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Jimmy Goethel Stewart
West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archive

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

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Jimmy Goethel Stewart
1942-1966

"His actions were in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and Armed Forces of this country."

Medal of Honor Citation

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jimmy Goethel Stewart, was born in Mason County, West Virginia, December 25, 1942, to Ethel M. Stewart and Alfred Roland Stitt. Staff Sergeant Stewart's maternal grandmother, Josephine Roush, died of pneumonia when she was only twenty-two. His mother later married Delmar Logan and gave birth to John Logan and Josephine Logan Donahue, whom she named for her mother.

When S/Sgt. Stewart was born, the country's focus was World War II. The country was geared up to manufacture products for the war. During the Great Depression, many people lived in poverty and were suffering. World War II helped them emerge from the Depression, but at a cost. After the war, the country's economy stabilized, but the country was now involved in the Cold War, causing great international tension. This was the social, economic, and political climate in which Jimmy Stewart grew up.

In 1960, Jimmy Goethel Stewart enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of eighteen. He was assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Squadron, 12th Calvary Regiment, with the service number of 156148531. He was stationed in Germany when he met and married Gertrude. Jimmy and Gertrude Stewart had two sons, Robert and John Stewart.

S/Sgt. Stewart fought in the Vietnam War, a conflict that was escalating between Northern and Southern Vietnam. The United States was in alliance with the South Vietnam government, both of which were interested in containing the spread of communism. The Vietnam War was a result of the North Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong fighting with South Vietnam to unify their country. The conflict was viewed as a colonial war, but ultimately involved many other nations beyond the two Vietnams.
Jimmy Stewart

Jimmy Stewart in Vietnam. Courtesy Anthony Japuntich

On the early morning of May 8, 1966, Jimmy Stewart was faced with three North Vietnamese assaults. He held his position for four hours, defending himself and his brothers in combat. Stewart was fighting in a six-man squad, when the other five were wounded. However, S/Sgt. Stewart continued to fight and protect his men. When reinforcements arrived, all five men were evacuated and recovered. He saved their lives. Unfortunately, Stewart was killed while holding his position. Paraphrasing his Medal of Honor Citation, West Virginia State Senator Oshel Craigo stated: "He fought like a man possessed, emptying magazine after magazine at the onslaught of the enemy." Stewart's remains were recovered, and he is buried at Riverview Cemetery in Middleport, Ohio.

For his actions, the U.S. President awarded S/Sgt. Stewart the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was the first West Virginian to receive this award for action in Vietnam. This is the highest military award and is given to those who display bravery, selflessness, and courage. The Medal of Honor was first a bill that was introduced by an Iowa senator, James W. Grimes, on December 9, 1861. The bill was designed to "Promote efficiency of the Navy." The bill was passed on December 21. It allowed two hundred medals to be produced. Later, in February 1862, a similar bill was introduced for privates in the Army to receive a medal from the president for distinguishing themselves in battle. Thus, the Army version of this award was born on July 12, 1862. It has been awarded in all subsequent U.S. wars.

Comrades at Stewart Field

Members of Jimmy Stewart's unit reunite at Stewart Field in Georgia. Courtesy Anthony Japuntich

On May 18, 1966, the Stewart Army Airfield at Ft. Benning, Georgia, was named in S/Sgt. Jimmy Goethel Stewart's honor. On May 27, a soccer field in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, was also named in Stewart's honor. There is also a classroom in Ft. Hood, Texas, named for Jimmy G. Stewart. Finally, the "Bridge of Honor" that crosses from Mason, West Virginia, to Pomeroy, Ohio, is named in his memory. S/Sgt. Jimmy Stewart was a hero in the eyes of many because of his courageous acts. His Medal of Honor citation is provided below:
bridge

The Bridge of Honor from Mason, West Virginia, to Pomeroy, Ohio, was named for Jimmy Stewart. When the "new" bridge opened, the "old" bridge was demolished. Courtesy John Stewart

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Early in the morning a reinforced North Vietnamese company attacked Company B, which was manning a defensive perimeter in Vietnam. The surprise onslaught wounded 5 members of a 6-man squad caught in the direct path of the enemy's thrust. S/Sgt. Stewart became a lone defender of vital terrain:virtually 1 man against a hostile platoon. Refusing to take advantage of a lull in the firing which would have permitted him to withdraw, S/Sgt. Stewart elected to hold his ground to protect his fallen comrades and prevent an enemy penetration of the company perimeter. As the full force of the platoon-sized man attack struck his lone position, he fought like a man possessed; emptying magazine after magazine at the determined, on-charging enemy. The enemy drove almost to his position and hurled grenades, but S/Sgt. Stewart decimated them by retrieving and throwing the grenades back. Exhausting his ammunition, he crawled under intense fire to his wounded team members and collected ammunition that they were unable to use. Far past the normal point of exhaustion, he held his position for 4 harrowing hours and through 3 assaults, annihilating the enemy as they approached and before they could get a foothold. As a result of his defense, the company position held until the arrival of a reinforcing platoon which counterattacked the enemy, now occupying foxholes to the left of S/Sgt. Stewart's position. After the counterattack, his body was found in a shallow enemy hole where he had advanced in order to add his fire to that of the counterattacking platoon. Eight enemy dead were found around his immediate position, with evidence that 15 others had been dragged away. The wounded whom he gave his life to protect, were recovered and evacuated. S/Sgt. Stewart's indomitable courage, in the face of overwhelming odds, stands as a tribute to himself and an inspiration to all men of his unit. His actions were in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and the Armed Forces of his country. (Congressional Medal of Honor Society, "Stewart, Jimmy G.," accessed 12 March 2018, http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3422/stewart-jimmy-g.php.)

Some information in this article was provided by Stewart's son John and Army friend Anthony Japuntich.
Article prepared by Elizabeth Belcher and Montana Bria, George Washington High School JROTC
March 2018

Honor...

Jimmy Goethel Stewart

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