War veteran Born February 14, 1928; Died June 5, 2008.

Jack Lucas, who has died of cancer aged 80, was just 14 when he lied his way into military service during the Second World War and became the youngest US marine to receive the country's highest military decoration.

Jacklyn "Jack" Lucas was just six days past his 17th birthday in February 1945 when his heroism at Iwo Jima earned him the Medal of Honor. He used his body to shield three fellow squad members from two grenades, and was nearly killed when one exploded.

"A couple of grenades rolled into the trench," Lucas said in an interview shortly before he received the medal from President Harry Truman in October 1945. "I hollered to my pals to get out and did a Superman dive at the grenades. I wasn't a Superman after I got hit. I let out one helluva scream when that thing went off."

Lucas was left with more than 250 pieces of shrapnel in his body and every major organ, including six pieces in his brain and two in his heart, and endured 26 operations in the following months. He often showed the curious his arms, which were speckled with grenade fragments that could be seen just under the surface of his skin.

Lucas became a symbol of patriotism in the decades after the war, meeting presidents and travelling the world to speak with frontline soldiers and fellow veterans.

Big for his age and eager to serve, Lucas forged his mother's signature on an enlistment waiver and joined the marines at 14. Military censors discovered his age through a letter to his 15-year-old girlfriend. Lucas eventually stowed away aboard a Navy ship headed for combat in the Pacific Ocean. He turned himself in to avoid being listed as a deserter and volunteered to fight.

Born in Plymouth, North Carolina, Lucas was a 13-year-old cadet captain in a military academy when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

After the war, Lucas earned a business degree from High Point University in North Carolina. In the 1960s, he joined the Army and became a paratrooper to conquer his fear of heights. On a training jump, his parachutes failed. Lucas credited his stocky build and a last-second roll as he hit the ground for saving his life.