Fallen Hero

Corporal

John D. Rucker

August 16, 1915 - December 6, 1950
Hometown:
East St. Louis, Illinois
Entered Service:
October 22, 1940
Unit:

1st Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion

Rank:
Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps
Award(s):
Prisoner of War Medal, Silver Star, Purple Heart
Cemetery:
Section G, Site 310, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Before the War

Born on August 16, 1915, John Dooley Rucker was the fourth of five children born to Ray and Elsie Rucker. Ray supported the family by working as a superintendent for the Alcoa Ore Company. John graduated from Belleville Township High School and attended the University of Missouri for one year. When he entered the military, he listed work experience as a construction worker as well as experience in a laboratory working at Monsanto Chemical.

At some point in the late 1930s, John moved to California and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. He did not see his family for five years.

The Rucker family in 1920. U.S. Census Bureau., The Rucker family in 1930. U.S. Census Bureau.

Military Experience

World War II

Rucker enlisted on October 20, 1940. Following basic training he sailed to a remote post on the island of Guam in the Mariana Islands, arriving May 7, 1941. Guam was not considered a high defense priority, and fewer than 150 U.S. Marines were stationed there to protect the island.

Seven months after Rucker’s arrival, on December 8, the Japanese attacked the island simultaneously with the attacks on Oahu, the Philippines, and Midway. A report from his commanding officer suggested that Rucker be given a meritorious conduct award for driving a fellow injured serviceman over 14 miles to the naval hospital in Haganta during the Japanese bombardment, but it was decided that these actions did not meet the requirements for a Bronze or Silver Star.

On December 11, Rucker became a prisoner of war of the Empire of Japan when Guam fell to the Japanese forces. Following a short detainment in a church in Guam, Rucker was transported to Japan in 1942.

Rucker and his fellow servicemen spent the next four years as prisoners of war at Zentshuji Camp on Shikoku Island and Osaka Main Camp. He suffered from pellagra, dysentery, beri-beri, and malnutrition. As an enlisted man, he worked long hours as a laborer for almost four years.

During this time, his mother, sister, and brother wrote many letters to the government and the U.S. Marine Corps demanding to learn more about their son and his conditions. Unhappy with the answers provided by the government, they engaged others to write letters on their behalf. On September 2, 1945, Rucker was liberated and transported to California aboard the USS Rescue, a hospital ship. He served until he was honorably discharged on February 18, 1946.

Korean War

Rucker returned to service, re-enlisting on April 2, 1948. When the Korean War broke out, he participated in the Incheon landings and served in the Chosin Reservoir, a campaign noted for its brutality and extreme weather conditions. Following a temporary assignment to a Headquarters and Service Company, he was reassigned to an infantry unit on December 5, 1950.

The next day, December 6, while leading a Light Machine Gun Section of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, his unit took heavy fire while advancing from Hagaru-ri to Koto-ri. His Silver Star citation reads:

Moving toward his section of guns in sub-zero temperatures and under hostile fire, he calmly directed and supervised their [gun] emplacement, promptly put them into action, and personally made several trips to the ammunition supply point.

Later that day he was mortally wounded when struck by a missile.

John Dooley Rucker’s actions on Guam, 1941. National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis., The 1st Marine Division moves through icy mountain passages retreating from Koto-ri, December 10, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (127-GK-234E)., John Dooley Rucker’s Silver Star Citation. National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.

Commemoration

After the armistice, Rucker’s remains were buried in North Korean territory, much to the frustration of his brother and sister, who continued to correspond with the government. Finally his remains were identified by the American Graves Registration Service. He was repatriated as part of Operation Glory, and his brother chose to have him buried in Hawaii in 1955. At the time, Hawaii was a territory and this was considered an “overseas burial.” His siblings were upset that the government would not pay for them to attend the burial, and it is unclear if they ever visited.

John Dooley Rucker’s grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 26, 2018. Courtesy of Cathy Gorn.

Bibliography

1st Marine Division, Korea; General Administrative Files, Sep 1950 - Mar 1955, Record Group 127 (Box 203); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

Hough, Lieutenant Colonel Frank O., Major Verle E. Ludwig, and Henry I. Shaw, Jr. Pearl Harbor to Guadalcanal: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Volume I. Washington, D.C.: Historical Branch, U.S. Marine Corps, 1958. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/I/.

Illinois. St. Clair County. 1920 U.S. Census. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

Illinois. St. Clair County. 1930 U.S. Census. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

John D. Rucker. U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798-1958. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

“John Dooley Rucker.” American Battle Monuments Commission. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.abmc.gov/node/508377?search=korea#.W60VyGhKjIU.

“John Dooley Rucker.” Findagrave. Last modified March 4, 2000. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/3790924.

John Dooley Rucker, Individual Deceased Personnel File, Department of the Army.

“John Dooley Rucker.” National Cemetery Administration Grave Locator. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/index.html?cemetery=N899.

“John Dooley Rucker.” The Hall of Valor Project. Last modified 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/38516.

John Dooley Rucker, Official Military Personnel File, Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps, Record of the U.S. Marine Corps, RG 127, National Archives and Records Administration - St. Louis.

John Dooley Rucker. U.S. Korean War Casualties, 1950-1957. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

John Dooley Rucker. World War II Prisoners of the Japanese, 1941-1945. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

John Dooley Rucker. WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings. Digital Images. http://ancestry.com.

Keating, Sergeant W. R. Through icy mountain passes, Chinese communist attacks and roadblocks.. Photograph. December 10, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (127-GK-234E). Image.

Records for John D. Rucker; Korean War Extract Data File, 1950-1954 [Electronic File], Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD [retrieved from the Access to Archival Databases at https://aad.archives.gov/aad/, September 27, 2018].

Records for John D. Rucker; World War II Prisoner of War Data File, 1941-1946 [Electronic File], Record Group 389; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD [retrieved from the Access to Archival Databases at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/, September 27, 2018].

Sood, Raj. “Marine endures war in POW camp.” National Park Service. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/npswapa/extContent/Lib/libe....

Vash, Corporal Jack. Elements of the 5th and 7th Regts, 1st Marine Div move from the Chosin Reservoir area to link up... Photograph. December 10, 1950. National Archives and Records Administration (111-SC-355240). Image.

“WWII Prisoners of War Sent to Japan.” Guampedia. Last modified June 30, 2018. Accessed September 27, 2018. https://www.guampedia.com/wwii-prisoners-of-war-sent-to-japan/.