Ruddell, James Cornelius, Jr., CPT

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1948-1951, 1542, 24th Infantry Regiment
Service Years
1948 - 1951



Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Year of Birth
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Casualty Info
Home Town
Geary, Kansas
Last Address
(Body not recovered).

Casualty Date
Feb 28, 1951
Hostile, Died while Captured
Illness, Disease
Korean War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Plot: Memorial Section A Site 384

 Official Badges 

Infantry Shoulder Cord

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
Korean War Fallen
  1951, Korean War Fallen

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award

 Unit Assignments
24th Infantry Regiment
  1948-1951, 1542, 24th Infantry Regiment
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1948-1950 US Occupation of Japan
  1950-1950 Korean War/UN Defensive (1950)/Battle of Osan
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1944-1948, United States Military Academy
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say something about Jim Ruddell. He was a great leader,” Major General G. S. Meloy, Jr., has written us from his current command at Fort Benning, Georgia. “Jim Ruddell was one of the finest young officers in the 19th Infantry Regiment, alert, aggressive, determined. The last time I saw him was on the Kum River, north of Taejon, Korea. He had successfully led a counterattack by a quickly assembled force. His on-the-spot report to me was so full of fight and determination that it was like a fresh breath after a dark moment.” The dark moment—one of the darkest in American military history—was the pagan horde of Communist-dictated and Soviet-armed puppet savages sweeping down and infiltrating the Korean peninsula, penetrating the ambushed ranks of the Eighth Army’s Twenty-fourth Division— capturing its famed fighting General, William Dean, wounding the 19th Infantry’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Meloy, and, on 16 July 1950, almost annihilating the 19th Regiment.

The dark moment was to lift, gradually, thereafter for the Regiment, saved by the heroic self-sacrifice of the handful of poorly equipped men who valiantly protected its flanks until it could, decimated squad and decimated platoon, escape the Communist trap. The dark moment lifted for heroic Colonel Meloy as American medical science rescued his bloody body from its seemingly fatal Communist wounds.

But the dark moment, of 16 July, 1950, did not lift for young Lieutenant Ruddell. It was not to lift, but to darken, blacker and blacker, into seven long, savage months of Communist atrocities. The battle heroism of this young West Point graduate—barely two years out of the Point’s military classrooms—was to be officially recorded and cited by General Walker of the Eighth Army in his General Orders No. 77, awarding the Distinguished Service Cross; but it tells of only one dark episode, the first, of Lieutenant Jim’s heroic patriotism ...

“First Lieutenant James C. Ruddell, Jr., 057177, Infantry, United States Army,” General Walker’s citation reads, “a member of the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division is cited for extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy near Taejon, Korea, on 16 July 1950. On this date the enemy, far outnumbering the forces against them, penetrated the Kum River Line, and overran the forward positions. The action disorganized communications, broke up coordinated defense and threatened the Regimental Command Post. Lieutenant Ruddell personally rallied small fighting groups and organized them into a defensive team to delay the enemy advance. He constantly exposed himself to heavy fire in organizing and fighting the delaying action on the spot. His courage was exemplary. He took time to give aid to wounded men in exposed positions where several others had been killed in the attempt. Heedless of numbers, the threat of envelopment and accurate enemy fire, including that of snipers, Lieutenant Ruddell took up a forward position from which he directed mortar fire against the enemy and automatic weapons fire against infiltrators. His delaying action prevented encirclement and permitted military withdrawal. For several hours he continued to encourage and lead his troops. His coolness under fire, expert direction of the depleted forces under his command, and his keen analysis of enemy dispositions, won the complete confidence of men who did not know him personally but who were inspired by his determination in the face of tremendous odds. The extraordinary valor displayed by Lieutenant Ruddell on this occasion reflects the highest credit on himself and the military service.”

The extraordinary valor of Lieutenant Jim in his battle to save his Regiment—and his Country—from the screaming horde of Soviet-armed puppet troops, was to become surpassed, however, by another kind of human heroism, and patriotism, for which we Americans now safe at home have not yet designated any special medal. Fragment by fragment his heroic patriotism after his Regiment escaped southwards towards Pusan, and left him surrounded by Communists, has been pieced together by men who have returned alive from Communist captivity. By direction of President Eisenhower the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters—for wounds received on 16 July 1950, on three separate occasions, one of them a multiple wound—has been awarded Lieutenant Jim posthumously. But for the terrible seven months of physical, mental and spiritual tortures that followed these battle wounds he leaves behind him no medal of any kind—only a supremely heroic, supremely patriotic heritage for his son.

Bleeding in a native hill hut, where he was hidden during the black, enemy-surrounded night of 16 July, with only four last-stand Americans, young Jim Ruddell was captured on the morning of the 17th, marched, in spite of his wounds, for five terrible days north to a filthy stockade at Chonan; then, with 92 other American prisoners, 23 of whom were badly wounded, he was bayonetted again through jeering savages to Chochiwon; then, with 120 more American captives, replacing many of those who had died on the previous march, from uncared for wounds or actual massacre, Lieutenant Jim was taken into Communist-captured Seoul and subjected to nine days and night of atrocious Communist “interrogations” When he would give his savage captors none of the military information they sought from him, he was put in a cattle car and shipped north to Communist headquarters at Pyongyang.

On 23 August 1950, the Communists selected 47 American prisoners—all officers of the routed 24th Division—and gave them a long tirade against their countrymen to sign. The Communist document, translated for them into English by a Communist, was to accuse Lieutenant Jim’s countrymen of an “unprovoked and ill-advised invasion” of Korea; was to charge us with “brutal American airraids” on “innocent inhabitants and hospitals”; was to be an appeal to us at home to force the suspension of “this senseless bloodshed”; was, in short, to persuade us to withdraw from Korea so the Communists could completely conquer it.

No threats the Communists made, no atrocity, and no bribe they offered him was able to force or entice Lieutenant Jim into signing his name to this treacherous, traitorous, Communist document. His name had to be forged to it by a Communist. How this one young American patriot was able to hang on to his life, on his 24th birthday, and amidst the torture the Communists inflicted on his wounded body—and how he was able to keep himself alive for six more dreadful months as the retaliating Communists tried to break his mind as well as his body—no man can ever know. He died, maimed, frozen and starved, on 28 February 1951, in a black Communist Chungan cage—extraordinary in valor and character, supreme in heroic self-sacrifice. The pagan Communists captured his battle-wounded mortal body, but they were never able to capture his mind, or soul—or patriotism.

Lieutenant Jim leaves behind him for American posterity one small son, James Cornelius Ruddell, III, born to Jim’s young wife, Yvette LaVarre Ruddell, in the U.S. Army hospital at Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan, on 2 May 1950, only two short months before Jim was rushed from Japan into Korea on 4 July.

“I have only a few minutes left to jot this note off to you,” he wrote us on 13 July from the mess he’d found in Korea. He knew, though few other Americans seemed to know it, that he was not enmeshed in a belated attempt to stop a few thousand novice North Koreans—but that he was to fight back, without adequate arms or preparation, Soviet-equipped Asiatic puppet armies. But he did not weigh in pessimistic words the yawning fact that he would have only three more days of human freedom.

“We expect it tonight,” he wrote his young wife on 14 July, “so I’ll have to get this off fast. Frank Cosnahan was killed Monday. Watkins was hit in the stomach but will recover. Dooty and Day are okay. Stay in Japan awhile longer ... About you my whole life rotates. I don’t want under any circumstances to lose you—nor do I desire you and little Jimmy to lose me.” Patriotism and heroism are not just two mere semantic words compiled in our dictionaries. We Americans have existed only because Patriots and Heroic Souls were given to us by God for each of our national emergencies. From now to eternity such exceptional men must preserve us, stand up for us above the prostrate weaknesses of cravens, fools and traitors; on them the strength and security of our national morals and our American civilization must depend.

“A fresh breath after a dark moment,” Major General Meloy has said of Lieutenant Jim’s battle-tried character. What better epitaph, on a West Point tomb, could a young American citizen have—some day when we resurrect his heroic mortal remains from its filthy Communist contamination in far-off Korea.

Born across the Pacific at Corregidor in 1926, it was to be his fate to die across the Pacific also. God concentrated his military career, in the service of his country, in too few short days—but extraordinarily well done, Lieutenant Jim; be thou, with God, at Peace!

—William LaVarre

Editor’s Note: After this memorial article was written Assembly was officially informed of the promotion, posthumously, of James Cornelius Ruddell, Jr., to the grade of Captain, Army of the United States, effective 27 February 1951.
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