Medal of Honor Winner Rufus Herring of Sampson County

On February 17, 1945, Roseboro native Rufus G. Herring captained Gunboat 449 into the bay at Iwo Jima two days before the American invasion of the Japanese-held island. Herring’s mission, along with that of six other landing craft infantry units, was to provide covering fire for an Underwater Demolition Team as they conducted reconnaissance of the beach.

On entering the bay, Herring’s ship bore the brunt of the Japanese artillery fire, and two “serious fires” temporarily disabled it. All officers on board except the engineer were killed, wounded or missing.

Herring himself was seriously wounded and began losing strength due to severe bleeding. Despite his critical condition, he continued to maintain command of the ship, providing cover for the recon team and eventually steering the crippled ship back to safety. For “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Herring was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in September 1945.

Life magazine later reported that Herring fell in love with his nurse while recuperating in a naval hospital. The couple married and returned to Roseboro where he ran a farm and lumber business.

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