JACKSON, Miss. — Jack Lucas, a North Carolina native who at 14 lied his way into military service during World War II and became the youngest Marine to receive the Medal of Honor, died Thursday. He was 80.
Lucas had been battling cancer and died after he requested doctors at a hospital in a Hattiesburg, Miss., to remove a dialysis machine, his wife, Ruby, said.
Jacklyn "Jack" Lucas was just six days past his 17th birthday in February 1945 when his heroism at Iwo Jima earned him the nation’s highest military honor. He used his body to shield three fellow squad members from two grenades, and was nearly killed when one exploded.
Lucas was left with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and every major organ, including six pieces in his brain and two in his heart, and endured 26 surgeries in the following months. He often showed the curious his arms, which were speckled with grenade fragments that could be seen just under the surface of his skin.
He was the youngest serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor in any conflict other than the Civil War.
Lucas became a symbol of patriotism in the decades after the war, meeting presidents and traveling the world to speak with frontline soldiers and fellow veterans.
JACKSON, Miss.— Jack Lucas is in the toughest fight of his life.
The renowned Medal of Honor recipient who lied his way into the Marines at age 14 and survived both World War II after using his body to shield his fellow Marines from grenades on Iwo Jima at age 17 and a freefall while an Army paratrooper in the 1960s is ill with cancer.
He was left with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and in every major organ and endured 26 surgeries in the months after Iwo Jima.
Lucas’ biographer, D.K. Drum, says the 80-year-old is in "grave" condition at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, where family and friends are staying with him 24 hours a day.
Lucas was recently diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and was too weak to speak with a reporter on Monday.
Drum calls his outlook "grave.’"