Sgt. Jimmy G. Stewart Bridge (Mason, WV and Meigs OH)

I frequently pass a memorial marker sign in Mason County that mentions Jimmy G Stewart as I cross the bridge from Mason WV to Pomeroy OH. It oftentimes catches my eye and makes me think of the actor from It’s A Wonderful Life. Going forward, it will be Jimmy Goethel Stewart’s image that comes to mind and his valiant bravery while protecting his wounded fellow soldiers during Vietnam.

HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 14
(By Delegate Martin)
[Introduced January 28, 2003; referred to the
Committee on Rules.]

Requesting the West Virginia Division of Highways to name the new bridge from Pomeroy, Ohio to Mason, West Virginia “Sgt. Jimmy G. Stewart Bridge.”

Whereas, Jimmy G. Stewart was born on December 25, 1942, in West Columbia, Mason County, West Virginia; and
Whereas, Jimmy G. Stewart was killed May 8, 1966, in action in Vietnam after holding his position for four hours against three North Vietnamese assaults. A surprise early morning attack wounded five members of a six-man squad in Company B of the 2/12 Cavalry Regiment left Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart virtually alone and one man against the Vietnamese platoon. He emptied magazine after magazine of ammunition at the enemy force and when they threw grenades at the Company B position, he retrieved the grenades and threw them back at the attacking enemy. Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart held his position for four hours and through three assaults until reinforcements arrived. They found the body of Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart in an enemy foxhole where he had advanced to add his fire to the reinforcements and eight enemy dead near his immediate position and evidence that fifteen others had been dragged away. The wounded members of his squad were recovered and evacuated; and
Whereas, Jimmy G. Stewart with conspicuous gallantry and bravery unselfishly gave his life to protect and save his wounded squad members and comrades in arms; and
Whereas, Jimmy G. Stewart received posthumously this nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor “For Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity in Action at the Risk of His Life Above and Beyond the Call of Duty”; and
Whereas, The life of Jimmy G. Stewart should not go unnoticed; therefore, be it
Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the members of the Legislature request the West Virginia Division of Highways to name the new bridge from Pomeroy, Ohio to Mason, West Virginia “Sgt. Jimmy G. Stewart Bridge” ; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the West Virginia Division of Highways provide and erect a sign at either end of the bridge displaying the name of the bridge; and, be it
Further Resolved, That the Clerkis hereby directed to forward a copy of this resolution to the Commissioner of the Division of Highways, and to the surviving family of Jimmy G. Stewart.

DATE OF BIRTH: December 25, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH: West Columbia, West Virginia
HOME OF RECORD: Ashland, Kentucky
AWARDED FOR ACTIONS DURING Vietnam War
Service: Army
Battalion: 2d Battalion / Division: 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
GENERAL ORDERS: Department of the Army, General Orders No. 41 (September 22, 1967)

May 18, 1966:

Jimmy G. Stewart earns Medal of Honor

In 1966, the Congressional Medal of Honor was posthumously awarded to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart, the first West Virginian to receive the medal for service in Vietnam. A native of West Columbia, Mason County, the 23-year-old Stewart was killed in action on May 18.

Company B of the 1st Cavalry Division was manning a defensive perimeter when it was attacked by a North Vietnamese platoon. Five of the men in Stewart’s 6-man squad were wounded, leaving Stewart alone to defend his position and those injured.

Stewart was described as fighting “like a man possessed,” holding off 3 enemy assaults in 4 hours. Exhausting his own ammunition, Stewart kept the North Vietnamese at bay by recovering enemy grenades and throwing them back. The wounded were evacuated from the battlefield after reinforcements arrived, but Stewart was killed in the ensuing counterattack.

Stewart’s body was returned to West Columbia where he was buried, with full military honors, during the Memorial Day weekend. He was one of 9 West Virginians to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

West Virginians have long prided themselves on the sacrifices they have made in military service. But the state paid an especially high price in Vietnam. Some 36,000 West Virginians served in Vietnam and more than 700 were killed, the highest death rate per capita of any state. The lack of employment opportunities in West Virginia led many young people to join the service. Many others were drafted and, since the war’s end, much has been made of the fact that the poor were more likely to be drafted than the affluent. While draftees made up only one-fourth of the entire army, they accounted for two-thirds of all battle deaths.

Stewart’s official Medal of Honor citation reads:

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

West Virginia Veterans Memorial
Remember…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
SOURCE: http://www.wvculture.org/history/wvmemory/vets/stewartjimmy/stewartjimmy.html

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.

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

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.


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

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:

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

— General / Personal —

Last name: STEWART

First name: JIMMY GOETHEL

Home of Record (official): MIDDLEPORT

State (official): OH

Date of Birth: Friday, December 25, 1942

Sex: Male

Race: Caucasian

Marital Status: Married

— Military —

Branch: Army

Rank: SSG

Serial Number: 15614853

Component: Regular

Posthumous promotion as indicated

Pay grade: E5

MOS (Military Occupational Specialty code): 11B40

— Action —

Start of Tour: Friday, August 20, 1965

Date of Casualty: Wednesday, May 18, 1966

Age at time of loss: 23

Casualty type: (A1) Hostile, died

Reason: Gun, small arms fire (Ground casualty)

Country: South VietNam

Province: Unknown/Not Reported

The Wall: Panel 07E – Row 084

Viet Nam Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Stewart served as a Staff Sergeant, United States Army, Company B, 2d Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). He was awarded his medal posthumously for service at the Republic of Vietnam, on May 18, 1966. His citation reads-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.

Bio by: Peterborough K on Find-A-Grave

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