ARLINGTON, Texas — Retired Army Col. James Lamar Stone, one of just 21 Arkansas-born Medal of Honor recipients and the only Jefferson County native to have been awarded the nation’s highest decoration for war-time valor, died Nov. 9 at his home here, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society announced Tuesday. He was 89.
Stone was recognized for his Korean War heroics during the night of Nov. 21-22, 1951, as a 28-year-old lieutenant leading a 48-man unit that came under attack by Chinese forces about 9 p.m. on a hill near Sokkogae, South Korea.
According to official accounts, Stone’s force successfully fought off six charges by the Chinese during a three-hour period. The number of Chinese troops grew to about 800 when reinforcements arrived after midnight.
The Chinese attacked again, and Stone responded by opening himself to enemy fire by topping trenches while shifting positions. When a flamethrower malfunctioned and killed its operator, Stone repaired it while under fire and then passed it on so it could be used by another solider.
Finally, the American line succumbed to the onslaught and the enemy forces entered the trenches, engaging in hand-to-hand combat. After employing his rifle as a club, Stone grabbed his unit’s last-remaining machine gun and scurried about as he fired repeatedly on the Chinese. Stone was shot twice in a leg and once in the neck. Half of his platoon died and most survivors were wounded.
Stone and six other Americans were captured. He endured 22 months in a prisoner of war camp before being freed in September 1953 in a prisoner exchange.
Stone was born in Pine Bluff on Dec. 27, 1922, to State and Idell Stone but grew up in Hot Springs. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, he worked at the General Electric plant in Houston before being drafted in 1948. He had served in Korea just eight months before his capture.
He received his Medal of Honor from President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House on Oct. 27, 1953.
Stone continued his Army career, serving in Germany and Vietnam as well as within the U.S. while progressing to his colonel’s ranking.
He retired after almost 30 years of active duty and joined his son, James Stone Jr., in an Arlington home construction business.
Stone was a private man who sought to avoid the limelight that can follow a Medal of Honor winner. When he did comment on his combat record, he gave credit to his charges.
In 2010, he told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “It was a long, hard night of combat. My men did it. I was just there.”
A year ago, he received a salute when the Army 90th Aviation Support Battalion in Fort Worth dedicated the Col. James L. Stone U.S. Army Reserve Center in his honor.
His widow, Mary, did not meet Stone until after he had retired from the Army. According to The Los Angeles Times, she was unaware of his Medal of Honor until after their marriage. Stone is also survived by a second son, Raymond; a step-daughter, Amy Rodriguez; a grandchild; and two step-grandchildren.
Stone was diagnosed with bone cancer 10 years ago and doctors at the time projected he would live only about six months, his wife said.
Following a Wednesday memorial service at First United Methodist Church in Arlington, he became the first Medal of Honor recipient to be buried at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery in Dallas.