Arthur J. Jackson

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Arthur J. Jackson
[[File:180px  90px|frameless|alt=]]
Born October 18, 1924 (1924-10-18) (age 96)
Cleveland, Ohio
Awards Medal of Honor
Purple Heart (2)

Captain Arthur J. Jackson (born October 18, 1924) is a United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Peleliu during World War II.[1] PFC Jackson single-handedly destroyed 12 enemy pillboxes and killed 50 enemy soldiers. On September 30, 1961, while serving at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, after a drinking bout where he consumed at least 6 martinis, Jackson fatally shot Rubén López Sabariego, a Cuban worker, and attempted to hide his body.[2]

Early years

Arthur J. Jackson was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 18, 1924. He moved to Portland, Oregon with his parents in 1939, and completed Grant High School there. After graduation, he worked in Alaska for a naval construction company until November 1942, when he returned to Portland and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of eighteen.

Military service

In January 1943, he began his recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, and soon thereafter joined the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne, Australia in June 1943. On January 13, 1944, while taking part in the Cape Gloucester campaign, he carried a wounded Marine to safety in the face of well-entrenched Japanese troops on the slope of a steep hill, thus saving the wounded man's life. For this action, he was awarded a Letter of Commendation.

Following this, while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, he took part in the fighting and was wounded on Peleliu — for his heroic actions in that battle, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and was awarded his first Purple Heart. He again went into combat on Okinawa where, as a platoon sergeant with the 1st Marine Division, he was again wounded in action on May 18, 1945. That August, he was commissioned as a Marine second lieutenant.

During ceremonies at the White House on October 5, 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented him with the Nation's highest combat award — the Medal of Honor.

Following the war, he served in North China during the post-war occupation of that country. On his return to the United States, he returned briefly to civilian life, but, shortly after, entered the U.S. Army Reserves where, in 1954, he made the rank of captain. Although he served with the Army during the Korean War, he returned to the Marine Corps in 1959.

Fatal shoots Rubén López Sabariego

In 1961 Jackson was stationed at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, where he fatally shot Rubén López Sabariego, a Cuban worker at Guantanamo.[1] Following the Cuban Revolution tensions were high between Cuba and the USA. Prior to the Revolution the base had employed thousands of Cubans who commuted to the base every day. Following the Revolution no new Cubans were hired, but the existing workers were allowed to continue working on the base. (The last two commuters retired on December 31st, 2012.) The USA allowed several hundred Cuban workers to seek asylum, and live on the base. López, who worked as a bus driver on the base, attracted the suspicion of Naval Intelligence.

According to the Idaho Statesman, "When Jackson found López in the restricted area, an ammunition dump, he decided to remove him from the base and summoned another officer to assist."[1] Jackson and the other officer planned to open a little used gate in the fence, and lock him out on the Cuban side of the fence. However, they couldn't unlock the gate, and the other officer left, to get help. Jackson described López attacking him, and shooting him in self-defense.

Jackson's account was that, rather than inform his superiors, he unsuccessfully tried to hide López's body.[1]

According to Jana K. Lipman, author of Guantánamo: A Working-class History Between Empire and Revolution, López's wife last saw him alive when he left for work on September 30, 1961.[2] Lipman described López's wife appealing to base officials for information about her husband. Lipman described how officers claimed he must have been captured by Cuban security officials on her first two visits, and how it was only on her third visit that the base chaplain told her López was dead. Lipman describes how, when López's wife was shown his decomposing body it was lying in a ditch, "in horrible condition".

When López's body was finally returned to Cuba an autopsy was performed.[2] Cuban pathologists concluded approximately two weeks had passed between López disappearance and his death. They concluded that López had been beaten to death by blows from rifle butts. Marine Corps officials acknowledged that López's body had originally been found in a shallow grave, not the ditch where López's wife had been told he was found.

in 1963 Lieutenant William A. Szili sought help from his Congressional Representative, Richard S. Schweiker, because he believed his inability to find work, following his discharge, was due to his role in covering up Jackson's shooting of López.[2] In Szili's version, he and Jackson had been drinking at the officer's club, and had consumed six martinis each. Accordig to Szili, Jackson later noticed López in a restricted part of the base, contacted base police, who told him to escort López off the base. Szili's story was that Jackson chose to use an unstaffed, unused gate, rather than the camp's main gate, and when its lock was rusted shut, he had left to get a sledge hammer. Szili described returning to hear Jackson's claim he had succeeded in opening the gate, forcing López to the Cuban side of the fence, where López attacked him, and he had shot him -- on Cuban soil.

Szili described how López's body had either fallen off a cliff onto the beach at the camp's border, or Jackson had thrown the body over the cliff.[2] Szili described the two officers leaving the body lying on the beach overnight. Szili described unsuccessful attempts to recover the body, with the first rope they used breaking, and eventually called upon three other officers and six enlisted men to finally recover the body. They buried López's body well inside the base boundary. According to Szili, base officials searched for the body, after rumors circulated among base personnel, finding the shallow grave on October 15, 1961.

Szili was discharged, while Jackson was allowed to resign without an explicit blemish on his record.[2]

Return to the Army Reserves

After his resignation from the Marine Corps Jackson remained active in the Army Reserves and eventually retired from that service in 1984. During this time he also worked for the United States Postal Service.[3]

Jackson is now retired and currently lives in Boise, Idaho.

Awards and decorations

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on the Island of Peleliu in the Palau Group, September 18, 1944. Boldly taking the initiative when his platoon's left flank advance was held up by the fire of Japanese troops concealed in strongly fortified positions, Private First Class Jackson unhesitatingly proceeded forward of our lines and, courageously defying the heavy barrages, charged a large pillbox housing approximately thirty-five enemy soldiers. Pouring his automatic fire into the opening of the fixed installation to trap the occupying troops, he hurled white phosphorus grenades and explosive charges brought up by a fellow Marine, demolishing the pillbox and killing all of the enemy. Advancing alone under the continuous fire from other hostile emplacements, he employed a similar means to smash two smaller positions in the immediate vicinity. Determined to crush the entire pocket of resistance although harassed on all sides by the shattering blasts of Japanese weapons and covered only by small rifle parties, he stormed one gun position after another, dealing death and destruction to the savagely fighting enemy in his inexorable drive against the remaining defenses and succeeded in wiping out a total of twelve pillboxes and fifty Japanese soldiers. Stouthearted and indomitable despite the terrific odds, Private First Class Jackson resolutely maintained control of the platoon's left flank movement throughout his valiant one-man assault and, by his cool decision and relentless fighting spirit during a critical situation, contributed essentially to the complete annihilation of the enemy in the southern sector of the island. His gallant initiative and heroic conduct in the face of extreme peril reflect the highest credit upon Private First Class Jackson and the United States Naval Service.[4]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Tim Woodward (2013-05-26). "Tim Woodward: WWII hero breaks long silence over shooting at Guantanamo". Idaho Statesman. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27. Retrieved 2013-05-27. "Lopez died instantly. And Jackson was about to make a decision that would change his life, putting him at odds with the highest levels of President John F. Kennedy's administration. He hid the body. "I hoped no one would find out," he said. "The world found out."" 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Jana K. Lipman (2009). Guantánamo: A Working-class History Between Empire and Revolution. University of California Press. pp. 173-174. ISBN 9780520942370. Retrieved 2013-05-27. 
  3. Sloane Brotherhood of Heroes, p.346-7.
  4. "PFC Arthur J. Jackson, Medal of Honor", Marines Awarded the Medal of Honor.

External links