Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Stories of Sacrifice

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World War II - U.S. Army

Willy F James Jr.

  • Rank: Private First Class
  • Conflict/Era: World War II
  • Unit/Command:
    Company G,
    413 Infantry
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Army
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: April 7, 1945
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Weser River Valley in the vicinity of Lippoldsberg, Germany

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr. Distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism at the risk og his own life on 7 April 1945 in the Weser River Valley, in the vicinity of Lippoldsberg, Germany. On 7 April 1945, Company G, 413 Infantry, fought its way across the Weser River in order to establish a crucial bridgehead. The company then launched a fierce attack against the town of Lippoldsberg, possession of which was vital to securing and expanding the important bridgehead. Private First Class James was first scout of the lead squad in the assault platoon. The mission of the unit was to seize and secure a group of houses on the edge of town, a foothold from which the unit could launch an attack on the rest of the town. Far out in front, Private First Class James was the first to draw enemy fire. His platoon leader came forward to investigate, but poor visibilty made it difficult for Private First Class James to point out enemy positions with any accuracy. Private First Class James volunteered to go forward to fully reconnoiter the enemy situation. Furious crossfire from enemy snipers and machineguns finally pinned down Private First Class James after making his way forward approximately 200 yards across open terrain. Lying in an exposed position for more than an hour, Private First Class James intrepidly observed the enemy's positions which were given away by the fire Private First Class James was daringly drawing upon himself. Then, with utter indifference to his personal safety, in a storm of enemy small arms fire, Private First Class James made his way back more than 300 yards across open terrain under enemy observation to his platoon positions, and gave a full, detailed report on the enemy disposition. The unit worked out a new plan on maneuver based on Private First Class James' information. The gallant soldier volunteered to lead a squad in an assault on the key house in the group that formed the platoon objective. He made his way forward, leading his squad in the assault on the strongly held enemy positions in the building and designating targets accurately and continuously as he moved along. While doing so, Private First Class James saw his platoon leader shot down by enemy snipers. Hastily designating and coolly orienting a leader in his place, Private First Class James instantly went to the aid of his platoon leader, exposing himself recklessly to the incessant enemy fire. As he was making his way across open ground, Private First Class James was killed by a burst from an enemy machine gun. Private First Class James' extraordinary heroic action in the face of withering enemy fire provided the disposition of enemy troops to his platoon. Inspired to the utmost by Private First Class James' self-sacifice, the platoon sustained the momentum of the assault and successfully accomplished its mission with a minimum of casualities. Private First Class James contributed very definitely to the success of his battalion in the vitally important combat operation of establishing and expanding a bridgehead over the Weser River. His fearless, self-assigned actions, far above and beyond the normal call of duty, exemplify the finest traditions of the American combat soldier and reflect with highest credit upon Private First Class James and the Armed Forces of the United States.

Medal of Honor Recipient Willy James, Jr. Image courtesy Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, MO.
Medal of Honor Recipient Willy James, Jr. Image courtesy Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City, MO.
Additional Details
  • Accredited to: Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri
  • Awarded Posthumously: Yes
  • Presentation Date & Details: January 13, 1997

    The White House, presented by Pres. William J. Clinton to his widow.

  • Born: 1920, Kansas City, Jackson County, MO, United States
  • Died: April 7, 1945, Weser River Valley near Lippoldsberg, Germany
  • Buried: A.B.M.C. Cemetery (MH) (P-9-9), Margraten, Netherlands
  • Location of Medal: Black Archives of Mid-America, Kansas City, MO

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