The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
JAMES L. DAY
United States Marine Corps Reserve
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Squad Leader serving with the Second Battalion, Twenty-Second Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in sustained combat operations against Japanese forces on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands from 14 to 17 May 1945. On the first day, Corporal Day rallied his squad and the remnants of another unit and led them to a critical position forward of the front lines of Sugar Loaf Hill. Soon thereafter, they came under an intense mortar and artillery barrage that was quickly followed by a ferocious ground attack by some forty Japanese soldiers. Despite the loss of one-half of his men, Corporal Day remained at the forefront, shouting encouragement, hurling hand grenades, and directing deadly fire, thereby repelling the determined enemy. Reinforced by six men, he led his squad in repelling three fierce night attacks but suffered five additional Marines killed and one wounded, who he assisted to safety. Upon hearing nearby calls for corpsman assistance, Corporal Day braved heavy enemy fire to escort four seriously wounded Marines, one at a time, to safety. Corporal Day then manned a light machine gun, assisted by a wounded Marine, and halted another night attack. In this ferocious action, his machine gun was destroyed, and he suffered multiple white phosphorous and fragmentation wounds. He reorganized his defensive position in time to halt a fifth enemy attack with devastating small arms fire. On three separate occasions, Japanese soldiers closed to within a few feet of his foxhole, but were killed by Corporal Day. During the second day, the enemy conducted numerous unsuccessful swarming attacks against his exposed position. When the attacks momentarily subsided, over 70 enemy dead were counted around his position. On the third day, a wounded and exhausted Corporal Day repulsed the enemy's final attack, killing a dozen enemy soldiers at close range. Having yielded no ground and with more than 100 enemy dead around his position, Corporal Day preserved the lives of his fellow Marines and made a significant contribution to the success of the Okinawa campaign. By his extraordinary heroism, repeated acts of valor, and quintessential battlefield leadership, Corporal Day inspired the efforts of his outnumbered Marines to defeat a much larger enemy force, reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
William T. Clinton
President of the United States
Footnote: General Day passed away on October 28, 1998. He will always be remembered by all those who knew and respected him.
In September 1952, he completed The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, and was transferred to Korea where he served with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and the 1st Reconnaissance Company.
First Lieutenant Day served as the S-3 officer, Marine Corps Supply Center, Barstow, California, until July 1954, when he was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California, for duty as the commanding officer, Company C, Marine Corps Test Unit One. He was promoted to captain in December 1954. Capt Day remained at Camp Pendleton until May 1956, and was then assigned as Operations Officer of the Recruit Training Command, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.
In September 1957, he was transferred to Okinawa and served as Commanding Officer, 4.2 Mortar Company, and later served as a battalion operations officer with the 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Returning stateside in December 1958, he was assigned as Instructor, Tactics Group, The Basic School, Quantico. He was promoted to major in August 1962 and attended the Amphibious Warfare School, also at Quantico.
Major Day was transferred to the 4th Marine Corps District in July 1963 and served as Inspector-Instructor, 43d Rifle Company, Cumberland, Maryland. In April 1966, Maj Day served his first tour in Vietnam as Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Returning to Camp Pendleton in June 1967, he was assigned as the Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July 1967 and in January 1968, he was reassigned as Battalion Commander, 2d Infantry Training Regiment, Camp Pendleton.
Lieutenant Colonel Day served at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, from July 1969 to June 1971 and attended the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, from July 1971 to June 1972. After graduation, he served his second tour in Vietnam as Operations Officer, 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade, III Marine Amphibious Force. He was reassigned as Commanding Officer, Camp Fuji, Japan, in March 1973.
He was promoted to colonel in November 1973 and was transferred to Philadelphia for duty as Deputy Director, and later, Director, 4th Marine Corps District. He remained in that billet until 1 April 1976, when he was advanced to brigadier general. He assumed duties as Assistant Depot Commander, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, in May 1976, and on 1 November 1977, he became Commanding General of the Depot, serving in that capacity until 11 March 1978.
On 29 April 1978, he was assigned duty as Deputy Director for Operations, J-3, NMCC, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C. During July 1979, BGen Day was assigned duty as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Marine Division/Commanding General, 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, Camp Pendleton. He was promoted to major general on 1 August 1980, and assumed duty as the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, and was ultimately assigned the additional duty as Commanding General, I MAF, on 1 July 1981. He served in that capacity until August 1982 when he was assigned duty as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. In July 1984, he was assigned duty as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Camp S. D. Butler/Deputy Commander, Marine Corps Bases, Pacific (Forward)/Okinawa Area Coordinator, Okinawa, Japan. He served in this capacity until his retirement on 1 December 1986. Upon his retirement, he was presented the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States for duties while serving in his final duty station.
Major General Day was presented the Medal of Honor on 20 January 1998, over a half a century after the World War II battle on Okinawa in which he distinguished himself. He died of a heart attack later that year on 28 October 1998 in Cathedral City, California. He was laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.
Major General Day's personal decorations included the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star Medal with two gold stars in lieu of second and third awards; the Defense Superior Service Medal; Legion of Merit with combat "V;" the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V;" the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V" and gold star in lieu of a second award; and six Purple Hearts.