ARLINGTON, Texas — Nearly 61 years to the day after James Lamar Stone, then a young Army first lieutenant, showed such battlefield courage that he would earn a Medal of Honor, he was remembered at his funeral as a true American hero.
Stone, 89, died Friday at his home in Arlington of bone cancer. He was diagnosed 10 years ago and was given six months to live at the time, his wife and son said after the service at First United Methodist Church at Arlington.
He was buried at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas with full military honors, the first Medal of Honor recipient to be interred at the 638-acre cemetery.
With Col. Stone’s death, there are now 80 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.
Oldest son James Stone Jr. said his father didn’t like to talk about his experience during the Korean War.
“I think it was a defense mechanism,” Stone Jr. said after the funeral.
But his father’s actions the night of Nov. 21-22, 1951, are as heroic as any ever depicted in motion pictures.
Col. Stone was a 28-year-old first lieutenant when his 48-man unit was attacked at about 9 p.m. by Chinese troops on a hilltop near Sokkogae, South Korea.
Six times over three hours, the Chinese charged up the hill. Six times, Col. Stone’s unit repelled them.
Reinforcements arrived for the Chinese after midnight, giving them about 800 men.
The enemy attacked again. Stone led his troops, moving from position to position, climbing the sandbag walls atop the trenches and exposing himself to enemy fire.
A flamethrower malfunctioned, killing its operator. Stone dodged bullets to repair it, then gave it to another soldier.
Chinese troops breached the American line, entered the trenches and began fighting by hand. Stone used his rifle as a club, and then seized the platoon’s only remaining machine gun, repositioning it several times as he fired on the enemy.
By then, half his troops were dead. He himself was wounded twice in the leg and once in the neck.
The next day, advancing American troops found 545 enemy soldiers dead. But they didn’t find Stone: He had been captured along with six others and would spend 22 months in a prisoner-of-war camp.
He went on to serve in Germany and was in charge of ROTC units in Fort Worth in the mid-1960s. He also served in Vietnam.
Among the speakers at the funeral was Tarrant County Criminal Court Judge Brent Carr, who came to know Stone and introduced him to his sons, who are Army officers now. His sons wrote letters to Stone’s widow, Mary Lou, and Judge Carr read them.
“He said that he was just an ordinary guy,” Brent Carr Jr. wrote. “There were better men than him that were out there that night. But sometimes, ordinary people are called to do extraordinary things. They don’t seem extraordinary at the time; you are just doing your job just like all of the other guys that are doing their job. I can tell you right now that Col. James Stone was an extraordinary man.
“Our country should be thankful that we have warriors who are willing to stand in front of the flag and dare our enemies to do their worst,” the letter continues. “And when they bring their worst, there are men like Col. Stone who look them back in the eye and stand in their path.”
The Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, located in the southwestern part of Dallas, has conducted more than 36,000 interments of veterans and immediate dependents.
©2012 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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