Saturday, December 6, 2014

52 Ancestors #49: Killed in Vietnam

Ancestor Name: TAYLOR, James Lawrence (1943-1966)

I have written about many of my veteran ancestors as part of Amy Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. And this post will be no different. James Lawrence Stewart was my 6th cousin; our shared ancestor was my five times great grandfather, Adam Beard (1725-1777).

James was born on 9 June 1943 in Putnam County, West Virginia, to Monte Samuel and Ruth Muriel (Ogburn) Taylor. He was their third son.

According to a medal citation, he was Sergeant in the Special Forces, Detachment A-102. On 9 March 1966 Jim's unit was sent to Camp A Shau in the Thua Thien province of South Vietnam to reinforce another special forces detachment already deployed there.  The next day the camp came under attack. Sgt. Taylor died while in close combat with the enemy.

James Taylor's name is engraved on the Honolulu Memorial, also known as the Courts of the Missing, which is located at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The cemetery is situated in an extinct volcano called the Punchbowl.

Honolulu Memorial; photograph courtesy of Find a Grave members
Harold and Wanda Blackwell

Photograph courtesy of Find a Grave member Sunny

He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously in June 1966 and his parents were presented with medal in a ceremony in South Charleston, West Virginia.

Mr. and Mrs. Monte Taylor receiving the Silver Star awarded to their son,
Jim Taylor. Robert Taylor, another son, looks on. Photograph courtesy of
West Virginia Culture

The Silver Star citation reads as follows:

TAYLOR, JAMES L. RA13688444 SERGEANT E5 United States Army
Det A-102, 5th SFG (Abn), 1st SF, APO 96240
Awarded: Silver Star (Posthumously)
Date of Action: 9 March 1966 to 10 March 1966
Theater: Republic of South Vietnam
Reason: For gallantry in action

Sergeant Taylor distinguished himself on 9 and 10 March 1966 while serving as a weapons platoon leader of a Nung "Mike Force" company during a mission to reinforce a special forces detachment at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam. When the camp was attacked by intense mortar and small arms fire at 0350 hours on 9 March 1966, Sergeant Taylor organized and encouraged his weapons squads in defending their positions. Throughout the entire day, he exposed himself to the deadly fire and ran from position to position to insure that his men were effectively defending the camp. When the "Mike Force" company commander was killed, Sergeant Taylor immediately assumed command and prepared his men to repel the imminent Viet Cong assault. 

At 0400 hours on 10 March, the fanatical insurgents launched a regimental size assault in conjunction with accurate mortar and recoilless rifle fire. Wounded and cut off from other friendly forces within the camp, Sergeant Taylor organized his defenders in a circular defense and fought off the attackers on all sides when the Viet Cong breached a wall to his right flank. As a result, the Viet Cong assault on his position was stalled and the camp was not immediately overrun. When he rejoined the friendly troops at another wall, he set up a strong defense and personally engaged an insurgent recoils rifle position. After receiving a direct hit from the insurgent recoils rifle, Sergeant Taylor died en route to a rescue helicopter. 

Sergeant Taylor's extraordinary heroism in close combat against a numerically superior hostile force was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1918.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

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