On October 3, 1918, Marine Corporal John Henry Pruitt II, while operating with American Expeditionary Forces in Blanc Mont, France, single-handedly attacked two German machine-gun positions.
Pruitt was killed in action; he died on his 22nd birthday. Medals shown, left to right: Medal of Honor, Maltese Cross, unidentified medal, Croix de Guerre, Croce di Guerra and the Victory Medal.
Pruitt killed two German soldiers and captured 40 more. Later that same day, while serving on sniper duty, he was hit by a mortar shell and gravely wounded.
He died the next day — on his 22nd birthday.
Military experts have said that Pruitt not only saved many American soldiers' lives but also that his heroic efforts greatly helped his unit accomplish its mission.
For his valor, Pruitt was posthumously decorated. Pruitt received two Medals of Honor, one from the Navy and one from the Army. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre by France, and the Croce di Guerra by Italy, both medals are those countries equivalents to the American Medal of Honor. In addition, Pruitt received two purple hearts, four silver stars, four bronze stars, and several other combat and victory medals. He was the first person from Arizona to earn a Medal of Honor.
“I can't find anybody who was more decorated than he was,” said John H. Pruitt III, the Cottonwood nephew of Corporal Pruitt.
The younger Pruitt and his three sisters have conducted considerable research into their famous uncle's military honors.
Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Corporal Pruitt was cited by President Woodrow Wilson, and the Navy named a destroyer after him. The USS Pruitt was launched in 1920.
Born in Pruitt Hallow, Arkansas, in 1896, Corporal Pruitt moved to Jerome with his family. His father, who had been a farmer in Arkansas, became a blacksmith in the mines of Jerome, according to Georgia Ahrlich, Corporal Pruitt's niece. The Pruitt family believes Corporal Pruitt attended elementary school in Jerome for several years before his family moved to Phoenix.
According to a family scrapbook and old newspaper clippings, Hurley B. Pruitt, the father of John Pruitt III, and the brother of Corporal Pruitt, was the first marshal of Scottsdale.
John Pruitt III and his sisters allowed all of the medals to be displayed in the Arizona Capitol for several years. Eventually, the collection was broken up when some of the medals were included in the Freedom Train tour in 1976. Some of the medals disappeared and have not been accounted for.
On April 22, John Pruitt III and his sisters went to the state capitol and retrieved the medals so they could be donated to the U.S. Marine Corps for display in the Corps' new museum scheduled to open in 2005.
“Ten years ago I was offered $250,000 for the medals,” John Pruitt III said. “Today, they'd probably be worth half a million.”
But John and his sisters all agree they wouldn't feel right selling the medals. They feel it would diminish their uncle's acts of valor. “Besides,” John said, “those medals belong to the Marines.”Born at Pruitt Hollow, Boston Township, Fallsville, Arkansas, October 4, 1896, the first child born to John Henry and Mary Marshall Pruitt.
He was a DOUBLE recipient of the Medal of Honor during World War I while serving with the 78th Company, 6th Regiment of Marines, 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), at Blanc-Mont, France, October 3, 1918. He was killed in that action. He was the receipient of BOTH the United States Navy and the United States Army Medals of Honor.
He was returned to the United States where he was buried in Section 18 of Arlington National Cemetery.
Pruitt, John Henry
Born 1 October 1896, died 4 October 1918
US Marine Corps, Corporal
Section 18, Grave 2453, buried 13 October 1921
PRUITT, JOHN HENRY (Army Medal)
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division. Place and date: At Blanc Mont Ridge, France, 3 October 1918. Entered service at: Phoenix, Arizona. Born: 4 October 1896, Fayettesville, Arkansas. G.O. No.: 62, W.D., 1919. (Also received Navy Medal of Honor.)
Corporal Pruitt single-handed attacked 2 machineguns, capturing them and killing 2 of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. This gallant soldier was killed soon afterward by shellfire while he was sniping at the enemy.
PRUITT, JOHN HENRY (Navy Medal)
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 4 October 1896, Fayetteville, Arkansas. Accredited to: Arizona. (Also received Army Medal of Honor.)
For extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division, in action with the enemy at Blanc Mont Ridge, France, 3 October 1918. Corporal Pruitt, single-handed attacked 2 machineguns, capturing them and killing 2 of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. This gallant soldier was killed soon afterward by shellfire while he was sniping the enemy.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard