Richard E. Bush, who received the Medal of Honor for leading a charge up a mountain in the World War II battle for Okinawa and then falling on a hand grenade to protect fellow Marines, died last Monday [June 7, 2004] at his home in Waukegan, Ill. He was 79.
The cause was a heart ailment, his son, Richard Jr., told The Chicago Tribune.
When he joined the Marines out of high school, Mr. Bush, a native of Glasgow, Ky., hardly envisioned himself a war hero, as he recalled four years ago. “I didn’t want to get any medals,” the Marine Corps quoted him as saying then.
When he and his brother entered the military service, he said, “My father said: `Let me tell you something. If either one of you comes home with a medal, I’m going to beat you to death.’ He was concerned about our welfare and our safety. My father had a saying, `He who fights and runs away, lives to run away another day.’ ”
On April 16, 1945, serving with the Fourth Marines, Sixth Marine Division, Corporal Bush was involved in some of the fiercest combat in World War II’s Pacific campaign, the fight for Okinawa.
In the face of Japanese artillery fire, Corporal Bush led his squad up rocky terrain in the battle to capture the 1,200-foot Mount Yaetake in northern Okinawa, an outpost overlooking two important roads. While participating in the breakthrough to the deeply entrenched inner defenses of the mountain, Corporal Bush was seriously wounded and evacuated with other Marines to protecting rocks.
While Corporal Bush “was prostrate under medical treatment,” as his Medal of Honor citation put it, a hand grenade hurled by a Japanese defender landed amid the Marines. Corporal Bush “unhesitatingly pulled the deadly missile to himself and absorbed the shattering violence of the exploding charge in his body,” the citation said.
The grenade explosion tore several fingers off one hand and cost Corporal Bush sight in one eye, according to “Heroes of WW II,” by Edward F. Murphy.
Mr. Bush was later a longtime employee of the Veterans Administration.
In addition to his son, Mr. Bush is survived by two grandsons. His wife, Stella, died in 1989.
At a gathering of Medal of Honor recipients in Chicago in 1990, Mr. Bush remembered his exploits.
“I wasn’t out there alone that day on Okinawa,” he told The Chicago Tribune. “I had Marines to my right, Marines to my left, Marines behind me and Marines overhead. I didn’t earn this alone. It belongs to them too.”