Pacific Valor Series: Raymond E. Eubanks

Margaret Dudley

Each year at the Pacific Combat Zone, the National Museum of the Pacific War’s Living History Program holds four presentations of Pacific Valor—a battle re-enactment program that focuses on real life examples of heroism from the Pacific War. In 2024, presentations focused on two individuals, one Marine and one Soldier who gave everything for their nation. During the April and November presentations, Pacific Valor will honor the heroism of Army Sergeant Raymond E. Eubanks.

Raymond E. Eubanks was born in North Carolina on 6 February 1922 with two sisters and a brother. Eubanks gained his first military experience when he enlisted in the field artillery at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in June of 1939. Still, Eubanks yearned for a more direct position in the armed forces, and volunteered to become a paratrooper. While most paratroopers would serve in Europe, Eubanks had the honor of serving in the 503rd Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “The Rock”, which would be the first paratrooper unit to jump in the Pacific. It was in this position, serving in Company D, that he would earn the Medal of Honor.

Constituted on 14 March 1941, Eubanks’ unit was an accomplished group, having performed the first successful airborne jump in the Pacific Theater in September 1943 while landing at Nadzab, Papua New Guinea. While their first jump encountered little resistance, the unit would see heavy fighting on Noemfoor Island. For his service at Noemfoor, Eubanks would become the first of the regiment’s fifteen Medal of Honor recipients.

Noemfoor Island, located in Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesia), was used by Imperial Japanese forces as a base for supplies and reinforcement, which posed a threat to the Allied seaways and regional operations. The island also featured three strategic airfields in varying stages of completion. Thus, Noemfoor was a target for the Allies. The attack on Noemfoor would come not just by sea, but also from the air through the paratroopers. The terrain on the island, however, created serious issues for both the aerial and amphibious forces. Noemfoor lacked substantial infrastructure aside from the Japanese-held airfields, and was dominated by heavy rainforest and dotted with mangrove swamps. However, the paratroopers had received four months of grueling jungle warfare training for the operation in preparation for the daunting task ahead. Once they completed their jump, B-17 bombers would assist them by dropping their supplies and ammunition. On 3 July 1944, after their intensive training, Eubanks and his unit jumped into Noemfoor. Their task was to help secure the airfields and clear out the dug-in Japanese resistance on the rugged island. The landing was precise, but the hard coral that covered the drop site—described as “bone-cracking”—caused almost 10% of the paratroopers to become jump casualties. Most of these casualties were “serious fracture cases,” injuries which would prevent further service.

Paratroopers landing at Kamiri Strip, Noemfoor Island, Papua New Guinea. U.S. Army A.A.F. photograph from the Library of Congress.

Once on the ground, the 503rd began their “mopping up” operation. The fighting was brutal, and as one veteran of the battle remembered, “...close to hand-to-hand,” with many Japanese soldiers sheltering themselves in caves and tunnels. This type of combat required paratroopers to split off into separate patrols. It was during one of these patrols on July 23rd that the 23-year-old Sgt. Raymond E. Eubanks would distinguish himself.

During a patrol, Eubank’s unit was ambushed and set upon by heavy fire from Japanese machine guns, rifles, and mortars. Knowing that the unit would incur heavy losses if the onslaught continued, Eubanks split from his squad, ordering them to stay put and distract the enemy as he continued onward with two scouts.

While attempting to move within grenade throwing distance of the Japanese troops, Eubanks and his team were spotted by the defenders. Fire poured upon the patrol, but Eubanks charged ahead alone. At only 15 yards he began to open fire with his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). Miraculously, his shots found their mark, and were said to have had “such telling effect that the enemy could be heard to shout and scream.” During his advance, however, bullets struck both Eubanks and his rifle, wounding Eubanks and rendering his rifle inoperable. Disregarding his wound, Eubanks charged towards the Japanese fortification. When he reached the line, he resorted to using his disabled BAR as a club. Engaging with the Japanese soldiers in close quarters, he shouted “Come on, get up! Get up and fight!” Eubanks was ultimately killed in action, but not before he had killed four of the Japanese soldiers. His courageous actions inspired his unit, and they would go on to drive the enemy from their position and liberate Noemfoor by August of 1944.

A comic by Woody Cowan from the Clarion Democrat depicting Eubanks' heroic actions at Noemfoor. The Clarion Democrat, 2 August 1945, Clarion, PA.

Eubanks was one of some 400 Allied and 1700 Japanese casualties at the Battle of Noemfoor Island. For his actions on Noemfoor, Eubanks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. This medal, “the United States’ highest award for military valor in action.” was presented to Eubanks’ father, Ezekiel Eubanks, on 7 April 1945, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Eubanks stands as a shining example of the values of the Medal of Honor--“bravery, courage, sacrifice, and integrity,” --giving his life for the survival of his fellow service members. Eubanks was among the distinguished ranks of the first paratrooper unit to jump in the Pacific, and ensured the unit would leave a combat legacy. Today, Eubanks is memorialized by a granite obelisk commissioned in 2001 at his birthplace of Snow Hill.

Catch our November showing of Pacific Valor honoring Ray Eubanks. Click here for more information.


Alton Krueger, 2024 Summer Education Intern, National Museum of the Pacific War