James Edward McClaffertySergeant
A CO, 1ST BN, 502ND INF RGT, 101 ABN DIV
Army of the United States
12 March 1944 - 14 July 1968
Kansas City, Missouri
Panel 52W Line 029
The database page for James Edward McClafferty
James "Mack" McClafferty
Mack was a Marine,
then joined the Army.
I write your name and I wonder where you got it and if you even knew. I don't know the circumstances surrounding your birth but I know how you died. More importantly I know how you lived. I know more about you than most people that I see every day and I never even met you. I know that you grew up in an orphanage in St. Louis. Somewhere down the road you got into some trouble and were given a choice - go to war or go to prison - and you went to Vietnam. I don't know how you ended up in the "hard luck" company but it must have been because you were so smart. I know that you always took care of your men and you would not send them anywhere you wouldn't go.
You carried two pictures in your helmet, one of a little boy and one of a little girl. One time you dropped them and went back to get them. My dad went with you but it wasn't because you asked him to. You weren't the type to ask anybody for anything. One time you were so excited about getting a letter from home that you forgot to fill your canteen up, you walked and walked until you collapsed, never asking anyone for a drink or even letting them know.
One time you went on R&R in Hawaii, and you and your wife went to see a cowboy movie. When the gunshots rang out you hit the floor, and everybody laughed. I also know that you had more sense than all of those people in that theater put together.
I may not have known your face, but I know your story and though I did not know you, I know what you stood for. You made my dad throw away his souvenirs because anyone you ever saw with souvenirs got killed and - what do you know - he made it home. My favorite story about you is when the company commander sent you guys on ambush as punishment for getting drunk. You were probably the only sober one there and you said "I ain't going nowhere with you boys tonight".
You touched the lives of all the men you served with and you had their respect because you earned it and you deserved it. I bet you didn't know one of those men would come home (crazier than a run-over cockroach sprayed with Raid!) and have a daughter who's grown up hearing so much about you that she feels like she knew you.
I wonder if you know that 30 years later, you aren't forgotten and YOU ARE NOT JUST A NAME ON A WALL! On July 14, 1968, a piece of shrapnel hit you in the head killing you instantly. But you will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved you and even those you never met. You've taught me a lot, though you left this world more than four years before I got here.
Though the price you paid may not be appreciated by all those who benefited, it is remembered by a few and we won't forget. We know how you died, but more importantly, we know how you lived.
From Copeland's kid.
This page was requested by Jerry Copeland,
A Note from The Virtual Wall1LT Frank W. Cox of Elmira, New York, was killed by the same blast that killed SGT James E. McClafferty.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009