James L. Stone, 1922–2012
The soldier who had to wait for his rare honor
As a 28-year-old first lieutenant, James L. Stone had just led his 48 men to a hilltop outpost in Korea on the evening of Nov. 21, 1951, when Army flares revealed enemy troops advancing in large numbers. Within minutes, his platoon came under attack from 800 Chinese troops backed by mortar and artillery fire. The fighting went on all night, and Stone was everywhere. When a flamethrower malfunctioned, he got it working again. When the platoon had just one light machine gun left, he carried it from post to post, firing on the advancing Chinese. Eventually he fought with his rifle butt. Stone was shot twice in the leg and once in the neck. His bravery earned him the Medal of Honor. “Only because of this officer’s driving spirit and heroic action,” his citation said, “was the platoon emboldened to make its brave but hopeless last-ditch stand.”
When American troops arrived at the battle site the next day, they found hundreds of enemy dead, said the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “But they didn’t find Lt. Stone.” He had been taken prisoner. It wasn’t until he was released, 22 months later, that he learned about the Medal of Honor. He didn’t tell the woman who became his wife about it until after they were married. “He was a humble person and didn’t talk about that part to me,” she said.
Stone, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., stayed in the Army, eventually serving in Germany and in Vietnam, said The Washington Post. After retiring with the rank of colonel, he joined his son in the home-building business in Arlington, Texas. “I hate to see men killed,” he later said. “But it’s either you or them.”