BARSTOW, Calif. - The warrior ethos that all Marines strive to live by means that any Marine can do great things for his or her Corps.
Regardless of job, billet or rank, all Marines must be ready to drop the tools of their respective trade, and grab a rifle.
For William T. Perkins Jr., this meant putting aside his camera.
Perkins was born August 10, 1947 in Rochester, New York. While in elementary school, he and his family moved to California and in 1965, he graduated from James Monroe High School, Sepulveda, Calif.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on April 27, 1966, but was discharged on July 6, to enlist in the active duty Marine Corps.
Perkins completed recruit training with 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., and was promoted to private first class, Sept. 22.
After recruit training, he underwent individual combat training with 3rd battalion, 2nd Infantry Training Regiment on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. From October 1966 - January 1967, he served as a photographer with Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif.
On January 1, Perkins was promoted to lance corporal, and spent the next four months as a student at the Motion Picture Photography, U.S. Army Signal Center and School, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In May of that same year, Perkins transferred back to Headquarters Battalion, MCLB Barstow.
In July, 1967, Perkins was assigned as a photographer with Service Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, and was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. On August 1, 1967, Perkins was promoted to corporal. Perkins gave up his own life to save the lives of three other Marines, while serving as a combat photographer with Company C, 1st Bn, 1st Marine Regiment. He was a part of a major reconnaissance force operating southwest of Quang Tri which came under heavy enemy fire from numerically superior North Vietnamese Army forces. The epicenter of the fighting was a helicopter landing zone which also served as the command post of Company C.
A NVA grenade landed near Perkins and three fellow Marines, during a strong enemy attack. Despite the danger, Perkins threw his body over the grenade, absorbing the full force of the explosion. The valiant act of heroism and self-sacrifice cost him his life, while saving the lives of his three brothers in arms. For his exceptional bravery, Perkins was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He has the additional distinction of being the only combat photographer to be so recognized. Perkins is buried in San Fernando Mission Cemetery, San Fernando, Calif., and his name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 27E, Row 097, in Washington D.C.