Mr. Immortal – A Marine Dives on 2 Live Grenades To Save His Platoon


In the 2011 movie, Captain America: The First
Avenger, the moment they realise that Steve Rogers has the makings of a superhero is when
he jumps on a dummy grenade to save his comrades. To sacrifice yourself for your fellow soldiers
in a combat situation is one of the most honourable things a military serviceman can do – even
earning you the coveted Medal of Honour, an award given for exceptional feats of bravery
and personal sacrifice. Only 103 Medal of Honor recipients are alive
today. Jumping on a live grenade will probably net
you a Medal of Honor, but it’s also a pretty sure-fire way to die in action. So, imagine the kind of person it takes to
do this at the age of seventeen with two grenades, miraculously survive, and then go on to defy
death once again? That person is who we’re talking about today,
on this episode of The Infographics Show. This is the story of a war hero and an almost
indestructible man – Jacklyn H. Lucas, aka “Mr. Immortal.” Jacklyn – who more commonly went by “Jack”
– was born on Valentine’s Day in 1928. These were truly humble beginnings, growing
up in the town of Plymouth, North Carolina, along the Roanoke River. Growing up with the more traditionally feminine
name “Jacklyn”, Jack learned to be extra tough to compensate, enhancing his natural
athletic abilities from a young age and learning to beat up anyone who made fun of him. However, in spite of his drive and toughness,
life didn’t come easy to young Jack. When he was eleven-years-old, his father – local
Tobacco farmer Louis Harold Lucas – died tragically young at age forty-five. Jack loved his father, and so took his death
particularly hard. Like a lot of adolescents struggling with
feelings of grief, Jack began to misbehave and act out. His mother – who never remarried, despite
living to the truly impressive age of ninety-six – was still grieving herself in the aftermath
of her husband’s death. Feeling like she was unable to control young
Jack, she enrolled him at the Edwards Military Institute in the local town of Salemburg. For a lot of people, being abruptly enrolled
into military school after your father’s untimely death would be a nightmare. For Jack, however, it was when he really came
into his own. As we mentioned before, Jack was a naturally
big and athletic kid. By age fourteen, while most people his age
are still in braces, Jack was 5”8 and one-hundred-and-eighty pounds of solid muscle. In the regimented, macho environment of military
school, Jack put his physical aptitude to the test and excelled in an insane variety
of sports. These include hunting, trap and skeet shooting,
horseback riding, wrestling, boxing, basketball, softball, and the American Pastime, baseball. He quickly rose through the ranks at Edwards
Military Institute, gaining the rank of Cadet Captain. During his time there, he even earned the
coveted position of Captain of the football team. If everything kept progressing in this direction,
it’s likely Jack would have left the institute and become a superstar athlete. However, wider circumstances unfolding across
the globe dramatically changed the course of Jack’s life. Europe was experiencing what would later be
known as World War Two, as Hitler’s expansionist Nazi forces – with the help of Mussolini’s
fascist Italian regime – wreaked havoc on neighbouring countries. The United States, under President Franklin
Roosevelt, had vowed to stay out of this messy European conflict. However, everything changed for the US and
for Jack Lucas on December 7th, 1941. Pearl Harbor. The surprise bombing and kamikaze attack by
the Japanese military on an American naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii that left over two-thousand-three-hundred
American soldiers dead. This event sparked uproar across the nation,
but it particularly resonated with young Jack Lucas. At fourteen, he was still three years below
the legal enlistment age, and he didn’t have his mother’s permission. But that didn’t matter to him. He was feeling that same rage and grief he
felt after his father’s death, but this time, there was an enemy to fight. And you better believe that Jack Lucas was
going to join that fight. But there were still those two pesky issues
of his age and his lack of parental permission. However, Jack had his own methods for getting
around this. Namely, in August of 1942, he broke out of
military school – where they declared him AWOL – and crossed the state line to Virginia. There, he bribed a public official to forge
documents saying he was seventeen. His next stop was the Marine Corps recruitment
centre in Norfolk, Virginia. There, he forged his mother’s signature,
and fully enlisted in the United States Military. All before the age of fifteen, when most of
us are too afraid to ask our crushes to prom. He was sent for recruitment training at the
Parris Island Marine Corps training depot in South Carolina. Much like his time in military school, Jack
excelled in training. His years of hunting, trap, and skeet shooting
in Edwards Military Institute had paid off, as he was declared a sharpshooter in rifle
qualification. He was a full-fledged marine by age fourteen. Jack was already eager to jump straight into
the action, but the US military had different ideas. They gave him a post in the Parris Island
Training Battalion, doing largely manual labour for them. It was a far cry from the action Jack was
expecting when he enlisted. Luckily for him, Jack had never been the kind
of guy to just sit around and complain. Instead, much like his days in military school,
Jack abandoned his post to follow more exciting prospects. Namely, he got a ride to the military base
at Pearl Harbor, telling a USMC officer that his assignment to the training battalion was
the result of a clerical error, and that he was supposed to have been given a more active
combat position. However, this clever plan didn’t quite work
out, because he was given a military trucking job. Driving supplies from place to place didn’t
exactly make him feel like a valuable soldier. Over time, the frustration of inaction was
starting to drive Jack a little stir crazy. Once again, he began acting out, like any
teenager who feels like he’s being treated unfairly. Jack was disciplined by his superiors for
once again going AWOL, this time to head into Honolulu-proper and meet girls. He was also arrested for getting hammered
and instigating a bar fight. In one instance that feels like something
straight out of Animal House, Jack was reprimanded for bringing a crate of beer into his barracks. Jack responded in the only way he could: Punching
the military policeman who reprimanded him square in the jaw. He was court-martialed, and spent five brutal
months in the stockade. Unluckily for his superiors, five months of
eating bread and breaking rocks did nothing to dull his rebellious, warrior spirit. Getting tired of causing trouble in Hawaii,
Jack figured that if the military wouldn’t deploy him in combat, he’d just deploy himself. A short trip down to the local docks later,
Jack had become a stowaway onboard the USS Deuel, a transport ship bound for the front
lines out in the Pacific. Being a natural born survivor, Jack was able
to remain hidden from the crew for a solid month during the journey. He survived off of scraps, motivated by knowing
that in a matter of weeks, and then days, he’d be able to join in the heat of battle. And soon enough, Jack got his wish. His time to truly shine came on February 20th,
1945 – just less than a week after his birthday. He was a Private in the 1st Battalion, 26th
Marines, 5th Marine Division. While the other soldiers were armed with M1
Garand rifles, Jack – who wasn’t even meant to be there – was going in with bare
hands. When the bullets started flying and his comrades
started dropping around him, Jack grabbed the rifle of one of the dead soldiers and
charged into the fray. Nothing would stand in his way. Jack ran across the beach, which was being
torn up by machine gun fire and artillery. He didn’t care. Eventually, he hit the treeline and teamed
up with a group of four other surviving soldiers. They grouped together and pushed deeper into
the jungle, preparing to take on the Japanese forces embedded in machine gun dugouts and
complex military tunnel networks. Jack and the four soldiers launched an attack
on a heavily-fortified Japanese machine gun nest, but upon actually reaching the nest,
they found it empty. This was because the eleven Japanese soldiers
manning the nest had already escaped through one of the tunnels, and were climbing up out
of the ground behind them. Jack and his new comrades whipped around and
opened fire. Jack’s first shot tore through the head
of a Japanese combatant, killing him instantly. Great start. Then his second shot jammed. Not so great. Shots were exchanged in a brief but intense
firefight, until a live Type 97 fragmentation grenade landed at Jack’s feet. Without a second’s hesitation, Jack threw
his body down onto the grenade and yelled for his comrades to take cover. A second grenade landed near him before the
first one even had a chance to explode. He immediately grabbed that one too, and held
it against his chest. Then one of the grenades exploded, releasing
not only the blast force but the deadly shrapnel, directly into his body. Luckily for him and his team, the second grenade
didn’t explode. His surviving Marine comrades, inspired by
Jack’s act of courage and heroism, managed to fight off the Japanese soldiers and turn
the tide of the fight. Afterwards, they were shocked to find that
Jack was both alive and conscious, something that seemed utterly impossible at the time. Well, impossible if you aren’t Jack Lucas
– a man who’d later earn the incredible nicknames “Mr. Immortal” and “The Indestructible
Man” for his death-defying feats. Navy Corpsman ran in to the rescue, grabbing
Jack and taking him back to their hospital ship on a stretcher. On the way, they had to repel relentless Japanese
banzai attacks with their trusty .45 pistols, but they were able to get him back safely. There, Jack had to receive twenty-one life-saving
surgeries, where they removed over two-hundred-and-fifty pieces of shrapnel from his body. It’d pierced every single major organ in
young Jack’s body, but against all odds, he made a full recovery as well as successfully
saving his four fellow soldiers. Not bad for his first time on the battlefield. Seven months later, he became one of the handful
of people to collect his own Medal of Honour, alive and in person. It was given to him by President Harry S.
Truman at age seventeen, making him the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honour in American
history. Having gotten the rage-fuelled adrenaline
out of his system, Jack returned home to complete his schooling. He’d be the only ninth grader in the US
with extensive war wounds and a congressional medal. Even in civilian life, Jack Lucas never had
a dull moment. He got a college degree, went on a speaking
tour, and – appropriately for a man whose birthday was on Valentine’s Day – he got
married three times. Including – according to his autobiography,
appropriately named “Indestructible” – one who hired a hitman in an attempt to kill him. Said hitman was unable to finish what the
Japanese grenades started. But Jack’s days of service, and insane death-defying
luck, weren’t over. To get over his fear of heights, like a truly
crazy individual, he joined the 82nd Airborne at age forty as a Paratrooper. However, during one of his training jumps,
tragedy struck and his parachute didn’t open. He fell 3,500 feet, and for anyone else, this
would be a certain death sentence. They’d be cleaned out of the cracks in the
sidewalk with a toothbrush. But Jack – who seemed to be an action movie
protagonist in the flesh – saved himself by falling into a commando roll. He got up and walked away unscathed. By the time his work with the 82nd Airborne
was over, he’d achieved the rank of Captain for the third and final time in his life. After finally and fully returning to civilian
life, Jack sold beer in Washington for a living. He got to meet with presidents up to the end
of President Clinton’s time in office, and also finally got to experience some well-earned
rest and relaxation. He passed away in 2008 at the ripe old age
of eighty, from cancer. That’s a heck of a lot longer than most
people who get blown up by grenades and fall out of planes without a parachute, but Jacklyn
H. Lucas was never most people. You’ll probably never have to jump on a
grenade, but how about you jump into another one of our videos about legendary war heroes? Check out “Mad Jack – A Real World War
II Mad Man” and “The Insanely Crazy Story of a Tiny Soldier.” It won’t open your parachute, but it will
open your mind!

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