Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr.
Willy F. James, Jr. was a United States Army private first class who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II. He was one of seven African-American soldiers who were belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton on January 13, 1997.
No African American soldier was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. In 1993 the Army contracted Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to research and prepare a study "to determine if there was a racial disparity in the way Medal of Honor recipients were selected." Shaw's team researched the issue and, finding that there was disparity, recommended the Army consider a group of 10 soldiers for the Medal of Honor. Of those 10, seven were recommended to receive the award. In October of 1996 Congress passed the necessary legislation which allowed the President to award these Medals of Honor since the statutory limit for presentation had expired. The Medals of Honor were presented, by President William Clinton, in a ceremony on 13 January 1997. Vernon Baker was the only recipient still living and present to receive his award; the other six soldiers received their awards posthumously, with their medals being presented to family members.
Willy James was born on March 18, 1920 in Kansas City, Missouri. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 11, 1942. He was an infantry scout assigned to Company G, 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry Division in April 1945. This division, also known as The Timberwolves, deployed during World War II, seeing almost 200 days of fighting in northern Europe as it fought through France, the Netherlands, and Germany, fighting back several fierce German counterattacks as it advanced through the theater throughout late 1944 and 1945. This would be the only combat duty the 104th Division would see in its history.
On April 7, 1945, Private First Class Willy James, Jr. was lead scout during a
maneuver to secure a bridgehead near Lippoldsberg, German. As his regiment
crossed the Weser River, he was pinned down for more than an hour by enemy
machine gun fire. When he was able to return to his platoon with his scouting
observations, he helped to develop a new assault plan, designating targets in
the new attack. When his platoon leader was mortally wounded, James went to his
aid and was himself killed by machine gun fire.
Private First Class Willy James Citation for the medal of Honor Reads:
Private First Class Willy James received the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Combat Infantry Badge prior to his death. Posthumously, he was awarded the Medal of Honor (on September 23, 2006), the World War II Victory Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Private Willy James was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial in the Dutch town of Margraten. His grave can be found in plot P, row 9, grave 9.
|761st Tank Battalion
First Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker
Rear Admiral Barry C. Black
Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Corporal Buddie Branch Vice Admiral David L. Brewer III Rear Admiral Erroll M. Brown
Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Jr. Brigadier General Roscoe C. Cartwright Rear Admiral Osie V. Combs
Four Star General Benjamin Davis Major General Arnold Fields Rear Admiral Lillian Fishburne First Lieutenant John R. Fox
Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely, Jr. Major General James F. Hamlet Harlem Hellfighters 4 Star General Daniel James Jr.
Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr. Corporal Harry Johns Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.
Staff Sergeant Aubrey L. McDade, Jr. Vice-Admiral Ed Moore Four Star General Lloyd W. Newton
Captain Joseph N. Peterson General Colin Powell Captain Ronald A. Radcliffe Admiral J. Paul Reason
Four Star General Edward A. Rice Jr. Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers Clifford Chester Sims Robert Smalls
Major General Clifford L. Stanley Tuskegee Airmen Lieutenant Colonel Merryl (David) Tengesdal
Captain Charles L. Thomas Private George Watson Major General Leo V. Williams, III Colonel Charles Young
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