Fricks, Hugh Doran, 1stLt

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Last Rank
First Lieutenant
Last Primary MOS
0306-Infantry Weapons Officer
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1943-Present, 0306, MIA - WWII
Service Years
1939 - 1943
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First Lieutenant


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This Military Service Page was created/owned by PFC James E. Franklin (Slim) to remember Marine 1stLt Hugh Doran Fricks.

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  1943, World War II Fallen

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Hugh was born in Memphis and raised primarily in Seattle, though he also spent some of his teenage years living in Honolulu. His father, Dr. Lunsford Fricks, was a high-ranking surgeon in the US Public Health Service and well-known at the time for his work with infectious diseases, particularly malaria. Hugh had two older brothers, Lunsford Junior and Patton "Pat" Fricks; his mother was the former Grace Beene.

Hugh graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle with the class of 1938, and followed his brother Pat to the University of Washington where he was on the wrestling team. The year 1939 was marked by two major events: the death of his mother in April, and Hugh's enlistment in the Marine Corps Reserve in November. (He was following in the footsteps of Lunsford Junior, who had a commission in the Reserves.) The following year, he was called to active duty and assigned to Company D, First Battalion, 6th Marines.

Hugh took part in the 6th Marines' deployment to Iceland in 1941, rising in rank to corporal shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Upon returning to California with the 6th, he was selected for a field commission and became a "mustang" second lieutenant in June of 1942. Somewhat unusually, he stayed with D/1/6 – it was common practice to send mustangs to other companies, to avoid any fraternization with their former enlisted buddies. However, this seems to have been a wise choice as Hugh was extremely popular and well liked by men and officers alike.

Hugh's first combat experience was on Guadalcanal from January to February 1943; a contemporary newspaper reports that he was cited for bringing his platoon through the campaign without losing a single man. Fricks himself also survived unwounded – unfortunately, he did contract a terrible case of malaria which kept him in and out of hospitals in New Zealand for much of 1943. (Ironically, this was the disease that his father built his career in studying.) Despite his sickness, Hugh was promoted to First Lieutenant and given additional duty as the company's recon officer.

On the night of 22 November 1943, 1/6 was struggling to put together a defensive line while dealing with Japanese infiltrators targeting the machine gun positions. The executive officer of A/1/6, Lt. Baine Kerr, commented:

"We had no reserve company. So, things were not too great at that point. We were short on belted ammunition for the machine guns. We wanted to have two boxes of belted ammunition issued per gun at a minimum, and the officer from the Battalion Weapons Company who was in charge of the machine guns – a fellow named Hugh Fricks, who was a very fine officer, a great guy – showed up, and he was going around checking on the machine guns and making sure that they were all properly set up and whatnot."

The Japanese attacked several more times that night before staging a final massive banzai charge at about 0400. Fricks hurried from gun to gun, directing fire and keeping the men connected until falling to grenade wounds in his head and chest. The line was held and the Marines accounted for some 300 Japanese. Major William K. Jones, the battalion commander, said the men believed "the Heavies [machine guns] saved them that night."

Lieutenant Fricks was found dead in the field the following morning. First Sergeant Lewis Michelony was in charge of recording all the dead:

"When we got to Fricks, I took my mess gear out, and I carved his name and officer number and rank on it, and I put 'KIA, 23 November 1943' on it. When we buried those people, I put that where he was buried. We didn’t have crosses then."

Of the three brothers who went to serve, only Pat came home; Major Lunsford Fricks, Jr. died of a pulmonary embolism in 1944 while serving with the 12th Marines.

Lieutenant Hugh Fricks was awarded a posthumous Navy Cross for his actions on Tarawa. His burial site was discovered by History Flight in 2019, and his remains were finally accounted for on 16 March 2020.


Other Comments:
Tarawa (Gilbert Islands, Kiribati) - November 20 to November 23, 1943
Of the 3,636 Japanese in the garrison, only one officer and sixteen enlisted men surrendered.  Of the 1,200 Korean laborers brought to Tarawa to construct the defenses, only 129 survived.  All told, 4,690 of the island's defenders were killed.  The 2nd Marine Division suffered 894 killed in action, 48 officers and 846 enlisted men, while an additional 84 of the wounded survivors later succumbed to what proved to be fatal wounds.  Of these, 8 were officers and 76 were enlisted men.  A further 2,188 men were wounded in the battle, 102 officers and 2,086 men.  Of the roughly 12,000 2nd Marine Division marines on Tarawa, 3,166 officers and men became casualties.  Nearly all of these casualties were suffered in the 76 hours between the landing at 0910 20 November and the island of Betio being declared secure at 1330 23 November.  Chief Rick Stone, while a member of the Department of Defense, investigated the cases of 514 American servicemen who remain unaccounted for from the Battle of Tarawa, including 103 who are buried as "Unknown" in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Navy Cross
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant Hugh Dorian Fricks (MCSN: 0-11196), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service while serving as Machine Gun Reconnaissance Officer, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, SECOND Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces at Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, on 22 November 1943.  Defying constant danger from enemy machine-gun and mortar fire while advancing with his battalion, First Lieutenant Fricks conducted various reconnaissances, maintained contact between forward rifle elements and went from foxhole to foxhole pointing out targets and directing machine-gun fire.  Tirelessly continuing his perilous task until mortally wounded by an enemy grenade later in the action, he served as an inspiring example to his battalion in delivering a devastating blow to Japanese forces in that sector.  His great personal valor, heroic self-sacrifice and brilliant leadership in the face of almost certain death reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.  He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Authority: Board of Awards: Serial 917 (March 24, 1944)
Action Date: November 22, 1943

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Rifle Expert (Pre 1959)USMC Basic Qualification Badge

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1939, Boot Camp (San Diego, CA)
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
1st Recruit Training Bn 1st Infantry Training Regiment (Cadre)1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Iceland
Missing In Action
  1939-1940, 0311, 1st Recruit Training Bn
  1940-1940, 0311, 1st Infantry Training Regiment (Cadre)
  1940-1941, 0311, D Co, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1941-1942, 0311, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Iceland
  1942-1942, 0311, D Co, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1942-1943, 0306, D Co, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1943-1943, 0306, D Co, 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (1/6)
  1943-Present, 0306, MIA - WWII
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1941 World War II/American Theater/Defense of Iceland Base
  1942-1943 World War II/Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Guadalcanal Campaign (1942-43)
  1943-1943 Gilbert Islands Operation (1943)/Battle of Tarawa 2
 Colleges Attended
University of Washington
  1939-1941, University of Washington
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