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James Lewis Day
MajGen James L. Day, Medal of Honor recipient
Born (1925-10-05)October 5, 1925
Died October 28, 1998(1998-10-28) (aged 73)
Place of birth East St. Louis, Illinois
Place of death Cathedral City, California
Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1943 - 1986
Rank Major General
Unit 2nd Battalion 22nd Marines
Commands held 1st Battalion, 9th Marines
2nd Infantry Training Regiment
Camp Fuji
4th Marine Corps District
MCRD San Diego
7th Marine Amphibious Brigade
1st Marine Division
Camp Smedley Butler
Battles/wars World War II
Battle of Sugar Loaf Hill
Korean War
Vietnam War
Cold War
Awards Medal of Honor
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal (6)
N & Marine Commendation Medal (2)
Combat Action Ribbon

Major General James Lewis Day (October 5, 1925 - October 28, 1998) was a United States Marine Corps major general who served in World War II, in the Korean War, and in the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions as a corporal on March 14 to 17 during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II.

Biography[edit | edit source]

James Day was born October 5, 1925, in East St. Louis, Illinois. Day holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Masters of Business Administration degree.

World War II

He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943.

Day participated in combat action during World War II in the Marshall Islands, on Guam and on Okinawa, where for his heroic actions during the fight for Sugar Loaf Hill he was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

Korean War

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.

Post Korea

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 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, 3rd 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, 43rd Rifle Company, Cumberland, Maryland.

Vietnam War

In April 1966, Maj Day served his first tour in Vietnam as Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd 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, 2nd 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.

Post Vietnam

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 April 1, 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 November 1, 1977, he became Commanding General of the Depot, serving in that capacity until March 11, 1978.

On April 29, 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 August 1, 1980, and assumed duty as the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, and was ultimately assigned the additional duty as Commanding General, I Marine Amphibious Force, on July 1, 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 Smedley D. Butler/Deputy Commander, Marine Corps Bases, Pacific (Forward)/Okinawa Area Coordinator, Okinawa, Japan. He served in this capacity until his retirement on December 1, 1986. Upon his retirement, he was presented the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States for duties while serving in his final duty station.

Medal of Honor

Major General Day was presented the Medal of Honor on January 20, 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 October 28, 1998 in Cathedral City, California. He was laid to rest in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

Military decorations & awards[edit | edit source]

Major General Day's service ribbons include:

A light blue ribbon with five white five pointed stars
Gold star
Gold star
Silver star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Gold star
1st Row Medal of Honor Navy Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star w/ 2 gold 5/16 inch stars Defense Superior Service Medal
2nd Row Legion of Merit w/ Combat "V" Bronze Star Medal w/ Combat "V" Purple Heart Medal w/ silver 5/16 inch star Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ gold 5/16 inch star & Combat "V"
3rd Row Combat Action Ribbon Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 2 service stars (2 gold 5/16 inch stars) Navy Unit Commendation w/ 2 service stars (2 gold 5/16 inch stats) Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 2 service stars (2 gold 5/16 inch stars)
4th Row Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 2 service stars American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 service stars
5th Row World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ service star Korean Service Medal w/ 3 service stars Vietnam Service Medal w/ 4 service stars
6th Row Vietnam Navy Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ palm & gold star Vietnam Navy Gallantry Cross Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
7th Row Korean Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with palm and frame United Nations Korea Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit | edit source]

Major General James L. Day was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award for valor, for heroism on Okinawa as a corporal while serving as a squad leader of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Marines, 6th Marine Division.

The President of the United States in the name of the Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

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 fanatical ground attack of about 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 whom 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 frenzied night attack. In this ferocious action, his machine gun was destroyed, and he suffered multiple white phosphorus and fragmentation wounds. Assisted by only one partially effective man, 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 and dispatched around 12 of the enemy 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 primal 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.

Other honors[edit | edit source]

A Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to Day for Veterans Day in 1999, recognizing him as one of five Medal of Honor recipients from the Southern California desert area.[1]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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