Army Veteran James O. Schmidt is today’s Veteran of the Day.
James O. Schmidt was born in 1928 and grew up in San Francisco. In 1942, at 14, he lied about his true age and enlisted in the U.S. Army. After training at Fort Bragg, he was shipped to North Africa as a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. As a paratrooper, he parachuted into Sicily, Italy, in 1943. After landing and regrouping with other paratroopers, he aided in disrupting enemy communications and military equipment, as well as capturing defensive fortifications such as pillboxes.
Schmidt wounded his arm while fighting in Italy, leading to a letter informing his parents of his wound. His mother wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the situation and Schmidt was subsequently discharged. Despite being discharged due to his young age, Schmidt enlisted in the U.S. Navy, again underage but this time slightly older. The Navy found out Schmidt’s true age and discharged him once again. This did not deter him; he simply joined the Merchant Marines, where he served for the remainder of World War II.
After the war ended, Schmidt, at 18, re-enlisted in the Army. He eventually served in Korea, specifically fighting in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. While stationed in Korea, Schmidt achieved the rank of sergeant major. His actions in Korea led him to be asked to join the U.S. Army Special Forces. Schmidt joined the 7th Special Forces Group and later continued his military career fighting in the Vietnam War. Eventually, Schmidt commanded all of the 7th Group’s A teams.
Schmidt retired from the military in February 1965 after serving 23 years. Over his career, he received, among others, a Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, a Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster. He currently spends time with his family and enjoys retirement in Alaska.
We honor his service.
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Writer: Jack Patterson
Editors: Alexander Reza and Annabelle Colton
Researcher: Giacomo Ferrari and Timothy Georgetti
Graphic artist: Brittany Gorski and Kiki Kelley