Friday, November 15, 2013
A new license plate on Technical Sgt. Joseph J. James’ car will honor skills he showed while in the air.
On Nov. 1, Dist. 44 Sen. Paul Campbell met James and his family at their home in Crowfield to honor James and be there as he installed the new license plate onto the back of his minivan.
James flew 259 missions and logged a total of 806 combat flying hours as a flight engineer on a C-47 in Vietnam. On July 15, 1970 he was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission he flew on July 16, 1969.
“You won’t find many folks who flew 259 missions,” Campbell said. “We have a real hero in our midst.”
James reflected somberly on his time in Vietnam.
“You come back and you’re not the same,” James said. “There’s some sad stuff. But it’s our freedom.”
The Distinguished Flying Cross is the fourth-highest federal military decoration and is awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”
“I was driving around last October and saw a Gold Star license plate,” James said, adding that the Gold Star is a lower honor than the Distinguished Flying Cross. “I called the highway department. They said I could pay $6,800 for a special plate or go through my senator, so I called this young man,” James said as he patted Campbell on his upper arm.
Another option would have been getting sponsored by the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Campbell worked on amending H. 3033 to include special license plates for the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“We put a bill together to authorize the DOT (Dept. of Transportation) and DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) for a tag to go forward,” Campbell said. “It passed in the House and Senate.”
James flew missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He took a hand-sized American flag with him on more than 200 missions. He still has the flag today.
“We were dropping leaflets in the open arms program,” James said. “We weren’t out there shooting people. We were saving lives. The more high-ranking officers they turned in the more we got compensated.”
“On the night of July 16, 1969 Sergeant James displayed great dedication and mission awareness in carrying a surrender appeal message to a hostile area while displaying “valor, outstanding airmanship, and a complete disregard for his life while performing this mission and simultaneously assisting fellow crewmen, largely contributed in the recover of five of the hostile force under the Government of Vietnam’s ‘Open Arms’ program.”
In May 1970, James was transferred to Charleston AFB to join the 76 MASq as a C-141 flight engineer.