The Unwavering Valor of Gen. James Livingston: A Medal of Honor Recipient’s Story
General James Livingston is a retired United States Marine Corps officer and a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. He was born on January 12, 1940, in Towns, Georgia, and grew up in the rural South. In 1962, Livingston graduated from Auburn University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He served in various positions in the Marine Corps throughout his career, including commanding a rifle company, a battalion, and a regiment.
Livingston’s Medal of Honor action took place on May 2, 1968, during the Vietnam War. At the time, he was a captain and the commanding officer of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. The mission was to secure a hill near the village of Dai Do, located in Quang Tri Province. The hill was heavily fortified by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and protected by several layers of trenches and bunkers.
The battle for Dai Do began in the early hours of May 1, 1968, when the NVA launched a surprise attack on the village. The Marines were caught off guard and suffered heavy casualties. By the evening of May 1, the situation was critical, and reinforcements were urgently needed to prevent a complete collapse.
On May 2, Livingston’s Company E was ordered to reinforce the Marines fighting in Dai Do. As they moved towards the village, they came under heavy fire from NVA positions on the hills. The company suffered numerous casualties and was forced to halt its advance.
At this point, Livingston took charge and decided to lead a charge against the enemy positions. He rallied his men and personally led the attack, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire. His leadership and courage inspired his men, and they pressed forward, overrunning the enemy positions.
During the course of the battle, Livingston was wounded three times but refused to be evacuated. He continued to lead his men and personally carried several wounded Marines to safety. By the end of the battle, Company E had secured the hill and defeated the NVA defenders.
For his actions during the battle of Dai Do, Livingston was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces. His citation reads, in part:
“Captain Livingston’s gallantry, inspiring leadership, and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”
After his military career, Livingston became a successful businessman and philanthropist. He currently lives in South Carolina and remains active in veterans’ affairs and other charitable causes. He is widely regarded as one of the most distinguished and heroic Marines of his generation.
After the war, Livingston attended college and then joined the Marine Corps, where he served as a platoon and company commander in Korea and Vietnam. He received his first Bronze Star for valor in combat during the Korean War, where he led his men in repelling several enemy attacks and personally taking out an enemy machine gun nest.
In Vietnam, Livingston served as the commanding officer of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. On May 2, 1968, he led his company in an assault on a heavily fortified North Vietnamese Army position near the village of Dai Do. The NVA forces had dug in around a series of bunkers and were well-armed with heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, and mortars.
Despite facing withering fire from the enemy, Livingston refused to withdraw and instead led his men in a fierce close-quarters battle to capture the NVA position. Over the course of three days, Livingston and his Marines repeatedly charged the enemy, using grenades and bayonets to clear the bunkers and eliminate the defenders.
In the course of the fighting, Livingston was wounded twice but refused medical treatment until all of his men had been evacuated. He personally carried wounded Marines to safety and directed air and artillery strikes on the enemy positions. When the fighting finally ended, his company had suffered more than 50% casualties, but had succeeded in capturing the NVA position.
For his actions during the battle, Livingston was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation reads, in part: “His dynamic leadership, aggressive spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger inspired his men to heroic efforts, and were instrumental in the successful accomplishment of the mission.”
After the war, Livingston continued to serve in the Marine Corps, rising to the rank of major general before retiring in 1995. He later worked as a consultant to the Marine Corps and as a motivational speaker.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Livingston’s military awards include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat “V,” Bronze Star with Combat “V” and gold star, Purple Heart with gold star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V” and gold star, and the Combat Action Ribbon with gold star.
Livingston is a true American hero who exemplifies the Marine Corps ethos of “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful). His bravery and leadership in the face of adversity serve as an inspiration to all who have served in the military and to all Americans who cherish freedom and the values for which it stands.