December 1920 - 20 November 1943) was a U.S. Marine who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II. He was the first U.S. Marine from Texas to be awarded the Medal of Honor for action in World War II.

William James Bordelon was born on 25 December 1920 in San Antonio, TX. He graduated from Central Catholic Marianist High School in San Antonio in 1938, where he was the JROTC Battalion Major in 1937-1938. He was one of three of the high school's graduates who died on Tarawa.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 10 December 1941, and completed his recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, CA. He joined the 2nd Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, in San Diego. He was rapidly promoted - to Private First Class on 5 February 1942; to Corporal on 14 March 1942; and to Sergeant on 10 July 1942.

On 20 November 1943, he was serving as a member of an assault engineer platoon of the First Battalion, Eighteenth Marines, tactically attached to the 2nd Marine Division against the Japanese in the Battle of Tarawa. He single-handedly destroyed four enemy pillboxes that day before he was fatally wounded.

Four Medals of Honor were awarded for actions on Tarawa; three were posthumous awards, and the fourth was awarded to then-Colonel David M. Shoup, who became the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, 20 November 1943.

Citation: For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as a member of an assault engineer platoon of the 1st Battalion, 18th Marines, tactically attached to the 2d Marine Division, in action against the Japanese-held atoll of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on 20 November 1943. Landing in the assault waves under withering enemy fire which killed all but 4 of the men in his tractor, S/Sgt. Bordelon hurriedly made demolition charges and personally put 2 pillboxes out of action. Hit by enemy machinegun fire just as a charge exploded in his hand while assaulting a third position, he courageously remained in action and, although out of demolition, provided himself with a rifle and furnished fire coverage for a group of men scaling the seawall. Disregarding his own serious condition, he unhesitatingly went to the aid of one of his demolition men, wounded and calling for help in the water, rescuing this man and another who had been hit by enemy fire while attempting to make the rescue. Still refusing first aid for himself, he again made up demolition charges and single-handedly assaulted a fourth Japanese machinegun position but was instantly killed when caught in a final burst of fire from the enemy. S/Sgt. Bordelon's great personal valor during a critical phase of securing the limited beachhead was a contributing factor in the ultimate occupation of the island, and his heroic determination throughout 3 days of violent battle reflects the highest credit upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Presidential Unit Citation
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal


The destroyer USS Bordelon (DD-881) was named in his honor in 1945.

In April 1994, the Navy named San Antonio's Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center after him.

Also named for Bordelon is a Marine Corps and Navy VFW post and a section of Interstate 37 which runs through San Antonio, between I-35 and I-10.

Bordelon's alma mater, Central Catholic Marianist High School in San Antonio, has memorialized him in several ways. Central Catholic's junior ROTC rifle team is called the Bordelon Rifles in his honor. On 3 November 2007, the "William J. Bordelon Memorial" in the school's main foyer was dedicated. The memorial also remembers fellow high school graduates and Marines who died on Tarawa - Gene Seng, Jr. and Charles Montague.

Death and Burial

Staff Sergeant William James Bordelon was killed in action on 20 November 1943. He was originally buried in the Lone Palm Cemetery on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, then later interred in Honolulu, HI, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. At the request of his brother, Bordelon's body was moved from Hawaii to Texas in 1995. After lying in state at the Alamo, Bordelon's body was re-interred in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, TX, on the 52nd anniversary of his death.

Honoree ID: 1302   Created by: MHOH




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