Vietnam Hero, Airborne Legend Dies at 90

Vietnam Hero, Airborne Legend Dies at 90

Gen. James Lindsay
Photo by: U.S. Army

Retired Gen. James Lindsay, the first commander of U.S. Special Operations Command who also led the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division and was a life member of the Association of the U.S. Army, died Aug. 5. He was 90.

“Gen. Lindsay was truly the heart and soul of what we are all about. His leadership impacted the fabric of our nation, and our generation owes him tremendously for his presence and mentorship,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Liberty, North Carolina, said in a statement.

A native of Vass, North Carolina, Lindsay enlisted in the Army in February 1952 and was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1953 after attending Officer Candidate School, according to the Fayetteville Observer. During his 38-year career, Lindsay held eight assignments within the 82nd Airborne Division, from platoon leader to division commander.

For actions during his second deployment to Vietnam from February 1968 to April 1969, Lindsay received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest award for valor. At the time, then-Lt. Col. Lindsay commanded the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, which located and destroyed three main force Viet Cong and North Vietnamese battalions in the Plain of Reeds from May 31–June 4, 1968.

After an airborne insertion on the enemy flank, Lindsay’s battalion came under heavy fire from automatic weapons and small arms, according to the award citation. “Moving from position to position under the hail of bullets, [Lindsay] directed his troops’ fire and, once fire superiority had been gained, led an assault into the hostile bunker complex which destroyed sixty of the fortifications and forced the enemy to withdraw,” the citation says.

Lindsay continually fought through “vicious” fire, both on the ground and from his helicopter, to repel enemy counterattacks throughout the battle. “While leading a sweep through the woodline early in the morning of 4 June, he surprised three Viet Cong whom he engaged and killed before they could inflict any casualties upon his men,” according to the citation.

In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Lindsay was awarded two Distinguished Service Medals and four Silver Stars for his service in Vietnam.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan nominated Lindsay as the first commander of the newly created U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, according to the Fayetteville Observer. It was Lindsay’s final assignment before his retirement in 1990.

“Our hearts are heavy as we render one last salute for Gen. James Lindsay,” the 82nd Airborne Division said in a Facebook post. “We thank you for your service to our nation and a commitment to excellence. Old Paratroopers never die, they just slip away.”