Last Known Activity|
James Carlton "Big Jim" Queen, 78, a retired D.C. public school administrator and Army Major whose actions in the Korean War as a Ranger leader led to his induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame, died April 14, 2004, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He had cancer.
Major Queen retired in 1985 as an assistant principal at H.D. Woodson Senior High School, where he spent about a decade. He began working for the school system in the late 1960s as a special education teacher and guidance counselor at Rebaut Junior High School. He also worked at Hamilton Junior High School.
The Washington native and resident's nickname came from his height: He stood 6 foot 5. He was a graduate of Armstrong High School, where he was on the varsity football and swimming teams, and D.C. Teachers College. He received a master's degree in special education from the University of Maryland.
He joined the Army toward the end of World War II in February 1944, and served in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, an all-black unit. They were also called the "Smoke-Jumpers," because they spent the war fighting forest fires in the Pacific Northwest set by Japanese incendiary balloons.
"War Department studies indicated that they didn't believe that black troops could become paratroopers, just like they didn't believe black soldiers could become airmen," Major Queen told the Associated Press in 1995 during a dedication ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery honoring the parachutists. "They just didn't think we could do it." In Korea, he was a Ranger leader, leading patrols and overseeing his company's heavy weapons.
In May 1951, he led 65 men charged with taking a hill and ran into a battalion of Chinese army soldiers. He fought a three-hour campaign, but his group suffered 50 percent casualties and had to retreat temporarily. He returned at dawn the next day with the remnants of his company and with brutal force retook the hill in an hour from the Chinese.
He retired with the rank of Major in May of 1964 while at Walter Reed because of complications from diabetes, receiving many awards which include: Expert and Combat Infantry Badge, Master Parachutist Badge with Star, Pathfinder Badge, Ranger TAB, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, as well as several service ribbons. He was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1994.
He spent the last decade writing a history of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Co., one of the first black airborne companies to fight in Korea. His memberships included Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Washington, Kappa Alpha Psi social fraternity, the NAACP and the American Legion. He was a former Boy Scout troop leader.
His wife, Phyllis Jeffreys Queen, whom he married in 1948, died in 2000. Survivors include four children, Reginald Queen of Clinton, David Queen of Tampa and Deborah Sears and Cheryl Gaskins, both of Washington; three stepchildren adopted by Maj. Queen, Jacqueline Suttice of Concord, Mass., Thomas Queen of Washington and Jeffrey Queen of San Diego; 15 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
In early 1945 the "Triple Nickles" received secret orders for a permanent change of station. They were sent to Pendleton, Oregon & assigned to the 9th Services Command, trained by the U.S. Forest Service, and became history's first military smokejumpers.
There were two reasons for this assignment, the first being that major commanders in Europe were leery of having highly trained colored paratroopers coming into contact with racist white elements of the time. Second, the Japanese were at the time floating incendiary devices attached to balloons across the Pacific Ocean, taking advantage of the jet stream's easterly flow, in an attempt to start forest fires in the northwestern United States. The Forest Service asked the military for help and the “Triple Nickle” was ready, willing and able.
The battalion answered some 36 fire calls with more than 1,200 individual jumps during the summer of 1945, operating from Pendleton and Chico, Calif. The operation covered all of the northwestern states including Montana. During fire operations the battalion suffered numerous injuries but only one fatality. Malvin L. Brown, a medic assigned to the battalion's headquarters company, died on Aug.6, 1945 after falling during a letdown from a tree in the Siskiyou National Forest near Roseburg, Ore. His death is the first recorded smoke jumper fatality during a fire jump.
Major James C. Queen is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame for his valiant actions while serving as a Ranger leader in the Korean War.
While serving with the 4th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) (redesignated the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) Major Queen led numerous patrols and controlled the company heavy weapons. He made the combat jump with the company at Munsan-ni and saw action at Tangerine Pass.
In May of 1951 Major Queen led the company on a mission to take Hill 581. During this operation he acted as the Company Commander for the 2nd Ranger Company. They moved as the lead element for the 7th Infantry Division and with only 65 men came into contact with a battalion of Chinese regulars. Major Queen immediately called for artillery fire and led his men into battle. They fought the enemy for three hours but after taking 50% casualties the company fell back to the 7th Division lines.
At dawn the following day, Major Queen led the remainder of his company in a counterattack on the Hill. After nearly one hour of intense fighting, the Rangers pushed the Chinese back and retook the Hill. Major Queen's leadership ability and courageous actions are in the finest traditions of the Rangers and the United States Army.
The 2D Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) was the first and only all-black Ranger unit in the history of the United States Army. Its ten month lifespan included selection, training, and seven months of combat deployment in Korea, after which the unit was deactivated. Unit members were drawn from the 3rd Battalion of the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment and the 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion.
After experiencing the normal travails of boot camp at Fort Benning, which segregation and racism only made worse, the all-black Rangers set out to join the Korean War in late 1950. On January 7, 1951, the Rangers found themselves defending a critical rail-road running through Tanyang Pass, which Communist guerillas tried to infiltrate. Additional combat with the North Korean and Communist Chinese forces erupted near Majori-ri and Chechon.
But the event that propelled the 2d Rangers into the record books was their airborne assault near Musan-Ni on March 23, 1951--the first in Ranger history. Once on the ground, the rangers attacked and captured Hill 151. The fighting--often conducted at very close quarters, and some of it with the bayonet and rifle butt--demonstrated the courage of these tough African American soldiers.
Heavy fighting marked their months at the front, including a magnificent attack and defence of Hill 581 that May. Throughout their deployment in Korea, the 2d Rangers served with honor and achieved an outstanding combat record.