JAMES P. "JIM" BRYANT
Patriot, Chapter 1919
James P. Bryant was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1930 and he grew up
there, attending St. Paul’s Grammar School and Snyder High School.
As a fifteen year-old in high school, he worked for about a year as
an usher in the Bergen Theatre in Jersey City.
Leaving school early, as soon as he turned seventeen he enlisted in
the Army. He later went into
the service, “to avoid a dead
end situation in a bad section of Jersey,” and he was determined
to take control of his own future.
He entered active duty November 3, 1947 in New York, NY, did his 13 weeks of
Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then was sent to the
Transportation School at Fort Eustis, Virginia where he successfully
completed the eight week course qualifying him as a “Marine Oiler” (in
anticipation of being assigned aboard an Army ship).
However, he was classified as an Infantryman and shipped to Korea.
Arriving in the spring of 1948, Pvt. Bryant was assigned to the Mortar
Section of Company D, 32nd
Infantry Regiment, 7th
Infantry Division at Uijeongbu, north of Seoul and near the 38th
Parallel. This was during the
Post-WWII Occupation and security duty was a primary mission.
Jim remembers trading cigarettes with Russian troops that were
pulling guard duty on their side of the line.
Later, during this first assignment in Korea, Jim was selected to be
in the special unit that provided security for South Korean President,
Syngman Rhee. This unit was
provided really good quarters in Seoul and they lived exceptionally well,
they were even provided special handling for their uniforms.
But, after a few months the presidential guard function was turned
over to the Koreans (ROK) and Jim was given the choice of returning to his
unit in the 7th
Infantry Division, that had been relocated to Japan at that time, or
assignment to a reactivated unit in Hawaii.
He chose to go to Hawaii.
His new unit was Company D, 5th
Infantry Regiment. The 5th
Infantry also had an Artillery Battalion (555th
FA), an Engineer Company (72nd),
and a Tank Company, rounding out its organization as a Regimental Combat
RCT). While there, Jim was
selected for the four week Leaders Course and following graduation he was
promoted to Corporal. Hawaii
was a special assignment and he has snapshots in his photo album from
Christmas in 1949.
Jim was aboard ship with his unit anticipating transfer to the Philippines.
While on board, the Combat Team learned about the Communist invasion
of South Korea and was immediately diverted to Korea; and with shells
dropping in the harbor, the Team landed at the Pusan pocket in late July
1950. The 5th
Regimental Combat Team was part of the United Nations’ successful effort to
stem the Communist invasion and, through such battles as Bloody Gulch and
the taking of Sobuk-san, recaptured much of Korea by October 1950.
As they moved north, Jim recalls,
“taking a bath in the central
fountain of Pyongyang,” presently the capital of North Korea.
After months of combat, the Combat Team was to be transferred out of
theatre for rest and refitting.
Jim was in a jeep at the head of a convoy heading for an eastern port for
transfer to Japan. As the
convoy moved through what was thought to be secure territory, his lead jeep
was hit by a multitude of bullets designed to stop the convoy.
After hitting the ground and, while collecting himself, he located
“Battered Bastard” his trusty carbine. Jim began firing on the Chinese
Communist Force (CCF) infiltrators as they proceeded to attack succeeding
vehicles. When his fire caught
their attention, he realized additional trouble was coming his way when
Communist heads began to turn in his direction.
His fire and the defensive fire of the convoy started to save lives
by driving off the CCF soldiers; but as they retreated to cover, a rifle
bullet hit Jim’s left arm, breaking his humerus, followed by a small caliber
bullet hitting his left hand.
Jim remembers to this day that the CCF soldiers “were wearing brand new
two-toned blue uniforms.
A Captain found (then) Sergeant Bryant still alive, although the jeep’s
driver and Jim’s radio porter, a young Korean of about 14 years, had been
killed in the initial attack.
As the Captain was helping Jim back to an aid station, both men were fired
on by the CCF, with the Captain being hit twice in the calf.
Jim was shuttled south from one aid station to another until he was flown to
Tokyo General Hospital. There a
visiting Florida Congressman presented him the Purple Heart.
Also while at a field hospital Jim had heard that he had been
recommended for the bronze star with “V” device (for valor), as his action
at the convoy ambush had saved lives.
However, the Captain received a silver star while Jim’s bronze star
recommendation has been lost in time.
However, when he arrived at Valley Forge Hospital he was told his
rank was raised and he was now a Sergeant First Class.
Jim spent 13 months trying to rehabilitate his left arm in the Army Hospital
at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Discharged from the US Army in December 1951 with a nearly useless left arm,
it took him several years to regain some reasonable use of the limb.
As a new civilian, Jim took advantage of the GI Bill, one of the most
successful Federal laws, and returned to school.
Graduating with a degree in accounting from Rutgers University (Class
of 1960), he continued his schooling by studying tax law.
His schooling and abilities earned him the eventual position of First
Vice President and Director of Corporate Taxes for JC Penney.
After JC Penney transferred its corporate headquarters to Plano,
Texas, Jim, as a registered lobbyist, visited Austin often on tax
legislation. Liking the area,
as many do, Jim chose to settle in the Lakeway-Bee Cave area when he retired
Jim and his life partner Gloria celebrated 57 years of marriage this past
June. They look forward to visits
with their daughter Mary, son-in-law Theodore and grandson Benjamin Shrader
of Lakeway. This month, Chapter 1919
proudly salutes Patriot James P. Bryant.