AFRH-W Resident Highlight – James Diamond
By Christine Baldwin| AFRH-W Librarian
James Diamond was born in Chicago, Illinois. His mother was part Native American and German and his Father was African American. In 1948, at the age of 16, he wanted to join the U.S. Marine Corps, but they said he was too small. He also asked at the U.S. Air Force, but was told the same thing. As he was leaving the recruiting area, a U.S. Army recruiter called him over. James was given a form to have his mother sign for when he turned 17 and three weeks later, he was in the Army. He took basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and was assigned to truck driving. He was stationed in Germany and for the next four years this was his MOS. He evened helped out with the Berlin Airlift.
James decided not to reenlist, but was called in by his sergeant and was told that he was extended by one year and was going to Korea! James was told that he would be a FO (forward observer), but quickly came to realize that he was a gofer. One day, returning with the coffee, explosions started around him. He ran and saw a tank and crawled under it. After everything got quiet, a door opened up above him and someone asked “How long have you been here?” James didn’t realize that during the bombing the tank had been hit by a dud, but the metal had hit him and he was covered in blood. After two days at the aid station, James told his company commander “I am not going to be killed as a gofer, send me to the front.”
James was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, I Company, 38th Infantry Regiment as a rifleman. He was sent to school to become a sergeant and out of 44 in the class, James ended up in the top five, which meant he would be automatically promoted. But unbeknownst to James, he had already received a promotion in the company. Therefore in a matter of weeks, James became a sergeant first class. He knew that he was going to have to earn the respect of his men, so James decided to put everything into his job and started volunteering for difficult missions. Pretty soon the soldiers began to think the world of James.
Next, James was assigned to Ft. Ord, California to teach the 50 caliber machine gun, but he wanted more. So he got leadership training and went back to Germany with the 1st Infantry Division, 16th Infantry Regiment. He was immediately sent to NCO school and then after graduating, the whole unit was gyroscoped to Ft. Riley, Kansas. James wanted to reenlist with the airborne, but after a freak accident, he ended up in a reconnaissance platoon with the 4th Armored Division. The next tour took him to Ft. Hood, Texas for intelligence school. By 1961, James was at Ft. Myer, Virginia, where he marched in John Kennedy’s inaugural parade. He also gave a tour to some staff members of “Ebony Magazine”. After attending special warfare school at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and studying Vietnamese at Presidio, California, it was off to Vietnam with the 3rd Ranger Contact Team. It was ironic that where James was located, no one spoke Vietnamese!
James was then assigned to Ft. Dix, New Jersey at drill sergeant school, where he was promoted to E-8. After more training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, it was back to Vietnam. It was here that James would receive the Distinguished Service Cross for the following event that happened on 6 February 1967:
“When the lead platoon of his company lost its platoon sergeant and three other men in an ambush by a Viet Cong company, First Sergeant Diamond immediately moved into the battle area to maintain the fighting effectiveness of his unit. While the Viet Cong were seizing weapons from the casualties lying on the field, he organized the friendly element and set up a base of fire which drove the insurgents back. Under intense fire, he moved to where the dead and wounded lay, covering and directing the evacuation from an exposed position. After all the wounded had been rescued, First Sergeant Diamond remained in his bullet swept location to guide air strikes into the hostile bunkers, although he himself was within range of the exploding aircraft shells.”
This medal was given to James later that month by then Vice President Hubert Humphrey. James was also awarded the Bronze Star. And by the way, there is a Patrol Base Diamond in Vietnam named in honor of James.
James last assignment was back home to Chicago, Illinois, where he taught ROTC. After twenty years he retired, but ended up teaching ROTC for the next 23 years. James had a friend from his Germany days that had lived at AFRH-W and James and his wife had visited him here. So when the time was right for him to come here, he did.