Justice M. (Joe) Chambers, 74, a former government administrator and retired Marine Corps colonel who won the Medal of Honor in World War II, died July 29 at Bethesda Naval Hospital after a stroke. He had lived in Rockville since 1948.
Col. Chambers joined the Corps reserves as a private in 1929, received an officer's commission three years later, and was called to active duty in 1940. During the war that followed, he participated in some of the bloodiest amphibious operations ever launched, and at Iwo Jima earned the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor.
His campaigns included the assault on the island of Tulagi in 1942, where he earned the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. He was awarded the Legion of Merit, with a combat V, and a second Purple Heart after the fighting for Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands.
By the time he stormed ashore at Iwo Jima in February 1945, he was a lieutenant colonel and commanded an assault battalion landing team of the 4th Marine Division.
In his Medal of Honor citation, Col. Chambers was hailed for leading his team ashore "under a furious barrage of machinegun and small arms fire" from the heights above the landing beach. "Exposed to relentless fire, he coolly reorganized his battle-weary men, inspiring them to heroic efforts by his own valor and leading in an attack on the critical, impregnable high ground."
The citation goes on to say that his "zealous fighting spirit was undiminished despite terriffic casualties and the loss of most of his key officers. He was directing the fire of a rocket platoon when he fell wounded."
In addition to the Medal of Honor, he received his third Purple Heart Medal at Iwo Jima, and was one of the more than 20,000 Marines who were casualties of that battle.
After retiring from active duty in 1946, he became assistant chairman of the Federal Personnel Council and a staff advisor to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. He also worked with the Federal Civil Defense Administration and was Deputy Director of the Office of Emergency Planning from 1962 to 1964. He was president of J.M. Chambers Co., Inc., a consulting firm, before retiring in 1973.
He was born in Huntington, W.Va., and was a graduate of George Washington University's law school in 1931. He worked for the Treasury and Justice departments, and was personnel director of the U.S. Maritime Commission from 1936 to 1939, before World War II.
His marriage to Johanna Schmutzer ended in divorce.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, of Rockville; two sisters, Gladys Stevens of Pinehurst, N.C. and Martha Bater of Bernardsville, N.J.; a brother, Arthur of Huntington, W.Va., a daughter, Patricia Schaffer of Virginia Beach; and four sons, John of Hamburg, Germany, and Marine Corps Major Justice Marion (Mike) Chambers Jr. of Quantico and Peter of Atlanta, Ga., and Paul of Falls Church.