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First Name: James

Last Name: Day

Birthplace: East St. Louis, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Lewis

Date of Birth: 05 October 1925

Date of Death: 28 October 1998

Rank: Major General

Years Served: 1943 - 1986
James Lewis Day

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


James Lewis Day
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Major General James Lewis Day (5 October 1925 - 28 October 1998) was a U.S. Marine who, as a Corporal in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, displayed "extraordinary heroism, repeated acts of valor, and quintessential battlefield leadership . . . inspired the efforts of his outnumbered Marines to defeat a much larger enemy force." Despite this, it took more than 52 years for him to receive the Medal of Honor. Day continued his distinguished service with the Marine Corps as an officer, reaching the rank of Major General.

James Lewis Day was born 5 October 1925 in East St. Louis, IL. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943.

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

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Okinawa, Ryukya Islands, 14 to 17 May 1945.

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, Ryukya 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, 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 night attack. In the 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.

Major General Day was presented the Medal of Honor on 20 January 1998, over fifty-two years after the World War II battle on Okinawa in which he distinguished himself.

Post-WWII Military Career

In September 1952, Day completed The Basic School at Quantico, VA, 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, CA, until July 1954, when he was transferred to Camp Pendleton, CA, for duty as Commanding Officer, Company C, Marine Corps Test Unit One. He was promoted to Captain in December 1954. Captain 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, MD. In April 1966, Major 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, HI, from July 1969 to June 1971 and attended the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 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, DC. 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 Marine Amphibious Force, 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, DC. 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 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.

During his military career, Day earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Masters of Business Administration degree.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Defense Superior Service Medal
Silver Star Medal w/ 2 Award Stars
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit w/ Valor Device
Bronze Star Medal w/ Valor Device
Purple Heart w/ 5 Award Stars
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ 1 Award Star & Valor Device
Combat Action Ribbon
Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 2 Service Stars
Navy Unit Commendation w/ 2 Service Stars
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 2 Service Stars
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 2 Service Stars
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 3 Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 Service Star
Korean Service Medal w/ 3 Service Stars
Vietnam Service Medal w/ 4 Service Stars
Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class
Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ Palm & Gold Star
Vietnam Navy Gallantry Cross
Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross unit citation
United Nations Korea Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Death and Burial

Major General James Lewis Day died of a heart attack on 28 October 1998 in Cathedral City, CA, slightly more than 9 months after receiving his Medal of Honor. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA, in Section P, Grave 1748.

Honoree ID: 1361   Created by: MHOH




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