James A. Williams served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. James was born March 29, 1932 in Patterson, New Jersey. As a child he lived 25 miles from the U.S. Army Academy at West Point, New York and he would visit often. During WWII, James, at the age of 11 was an airplane spotter for the Aircraft Corps.
In 1950 James became a Cadet at the West Point Army Academy fulfilling a childhood dream. He was very proud to be a Cadet. As a senior, his team won second in Collegiate Water Polo. James graduated with a Bachelor in Science in Engineering. Later in life, he would complete his Masters in Latin American Studies.
Upon graduation, James went to Fort Bliss to the Anti-aircraft School. His first assignment was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a 2nd Lieutenant, he was the Battery Commander. During this period, he would learn from his Non Commissioned Officer’s about their jobs. He also learned to put trust in “your” people and learned about Mission Orders. Those lessons stayed with James for his entire career.
In 1956 James tried out for the USA Olympic Basketball Team; he was assigned to Fort Meade, Maryland. He played on the 2nd Army team for one season until an injury ended his basketball career. James then attended Army Counter Intelligence training at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. James reported to the U.S. Army Intelligence Command in Panama where he would observe and report on activities at the Panama Canal.
During the time of 1958 to 1960, James used his Spanish language skills in Puerto Rico in Intelligence collection concerning the ports, harbors, and reports of Russia in Cuba.
James had a three-year tour in Venezuela as the Army Attaché. James would go from South America to Vietnam. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned as a Commander of a Battalion which resulted in a one-year tour in Intelligence and Counter Intelligence missions. James would take flights in light observation planes.
After Vietnam, James next tour would take him to the Army Staff in the Pentagon for one year overseeing the Mediterranean countries and policies.
James attended the National War College. He was then selected as Director of Political Affairs for Latin America in the Department of State. It would be a 2 year tour.
James was promoted to the rank of Colonel and was assigned to the Army Chief Counter Intelligence in the Pentagon.
In 1977 James would be promoted to Brigadier General and his next assignment was the National Defense Agency. He was later the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and promoted to Lieutenant General.
James retired at age 53 years old. Lt. General Williams felt that was the worst day of his life after 31 years of military service to the United States of America.
“The military is a public service and very gratifying. Leadership lesson is always to tell the truth and have faith in your people.”
Couldn’t have done his career without his wife, with her Spanish language skills and support.
Thank you James for your service to the United States of America.
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Bio prepared by Rebeccah Christovich.