Who was James L. Stone?

Introduction

James Lamar Stone (27 December 1922 to 09 November 2012) was a United States Army officer and a recipient of America’s highest military decoration – the Medal of Honour – for his actions in the Korean War.

He was awarded the medal for his conspicuous leadership during a fight against overwhelming odds, for continuing to lead after being wounded, and for choosing to stay behind after ordering others to retreat, a decision which led to his capture by Chinese forces.

Military Service

Stone receives the Medal of Honour from President Eisenhower.

Stone joined the Army from Houston, Texas, in 1948, and by 21 November 1951 was serving as a first lieutenant in Company E of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On that morning, Stone’s platoon relieved another American unit that was manning a hilltop outpost above the Imjin River near Sokkogae, South Korea).

At about 9:00 pm, Chinese forces launched an artillery and mortar attack against the outpost, followed by a series of infantry assaults. Stone led his platoon’s defence against the battalion-sized force. Just after midnight, a second battalion joined the Chinese assault, pitting Stone’s 48-man platoon against roughly 800 enemy soldiers. Wounded three times during the battle, Stone continued to lead his men and fight, including in hand-to-hand combat. Realising the defence was hopeless, Stone ordered those men who could still walk to leave and rejoin the rest of Company E, while he stayed behind with the badly wounded to cover their retreat. Stone eventually lost consciousness and, just before dawn on 22 November, he and the six remaining men of his platoon were captured by Chinese forces.

After regaining consciousness, Stone was interrogated by the Chinese before being sent to a prison camp on the Yalu River. After 22 months of captivity, he was released in a prisoner exchange on 03 September 1953. Upon his liberation, Stone learned that he was to receive the Medal of Honour for his actions during the battle near Sokkogae.

Stone’s Medal of Honour was officially approved on 20 October 1953 and presented to him a week later. At a ceremony in the White House on 27 October President Dwight Eisenhower presented Medals of Honour to Stone and six others.

Stone reached the rank of colonel and served in the Vietnam War before retiring from the Army in 1980.

Medal of Honour Citation

First Lieutenant Stone’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

1st Lt. Stone, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and indomitable courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. When his platoon, holding a vital outpost position, was attacked by overwhelming Chinese forces, 1st Lt. Stone stood erect and exposed to the terrific enemy fire calmly directed his men in the defense. A defensive flame-thrower failing to function, he personally moved to its location, further exposing himself, and personally repaired the weapon. Throughout a second attack, 1st Lt. Stone; though painfully wounded, personally carried the only remaining light machine gun from place to place in the position in order to bring fire upon the Chinese advancing from 2 directions. Throughout he continued to encourage and direct his depleted platoon in its hopeless defense. Although again wounded, he continued the fight with his carbine, still exposing himself as an example to his men. When this final overwhelming assault swept over the platoon’s position his voice could still be heard faintly urging his men to carry on, until he lost consciousness. Only because of this officer’s driving spirit and heroic action was the platoon emboldened to make its brave but hopeless last ditch stand.

Death

Stone died in November 2012 at Arlington, Texas, aged 89.

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