Major General James L. Day, USMC
Medal of Honor Recipient
By Mark J. Denger
California Center for Military History, State Military Reserve
Major General James L. Day, U.S. Marine Corps, became the last Medal of Honor recipient to be intered at Fort Rosecrans. Interestingly enough, awarded the Medal in 1998, General Day had to wait more than a half-century to receive this honor. The paperwork for his medal was lost in the chaos of the battlefield only resurfaced again in 1980 when a retired Marine found faded carbon copies of the recommendation among his World War II memorabilia. It took an 18 more years before the paperwork finally reached the appropriate officials. Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.) was awarded the Medal on January 20, 1998.

The following are excerpts from President Clinton's remarks at the Medal of Honor for Major General James L. Day, USMC (Ret.)
"To those who lived through World War II and those who grew up in the years that followed, few memories inspire more awe and horror than the battle for Okinawa. In the greatest conflict the world has ever known, our forces fought no engagement more bitter or more bloody. In 82 days of fighting America suffered more than 12,000 dead in this final epic battle, the most costly one during the entire Pacific War.

At the very heart of this crucible was the fight for a hill called Sugar Loaf, the key to breaking the enemy's line across the south of the island -- some of the grimmest combat our forces had ever seen. The Marines on Sugar Loaf faced a hail of artillery, mortars and grenades. They were raked by constant machine gun fire. Time and again our men would claw their way uphill only to be repulsed by the enemy. Progress was measured by the yard.

On May 14th, 1945, a 19-year-old corporal named Jim Day led several other Marines to a shell crater on the slope of Sugar Loaf. What happened then surpasses our powers of imagination. On the first day in that isolated hole, Corporal Day and those with him fought off an advance by scores of enemy soldiers. That night he helped to repel three more assaults as those with him fell dead or injured. Braving heavy fire, he escorted four wounded comrades, one by one, to safety. But he would not stay in safety. Instead, he returned to his position to continue the fight. As one of his fellow Marines later reported, the Corporal was everywhere. He would run from one spot to another trying to get more fire on the enemy.

When the next day broke, Corporal Day kept on fighting alone, but for one wounded fellow Marine. Through assault after assault and into his second night, he fought on. Burned by white phosphorous and wounded by shrapnel, he continued to fire his weapon and hold his ground. He hauled ammunition from a disabled vehicle back to his shell hole and fought and fought, one assault after another, one day to the next.

The battle on Sugar Loaf decimated two Marine regiments. But when Corporal Jim Day was finally relieved after three days of continuous fighting, virtually alone, he had stood his ground. And the enemy dead around his foxhole numbered more than 100.

His heroism played a crucial part in America's victory at Sugar Loaf. And that success opened the way to the capture of Okinawa and the ultimate triumph of the forces of freedom in the Pacific."

In the years after World War II, General Day oversaw combat troops in Korea and Vietnam. He also held commands in Japan, San Diego, Washington, Okinawa and at Camp Pendleton. After retiring from the Marines, as a civilian, James Day became chancellor of the National University campus in Palm Springs, California. He died of a heart attack at Cathedral City, San Diego County, California, on October 28, 1998.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, among his 31 other military decorations include three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, six Purple Hearts and two Navy Commendation Medals.
President Clinton awarding the Medal of Honor to Major General James L. Day

Day, James L.
"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 separated 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's personal decorations include:

1st Row Medal of Honor Silver Star
w/ 2 award stars
Defense Superior Service Medal Navy Distinguished Service Medal
2nd Row Legion of Merit w/ valor device Bronze Star
w/ valor device
Purple Heart
w/ 5 award stars
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal
w/ 1 award star & valor device
3rd Row 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
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/ 1 service star
Korean Service Medal
w/ 3 service stars
Vietnam Service Medal
w/ 4 service stars
6th Row Vietnam Army 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 United Nations Korea Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal

James Day was born 5 October 1925, in East St. Louis, Illinois. 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.

Day holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and a Masters of Business Administration degree. 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. 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 the 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.

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. 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, 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 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, 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 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.

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


Cpl. James L. Day Receives Bronze Star and Purple Heart WW II.

Lt. James L. Day with Jim Casey

Marine Major General James Lewis Day

More on James L Day on Wikipedia