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First Name: William

Last Name: Hawkins

Birthplace: Fort Scott, KS, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Deane

Date of Birth: 18 April 1914

Date of Death: 21 November 1943

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served: 1942-1943
William Deane Hawkins

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William Deane Hawkins
First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

First Lieutenant William Deane Hawkins (18 April 1914 - 21 November 1943) was a U.S. Marine Corps officer who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in the Battle of Tarawa during World War II.

William Deane Hawkins was born on 18 April 1914 in Fort Scott, KS. When he was a baby, he suffered an accident which scarred him for life. A neighbor upset a can of scalding hot water over him and it was a year before his mother was able to cure the muscular damage by massage and he could walk again.

When he was five, the family moved to El Paso, TX; when he was eight, his father died and his mother had to seek outside employment. She was employed as the secretary to a high school principal and, later, as a teacher in the El Paso Technical Institute.

An excellent student, he skipped fifth grade at LaMar and Alta Vista Schools and graduated from El Paso High School when he was 16. He won a scholarship to the Texas College of Mines, where he studied engineering. During summer vacations, he delivered magazines and sold newspapers, and worked as a bellhop, ranch hand, and railroad laborer.

When he was 21, he went to Tacoma, WA, to work. At 23, he was an engineer for a Los Angeles title-insurance company.

Marine Corps Service

After the Pearl Harbor attack, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 5 January 1942. He was assigned to the 7th Recruit Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego. He had tried unsuccessfully to enter both the Army and the Navy Air Corps, but his scars prevented his being accepted. Now, as a Marine, he joined the 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division, completed Scout Snipers' School at Camp Elliott, San Diego, and on 1 July 1942 embarked on board the USS Crescent City for the Pacific area.

A Private First Class when he went overseas, he was quickly promoted to Corporal and then Sergeant. On 17 November 1942, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant while taking part in the Guadalcanal campaign in the battle for the Solomon's. On 1 June 1943, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

Less than six months later, he was killed in action while leading a scout-sniper platoon in the attack on Betio Island during the assault on Tarawa. During the two-day assault, 1stLt Hawkins led attacks on pill boxes and installations, personally initiated an assault on a hostile position fortified by five enemy machine guns, refused to withdraw after being seriously wounded and destroyed three more pill boxes before he was mortally wounded on 21 November 1943. For his actions above and beyond the call of duty, 1stLt Hawkins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Tarawa, Gilbert Island, 20 and 21 November 1943.

Citation: For valorous and gallant conduct above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of a Scout Sniper Platoon attached to the Assault Regiment in action against Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Island, 20 and 21 November 1943. The first to disembark from the jeep lighter, 1st Lt. Hawkins unhesitatingly moved forward under heavy enemy fire at the end of the Betio Pier, neutralizing emplacements in coverage of troops assaulting the main beach positions. Fearlessly leading his men on to join the forces fighting desperately to gain a beachhead, he repeatedly risked his life throughout the day and night to direct and lead attacks on pillboxes and installations with grenades and demolitions. At dawn on the following day, 1st Lt. Hawkins resumed the dangerous mission of clearing the limited beachhead of Japanese resistance, personally initiating an assault on a hostile position fortified by S enemy machineguns, and, crawling forward in the face of withering fire, boldly fired pointblank into the loopholes and completed the destruction with grenades. Refusing to withdraw after being seriously wounded in the chest during this skirmish, 1st Lt. Hawkins steadfastly carried the fight to the enemy, destroying 3 more pillboxes before he was caught in a burst of Japanese shellfire and mortally wounded. His relentless fighting spirit in the face of formidable opposition and his exceptionally daring tactics served as an inspiration to his comrades during the most crucial phase of the battle and reflect the highest credit upon the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

In September 1944, the Medal of Honor was presented to Hawkins' mother by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a White House ceremony.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

With his unit 1st Lt Hawkins also shared in the two Presidential Unit Citations awarded the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) for heroic action during the Guadalcanal and Tarawa campaigns.


Robert Sherrod, then Editor of The Saturday Evening Post, wrote the following about the Marine platoon leader:

"Hawkins had told me aboard the ship that he would put his platoon of men up against any company of soldiers on earth and guarantee to win. He was slightly wounded by shrapnel as he came ashore in the first wave, but the furthest thing from his mind was to be evacuated. He led his platoon into the forest of coconut palms. During a day and a half he personally cleaned out six Jap machine gun nests, sometimes standing on top of a track and firing point blank at four or five men who fired back at him from behind blockhouses. Lieutenant Hawkins was wounded a second time, but he still refused to retire. To say that his conduct was worthy of the highest traditions of the Marine Corps is like saying the Empire State Building is moderately high."

• In recognition of his leadership and daring action against enemy positions, the air strip on Betio Island was named Hawkins Field in honor of the Marine hero.

• The bar at The Basic School is called The Hawkins Room, after 1st Lt. Deane Hawkins. The Basic School is a six-month basic officer course for newly commissioned 2nd Lts and Warrant Officers. [Interestingly, because 1st. Lt Hawkins received a battlefield commission, he never attended The Basic School.]

• Camp LeJeune in North Carolina had a winter camp named after Lt. Hawkins.

• Camp HM Smith in Honolulu, HI, has a small area of land identified as Camp Hawkins, named after 1st Lt. Deane Hawkins. The site is located at the extreme NE portion of Camp Smith and now sits within a secured perimeter fence line. Originally used in the later part of the Second World War as an R&R location, the site contains a small stone cabin and overlooks the southern coast of Oahu, from Diamond Head to Barber's Point. Cornerstones on either side of the cabin's doorway, identified the area "Shangri La" as is was dubbed by the construction engineers and the cabin itself is identified as 'Camp McMullan'. Camp Hawkins was used as a training area for Marines, a recreation area (with the addition of playground equipment in the 1970s) and a camp ground for military personnel and their families. Today, it is used almost exclusively as a camp site for local Boy Scout organizations.

• In El Paso, TX, Hawkins Road and Hawkins Elementary are both named after Deane Hawkins.

Hawkins' archives were kept by his mother, Mrs. C. Jane Hawkins, and are in the possession of the El Paso County Historical Society.

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant William Deane Hawkins was killed in action on 21 November 1943. His remains were eventually interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, HI, in Section B, Grave 646.

Honoree ID: 1436   Created by: MHOH




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