VERDE HERITAGE: CORPORAL JOHN HENRY PRUITT

John Pruitt arrived at Jerome with his parents, brother and sisters, before 1908. His father was hired as a special officer for the Town of Jerome. John attended Jerome schools and the family eventually lived on East Avenue. By 1913, John was working as a salesman for D. J. Shea, a general merchandise store located on Main Street. After being recruited at Jerome, John Pruitt's career as a Marine began when he was accepted for enlistment in the Marine Corps at Phoenix on April 25, 1917. He was trained at Mare Island and Quantico before he was sent overseas. John Pruitt gave the best he had to offer during 5 months of service in France. After being shot by a sniper, he died on his 22nd birthday, October 4, 1918. Corporal John Henry Pruitt is one of only 19 soldiers in U.S. military history to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded 3 Silver Stars, 2 Purple Hearts, the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire by the French Republic, and the Croce al Merito di Guerra by Italy. Corporal Pruitt was given the honor of being the first enlisted man after whom a ship was named. The U.S.S. Pruitt, a Clemson-class destroyer, was launched on August 2, 1920.

At the age of 20, John Henry Pruitt enlisted at the Marine barracks, Mare Island, on May 3, 1917. "On July 9, 1917, he qualified as a marksman. On July 21, he joined the 78th (E) Company, 6th Regiment, at the Marine barracks, Quantico, Virginia. On January 19, 1918, he embarked on the U.S.S. Henderson at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and sailed the following day for foreign shore service. On February 5, 1918, he arrived at Base Station No 1, France, and disembarked 3 days later." (Arizona Republican; Phoenix; December 20, 1919; p. 1.)

From June 1 to June 14, John H. Pruitt "Participated in engagement with the enemy at Chateau Thierry, Bouresches, and Belleau Wood. On June 14, he was gassed in action and evacuated to American Red Cross Military Hospital No. 5. On June 23, he returned to duty and on August 14, he was promoted to be a Corporal." (Arizona Republican; December 20, 1919; p. 1.)

"From September 12 to September 15, he engaged in active operations against the enemy at Bois de Montague, St. Mihiel sector, France." General Pershing's citation for Corporal Pruitt is as follows: "Corporal J. H. Pruitt, 78th Co., 6th Regt. Marines, for distinguished and exceptional gallantry at Thiaucourt, France, September 15, 1918, in the operations of the American Expeditionary Forces in testimony thereof and as an expression of appreciation of his valor, I award him this citation. Awarded on the 27th of March, 1919. ... John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief." (Arizona Republican; December 20, 1919; p. 1, 2.)

Medal: Silver Star: Corporal John H. Pruitt, U.S. Marine Corps, 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Action date: September 15, 1918. General Orders: GHQ, American Expeditionary Forces, Citation Orders No. 4 (June 3, 1919). Citation: "By direction of the President, under the provision of the act of Congress approved July 9, 1918 (Bul. No. 43, W.D., 1918), Corporal John Henry Pruitt (MCSN: 85857/121222), United States Marine Corps, is cited (Posthumously) by the Commanding General, American Expeditionary Forces, for gallantry in action and a Silver Star may be placed upon the ribbon of the Victory Medals awarded him. Corporal Pruitt distinguished himself by gallantry in action while serving in the 78th Company, 6th Regiment (Marines), 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, in action near Thiaucourt, France, 15 September 1918, in aiding in the capture of an enemy machine gun." (Wikipedia; Hall of Valor, Military Times.)

On the morning of October 3, 1918, "the front line position which his regiment was holding was being menaced by German machine gun nests. Slowly his comrades were being dropped. Then it was that Corporal Pruitt started alone to search out the 'nest.' And he came back alive, dragging the heavy machine gun with him. Later the same day he went forth on a like mission and again he returned victorious after killing 2 of the enemy. On his way back to his comrades, he came upon 40 Germans in a dugout and, single handed, captured them and brought them back as captives." (Arizona Republican; September 12, 1920; p. 15.) Corporal Pruitt was awarded 2 Silver Stars for his actions at Blanc Mont, France. (Hall of Valor; Military Times.)

"The next day, he was assigned to sniping duty. He had hardly taken his post when he fell victim to a bullet from a German sniper. He died a short time later in a hospital --- on his twenty-second birthday." (Arizona Republican; September 12, 1920; p. 15.) Corporal John Henry Pruitt was mortally wounded at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge and died on October 4, 1918.

Later, General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing made the following statement: "In memory of Corporal John H. Pruitt, E Co., 6th Marines, who was killed in battle on October 4, 1918. He bravely laid down his life for the cause of his country. His name will ever remain fresh in the hearts of his friends and comrades, the record of his honorable service will be preserved in the archives of the American Expeditionary Forces. ... John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief." (Arizona Republic; December 20, 1919; p. 2.)

"Corporal John Pruitt: word has been received here [Phoenix] that Corporal John Pruitt, of the Marines, died in France, October 4, 1918. He had been overseas approximately 1 year. Before sailing for the battle zone he received training at Mare Island and Quantico. He is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Pruitt, 2 sisters, and a brother in Phoenix." (Arizona Republican; December 21, 1918; p. 8; December 24, 1918; p. 3.)

MEDAL OF HONOR, Navy: John H. Pruitt, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps: "The Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy at Blanc Mont Ridge, France, October 3, 1918. Corporal Pruitt, single-handed, attacked 2 machine guns capturing them and killing 2 of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. this gallant soldier was killed soon afterward by shell-fire while he was sniping at the enemy." (Arizona Republican; December 20, 1919; p. 1; United States Marine Corps.) This was posthumously awarded on January 11, 1919. "On January 23, 1919, Pruitt was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for the above acts of bravery." (Arizona Republican; December 20, 1919.)

MEDAL OF HONOR, Army: John H. Pruitt, Corporal, U. S. Marine Corps, at Blanc Mont France, October 3, 1918. "War Department, General Orders No. 62 (May 10, 1919). Citation: Pruitt single-handedly attacked 2 machine guns, capturing them and killing 2 of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a dugout nearby. This gallant Marine was killed soon afterward by shellfire while he was sniping at the enemy." (Hall of Valor; Military Times.)

HONOR ARIZONA HERO: "The American Legion post at Ray, Arizona, was named after" John H. Pruitt. (Bisbee Daily Review: July 25, 1920; p. 5.) George and Belle Pruitt were living at Ray, Arizona, when a Congressional Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to John H. Pruitt during February of 1919. Their daughter and son-in-law, Clifford and Elizabeth Pruitt, had moved to Ray by 1921. (Bisbee Daily Review; February 19, 1919; and Arizona Republican; March 13, 1921; p. 30.)

"It has been the custom of the Navy to name its destroyers for distinguished commanders and admirals and it is thought here that the naming of a destroyer for Corporal Pruitt will mark the first time such an honor has been accorded an enlisted man." (Arizona Republican; December 20, 1919; p. 2.)

LAUNCHING THE U.S. DESTROYER PRUITT, Named for Corporal John Henry Pruitt.

"Uncle Sam built a super-destroyer. He gave it armament second to none of this type of naval craft on all the seas. He gave it speed, the power to send its long slender hull cutting through the water at a faster rate of speed than any naval fighting craft afloat. and then he gave it the name of Pruitt. It took a super-craft to be worthy of the name. No common, ordinary things could uphold the illustrious tradition that was born in the great struggle 'over there.' Wherever the Destroyer Pruitt pokes its nose will come recollections of a boy who fought and died; of a boy who covered his name with glory that will last long after the day that the Destroyer Pruitt has been antiquated and sent to its base for salvaging."

"His name was John Pruitt, corporal, U.S.A. It was to this boy, only a boy in the flower of youth, that a nation paid homage August 2. America, in her small way, gave what it could to make everlasting his name --- that his deeds and valor might forever be kept before a people that is all too frequently apt to forget.."

"English Officers Attend Launching: But is was more than a national incident, this christening of America's most powerful destroyer named after Arizona's son. It assumed international aspects. England had not forgotten what this boy had accomplished on the war torn fields of France; Englishmen had not forgotten the effect upon the morale of the war-weary English, French and Belgium soldiers this boy's deeds had worked, and the English naval officers came to show the appreciation of their nation."

"Corporal Pruitt gave all that he had to his country. And his country did not forget. She bestowed upon her gallant son, all too late, her highest honor --- the Congressional Medal of Honor. And then she took his name for her super-destroyer. The American Navy is proud to have such a ship named Pruitt."

"It was early in the afternoon of August 2 that Mrs. George Pruitt, mother of the boy who lies 'over there,' peacefully sleeping beneath French soil, burst the bottle of sparkling apple juice over the bow of the destroyer and christened it the "Pruitt." A few seconds later it glided majestically down the ways to become a monster of the deep, a ship by very reason of its name charged with doing greater and better deeds."

"Notables At Ceremony: The ceremony took place at the yards of the Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine. Mr. and Mrs. Pruitt were the honored guests, the ceremony taking place in the presence of a crowd estimated in the thousands. Many notables of this and other lands attended. And just off the ways stood the British cruiser, H.M.S. Cambrian. Among the notables assembled were Commander Rich G. Davenport, U.S.N., retired; Capt. Lawrence Adams, industrial superintendent of the Portsmouth Navy Yard; Ex-governor W. T. Cobb, of Maine; Secretary of War Baker and Mrs. Baker; Lieutenants DeWinter and Simpson of the British warship Cambrian; and Dean William Scarlett, of Phoenix, who made the trip from Columbus, Ohio, to witness the ceremony. After Mrs. Pruitt had christened the ship, Mr. Cobb, who is president of the Bath Iron Works, presented her with a beautiful pin. Roses were received by the parents from Secretary of the Navy Daniels."

"When the ship had been anchored in the harbor, Mr. and Mrs. Pruitt, accompanied by more than 50 new-found friends, boarded her on an inspection tour. the destroyer Pruitt is recognized as the largest, most powerful, and fastest craft of its kind in the Navy, and probably in the entire world. It is 314 feet in length, displaces 12,000 tons and has a speed of from 40 to 50 miles an hour. Its beam is 30 feet and it is driven by engines having 24,200 horsepower. It carried 122 officers and men, four 4-inch guns, one 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, and four 21-inch torpedo tubes."

(Arizona Republican; Phoenix; September 12, 1920; p. 15.)

THE LUKE-PRUITT DISABLED WAR VETERANS ASSOCIATION "was organized for the purpose of securing farm lands; the members agreeing to co-operate to help each other to make the farms successful." The Gila Land and Water Company offered land from their new project. Each member would make a contract for 20 acres or more. (Arizona Republican; March 22, 1921; p. 4.)

FURTHER HONOR TO WAR HERO JOHN PRUITT, 1921: The body of John Henry Pruitt "was buried in one of the French cemeteries, only to be exhumed a few weeks ago and brought back to America on the U.S. Army transport Wheaton. The body arrived at Hoboken, October 4 [his birthday and the anniversary of his death]. ... Further honors have been awarded to the late Corporal, whose body has found a final resting place in the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia. ... Funeral services were conducted at 2:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon, October 13, and the remains were interred in grave No. 2453, Overseas Section. A U.S. Navy Chaplain, the Rev. J. B. Frazier, and U.S. Army Chaplains, the Rev. J. E. Yates and Father J. J. Campbell, conducted the services. Full military honors were rendered by a detachment of soldiers and a band. A floral wreath presented by officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps was placed on the grave. Senator Henry Ashurst and Congressman and Mrs. Carl Hayden were present at the services. The flag taken from the casket is all wool, 5 feet wide and 10 feet long, and a card taken from the floral piece read: 'Corporal John Henry Pruitt, from the officers and enlisted men of the United States Marine Corps,' ... was sent and received by the mother, Mrs. Belle Pruitt." (Arizona Republican; October 21, 1921; p. 3.)

U.S.S. Pruitt operated in the Western Pacific protecting American interests. She was undergoing overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Yard on December 7, 1941, when Japanese airplanes flew over and bombed the base, sinking the U.S.S. Arizona. The U.S.S. Pruitt overhaul was completed and she left Pearl Harbor during January of 1942, for offshore duty and mine-laying operations, etc., earning 3 battle stars during World War II. She was the last of the "four-stack" destroyers. She was decommissioned at the end of 1945 and sold for scrapping in 1946. (see online information.)

PRUITT HALL on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia, is named for Corporal John Henry Pruitt. His existing medals in the conservatorship of the Arizona State Capital Museum were removed and presented to the care and keeping of the United States Marine Corps, at Quantico, for display in the Marine Museum on April 22, 2003, by members of his family.

A memorial at Arizona State University to honor 137 active duty fallen alumni was dedicated on November 3, 2017. Major George J. "Jim" Geiser, P. E., U.S.M.C.R. (Ret.) a member of the Veteran's Chapter of the ASU Alumni Association, was a driving force in the construction of this memorial. While reviewing the names of over 2,000 Marines who died during World War I, he reviewed the records of Corporal John Henry Pruitt, whose home town was Jerome. Major Geiser suggested that an appropriate memorial in Yavapai County would help to keep alive the memories of this young man from Jerome. (Jerome Historical Society Archives; Letter dated July 11, 2018.)

John Henry Pruitt was born at Pruitt Hollow, Boston Township, near the small settlement of Fallsville, Newton County, Arkansas, on October 4, 1896 (usually incorrectly listed as Fayetteville, Washington County). He is the son of George B. and Melissa Belle (Bryant) Pruitt. (The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, online.) The Pruitt family was less than 5 miles from Fallsville, at Boston, Madison County, Arkansas, during the 1900 Census. George Pruitt, age 23, and his wife, Bell Pruitt, age 20, were living with their children, John H., age 3, and Hurley B., age 6 months, and George's brother, Harrison Pruitt, age 16. After their last child was born in 1904, the family moved from Arkansas to Arizona.

At an early age, John H. Pruitt, along with his family, moved to Jerome, Arizona Territory. Little is known of his early life, but it is believed that he attended schools at Jerome. A relative is believed to have worked as a blacksmith in the local mines. (The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, online.) The Pruitt family was probably living at Jerome before Mr. Pruitt was listed as a registered voter in the 1908 Great Register of Yavapai County.

The 1910 Census taken on April 22 at Jerome, Arizona Territory, indicates that George Pruitt, (age 33) and his wife, Isabell Pruitt (age 28) are living with their children, John H. (age 13, born 1896), Hurley B. (age 10, born 1899), Lizzie (age 8, born 1901) and Ollie (age 4, born 1904).

George Benton Pruitt was hired as a law enforcement officer. The Jerome Town Council expenses for October of 1912 include payments to Fred Hawkins, the marshal, John W. Hudgins, the night marshal, and special officers; G. B. Pruitt, W. B. Shanks, and Gen. Doty. (Jerome News; November 16, 1912.) "Night Policeman George Pruitt, of Jerome, now in the city [of Prescott during August of 1913] on probate matters before the Superior Court, stated yesterday that he had resigned from the force and would engage in other pursuits. He states the duties are burdensome and are attended at all times with a disagreeable relationship with the criminally inclined, on petty lines of offenses. Mr. Pruitt made an exceptionally clever officer, and his retiring from the force is regretted by all residents of" Jerome. (Weekly Journal-Miner; Prescott, August 13, 1913; p. 7.)

George Pruitt was on the police force of the City of Phoenix, patrolling the downtown area around Second and Washington. "Defective eyesight necessitated his resigning and he contemplates returning to the mountains to engage in mining." (Arizona Republican; June 7, 1916; p. 4; and Weekly Journal-Miner; May 20, 1914; p. 6.) John Pruitt may have furthered his education at Tempe while the family was living near Phoenix.

GEORGE BENON PRUITT, born in Arkansas on October 1, 1876, was the son of John Henry and Mary Ann (Marshall) Pruitt. He was a resident of Phoenix and a retired peace officer married to Irene when he died on October 23, 1954, from injuries received when he was hit by a car.

MELISSA BELLE (BRYANT) PRUITT was born in Laurel County, Kentucky, on February 6, 1880. She married George Pruitt and they became the parents of 4 known children. She died at Phoenix on April 10, 1951.

HURLEY BENTON PRUITT, born on December 21, 1899, married Sheldon Marie Burkett. He became the first town marshal of Scottsdale. The family lived at Scottsdale when he died on December 25, 1956.

ELIZABETH ELLEN PRUITT , born April 21, 1901, married Clifford Trascott Carpenter, a mining engineer. She worked in the office of the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter had moved to Ray, Arizona, by 1921. She lived at Scottsdale and died at Phoenix on July 9, 1958.

MARY OLIVE PRUITT, born October 7, 1904, married Joseph P. Reynolds. She was living at Phoenix when she died on February 2, 1941.

(Certificates of Birth and Death; Find a Grave Memorial; newspapers.)

Corporal Elexandro Bonillas Moisa, of Jerome, was killed in action on October 6, 1918, and is one of 57 men from Arizona who were killed in action. American Legion Post #27 at Jerome is named for him.

Comments

Comments are not posted immediately. Submissions must adhere to our Use of Service Terms of Use agreement. Rambling or nonsensical comments may not be posted. Comment submissions may not exceed a 200 word limit, and in order for us to reasonably manage this feature we may limit excessive comment entries.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.