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James L. Stone Sr. dies at 89; Korean War Medal of Honor recipient

Armed ForcesObituariesHuman InterestU.S. ArmyKorean War (1950-1953)Congressional Medal of Honor HeroesGeneral Electric Company

Retired Army Col. James L. Stone Sr., who received the Medal of Honor for bravery under fire in Korea, died Friday at his home in Arlington, Texas. He was 89.

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced his death but did not reveal the cause. There are 80 living recipients of the medal, the nation's highest award for wartime valor.

Col. Stone was a 28-year-old first lieutenant when his 48-man platoon was attacked by Chinese troops on a hilltop near Sokkogae, Korea, on the night of Nov. 21, 1951.

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Shot twice in the leg and once in the neck, he carried the platoon's only working machine gun from place to place on the hilltop and repaired a flamethrower by himself while under fire, according to his Medal of Honor citation. When it was over, half his unit had been killed and most of the survivors were wounded.

"Only because of this officer's driving spirit and heroic action was the platoon emboldened to make its brave but hopeless last-ditch stand," the citation states.

The next day, advancing American troops found hundreds of enemy soldiers dead. But they didn't find Lt. Stone.

Captured along with six other survivors, Lt. Stone spent 22 months in a prisoner-of-war camp on the Yalu River near the Manchurian border. He was freed in September 1953 in a prisoner exchange known as the "Big Switch."

"You can't imagine what it's like to see that flag again. It's like being reborn," Col. Stone said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It really makes you appreciate your country."

He went on to serve in Germany, was in charge of ROTC units in Fort Worth during the mid-1960s and did a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1971.

James Lamar Stone was born Dec. 27, 1922, in Pine Bluff, Ark., and grew up in Hot Springs. He studied chemistry and zoology at the University of Arkansas, where he was in the Army's Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree and worked for General Electric in Houston before being called to active duty in 1948. He was sent to Korea in March 1951. A month after he was repatriated in 1953, President Eisenhower presented the Medal of Honor to him and six other men.

He retired from the Army after nearly 30 years and went to work with his son, James Stone Jr., in the home-building business.

He met his wife, Mary, after retiring from the Army. She said she didn't know about the Medal of Honor until after the wedding.

"He was a humble person and didn't talk about that part to me," she said.

Last year, 60 years after the battle at Sokkogae, the Army 90th Aviation Support Battalion in Fort Worth dedicated the Col. James L. Stone U.S. Army Reserve Center in his honor.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, Raymond; a stepdaughter, Amy Rodriguez; one grandchild; and two stepgrandchildren.

news.obits@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Armed ForcesObituariesHuman InterestU.S. ArmyKorean War (1950-1953)Congressional Medal of Honor HeroesGeneral Electric Company
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