Ninety-four year old Jim Campbell, who served in both WWII and the Korean War, was awarded a boxful of medals that he earned during five years, three months, and twenty-three days in the service last Sunday.
Campbell enlisted in the 69th Engineering Topographic Company in 1940 and was quickly promoted to Sergeant E5. In May of 1942 he was transferred to San Francisco and soon shipped out to Australia on the Liberty Ship. Campbell’s company participated when the 6th Army and the 5th Bomber Command went into northern New Guinea near Milne Bay and then moved along the north shore removing Japanese strongholds.
That fight was carried on into the Philippines where, on October 20, 1944, MacArthur landed in Lyete at Red Beach where, wading ashore, he made the famous statement, “I have returned.”
According to Gordon Wax, who did the research behind the medals that were due Campbell, a beachhead had been secured but it was not totally secure. Three Japanese bombers arrived on October 25 to destroy the base. Two were shot down, but the third succeeded in dropping a bomb on the deck of the LST 552, the ship on which 1st Sergeant Campbell served as the ranking NCO. Seventeen of the enlisted crew, which totaled 120, were killed in the bombing. Many were injured and a lot of equipment was destroyed.
The list of medals, ribbons, and insignias that Gordon Wax was able to determine that Campbell deserved was a long one and each one was delivered at the Sunday award ceremony. They included awards for participating in the Philippines Liberation, Cold War, National Defense, World War II Victory, the Asia-Pacific Campaign, American Campaign, American Defense, Good Conduct with two loops, the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Citation, and the Distinguished Unit Citation. He also received his Marksman with rifle bar, Expert Marksman with pistol badges, three service stripes and six overseas bars for the left and right sleeves, respectively. Last of all, Campbell received a (pending) Bronze Star for his participation in the conflict.
Wax, who did the research for all the awards and made the application for the Bronze Star on Campbell’s behalf, said that in 1961 the law was changed to authorize retroactively the award of the Bronze Star to WWII veterans. Recognizing that with advanced age and a very slow application process that many deserving veterans would not live to see their award, the issuance of a ‘pending’ award is allowed.