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Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole, a Marine bugler who became a machine gunner and a hero on Iwo Jima. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
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Sgt. Darrell S. Cole

Bugler-Turned-Machine Gunner Was One Of Iwo Jima's Heroes

When the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Cole was christened in 1995, the ship was given the name of Marine Corps Sgt. Darrell Samuel Cole, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Feb. 19, 1945, assault on Iwo Jima. Cole's leadership, bravery, and lightning-fast decisions enabled his company to continue their advance and seize Airfield No. 1 on the embattled island.

Cole enlisted in the Marine Corps on Aug. 25, 1941, hoping to join the fight as quickly as possible. After boot training, however, he was sent to the Field Music School and trained as a Marine Corps field music -- the service's equivalent of a bugler. His Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division reached the shores of Guadalcanal in August 1942, just in time for the first American offensive of the war. Although Cole twice filled in for his unit's regular gunner and proved himself an excellent machine gunner, his request for line duty was not granted until after his performance during the Fourth Division's engagement at Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll.

At last a designated machine-gun section leader and at the front lines, Cole lost no time in showing his mettle. When his squad leader was killed, the wounded Cole took command. For those actions, he received the Bronze Star Medal. Shortly after the battle of Saipan, he led that same squad ashore at Tinian. Cole again requested a change of rating. The man who had become known as "The Fighting Field Music" was redesignated a line corporal and promoted to sergeant in November 1944.

Less than three months later, Cole led his machine-gun section ashore in the D-Day assault on Iwo Jima. When their advance was halted by enemy fire, Cole destroyed the emplacements with grenades. The unit was pinned down again, and Cole silenced another emplacement with his machine gun before it jammed. Armed with a pistol and one grenade, Cole began a series of one-man attacks that destroyed the Japanese hold on the airfield. He returned to his squad only to be killed instantly by an enemy grenade.

Cole's Medal of Honor citation describes him as gallant, intrepid, dauntless, unfaltering, indomitable, stouthearted, courageous. Of course, no words are an adequate description of such deeds, but they are a nation's best attempt to honor those who die in its name.

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