Gainesville Daily Register
Col. James L. Stone, an Army platoon leader who earned the Medal of Honor following service in the Korean War and participated Gainesville Medal of Honor Host City activities during recent years, died Friday in his Arlington home at age 89.
The cause of death was prostate cancer, wife Mary Lou Stone reported.
Host City Program coordinator Gary Alexander said Stone was a repeat Gainesville guest and always enjoyed his stay.
“It afforded him the chance to reconnect with fellow recipients, some of whom he had not seen in years due to his various health problems,” Alexander said Wednesday.
Alexander added that during his visit to Gainesville in April, Stone told him he appreciated the effort made by the community for the Medal of Honor recipients and how many events were rightfully designed for the community's students.
“I've enjoyed talking with the students and teachers a great deal,” Stone told Alexander. “Too often we assume that students know about America, our wars and the veterans, and too often we are wrong. It has been a very long time since my war, but the message from the recipients — and all veterans — is that patriotism is what sustains and nourishes our country. There will always be a warm spot in my heart for Gainesville.”
A New York Times news obituary discussed Stone and how he came to earn his accolaides. On sundown on Nov. 21, 1951, Stone, then a first lieutenant, was leading about 50 men from the First Cavalry Division of the Eighth Cavalry Regiment when Chinese forces began firing white phosphorous shells to mark the American position above the Imjin River, near Sakogae, North Korea.
About 9 p.m., after an artillery barrage, Chinese troops swept up the hill.
“Within minutes, the Chinese were nearly on top of Stone’s platoon,” wrote Peter Collier in his 2003 book, “Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty.” After the Americans repelled the assault and five others, the Chinese added another battalion.
“The 48 U.S. troops now faced perhaps 800 of the enemy,” Collier wrote.
Stone stood on sandbagged trenches “erect and exposed to the terrific enemy fire, calmly directing his men in the defense,” his Medal of Honor citation said. When a flamethrower malfunctioned and the soldier who had been firing it was killed, Lieutenant Stone ran to the spot, fixed the flamethrower and handed it to another soldier. He grabbed the platoon’s only working machine gun and raced from one position to another to fire at the enemy. He was shot in the leg, twice, then in the neck.
After midnight, with more than half of his soldiers dead, Lieutenant Stone ordered those who could to pull back from the hill. “He said he would stay behind with the badly wounded to cover their retreat,” Collier wrote. Just before dawn, the lieutenant and six other wounded men were captured. He spent 20 months in a prison camp on the Yalu River until, five weeks after the war ended, he was repatriated in a prisoner exchange.
Told he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, Stone struggled not to cry. “I don’t deserve the medal,” he said. “It should go to the men of my platoon. They were all so brave.”
On Oct. 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented the medal to Lieutenant Stone and six others.
James Lamar Stone was born on Dec. 27, 1922, in Pine Bluff, Ark. He studied chemistry and zoology at the University of Arkansas, where he was in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He worked for General Electric before being called to active duty in 1948. He served in the Army for 30 years, including service in Vietnam, rising to colonel.
His first wife, Jane Dickenson Stone, died before him. Besides his wife, the former Mary Lou Hickman, he is survived by two sons from his first marriage, James Jr. and Ray; a stepdaughter, Amy Rodriguez; and three grandchildren.
Year after year, Colonel Stone would attend Veterans Day ceremonies at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. “They promised they would always put out a chair for him,” Mrs. Stone said.
— The New York Times contributed to this report.