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James L. Dalton II (1910 - 16 May 1945) was a general and commander of United States Army forces during World War II. He graduated from West Point in 1933 and earned the Silver Star during the strategically significant Guadalcanal Campaign in which he commanded the 161st Infantry Regiment as a colonel.
Dalton later commanded the 161st during the New Georgia Campaign in 1943 and Battle of Luzon in 1945 before being promoted and reassigned as assistant commander of the 25th Infantry Division. He was killed by a Japanese sniper during the Battle of Balete Pass on May 16, 1945.
Birth and schooling
Dalton was born in New Britain, Connecticut but moved to Naugatuck with his family at a very young age. There he attended Saint Francis of Assisi School, and in 1927 he graduated from Naugatuck High School. In 1929 he entered West Point, graduating in 1933, when he transferred from cavalry to infantry.
Early military history
Dalton was posted at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack in 1941 and in January 1943 his regiment, the 161st Rifle (Infantry) Regiment, was sent to Guadalcanal, as part of the Americal Division's deployment to the island. The 161st took part in the final weeks of the campaign. For his duties during this campaign, Dalton was awarded the Silver Star and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, then colonel.
Dalton was given command of the 161st in the closing days of the Guadalcanal Campaign after its previous commander, Colonel Clarence Orndorff, was ordered back to the United States through illness. Initially the 161st was a National Guard regiment, but having seen combat in the Guadalcanal campaign and taken in veteran replacements the regiment had lost that title. After Guadalcanal the 161st was ordered to New Georgia Island to link up with the 145th and 148th Infantry Regiments, in an attempt to take out the Japanese airfield at Munda Point. On arrival at New Georgia Island on 22 July 1943, Dalton's regiment was placed under the command of General Robert Beighter. In a difficult campaign, in which his regiment was unable to make gains due to heavy enemy defensive positions, Dalton's regiment was also blamed by Colonel Baxter of the 148th for failures in the field. Beighter, although a fellow Ohio Guardsman of Baxter, decided that Dalton's command was sound and was able to remove Baxter from his position through a fortuitous element of Baxter's ill health.
Later military service and death
After the 161st was deployed to the Philippines during the Battle of Luzon, Dalton was promoted to brigadier general and reassigned as assistant commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. Soon after, Dalton was killed in action by a Japanese sniper during the Battle of Balete Pass on 16 May 1945. The pass where Dalton died was renamed in his honor after the battle, and is still sometimes referred to as Dalton Pass today.
Dalton was one of only 11 US general officers killed in action during World War II.