James Ralph Pace

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
14 May 1947 - 21 March 1966
Memphis, Tennessee
Panel 06E Line 034


James Ralph Pace

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for James Ralph Pace

29 Jun 2004


I was Ralph's sixth grade teacher at Oakhaven School in Memphis in 1958-59. It was my first year to teach, so all the children in that class have a special place in my heart ... but certainly, none more than Ralph. He was a precious child, so sweet and accommodating ... and oh, so smart! Ralph was one of several who would frequently finish his regular class work before others did. For him and two or three others, I set aside a special table, loaded with extra books ... some, my college texts ... and other challenging things. We even conducted some frog dissections with the help of my college biology book and dissecting kit!

Ralph enjoyed learning about everything. He loved poetry and learning poetry. He frequently took poems to memorize. We would discuss them ... I wanted the children to be impacted by the beauty and meaning of the poetry, and not view poems as just words to learn to recite mindlessly. Ralph particularly liked Kipling's "If". The poem takes one through a list of events that if experienced successfully will lead to the conclusion, "You'll be a man, my son!". Ralph liked all the parts of the poem, and I got the feeling then, that he had set his mind on finding out what all those "if's" were about.

Time passed, and one terrible day in 1966, I saw on the television news that Marine Private First Class James Ralph Pace had become Shelby County's twenty-third casualty of the Vietnam War. And oh, I cried. It just couldn't be true, but it was. I went to Whitehaven and visited Ralph's family. His mother told me that the poems had great meaning for him, and that some were found in his belongings that were sent home. Even now in 2004, I cannot speak of him without emotion.

Recently I came upon a box of mementos from my early teaching years, and there was a school picture of a smiling Ralph. Beside that sixth grade picture was a clipping and picture of the same smiling Ralph in his Marine uniform. It was the picture that had been printed in the paper to announce to the world that on one sad day on the other side of the world, a fine eighteen year old had left childhood behind. I know he had passed all the tests, and that he had become a man, as Kipling's poem promised. I only wish he could have someday become an OLD man.

I have found Ralph's name each of the three times I have visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington. I can't quite reach it, but I can see it. It means so much to have a memorial. And, it means I have to cry again.

From his sixth grade teacher,
Martha Carole White Jones
109 Catalina Cove, Clinton, MS 39056

27 Feb 2007

Ralph, me and my friends still remember you warmly. You died with honor. We were stunned when we learned about your death. We are proud of you and your family. We will always remember you and hold you in highest esteem. Thank you, Ralph.

From a high school classmate,
Bayard John Donahoo

A Note from The Virtual Wall

During Operation TEXAS, elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 4th Marines engaged in a bitter fight at Phoung Dinh, about 14 kilometers southwest of Binh Son, Quang Ngai Province, on 21-22 March 1966. Twelve Marines and one sailor were killed in the action:
  • D Company, 1/4:
    • HM2 Martin L. Gillespie, East Boston, MA (Navy Cross)
    • Pfc Roger L. Henderson, Portland, OR
    • Pfc Jerry D. Lee, Grand Prairie, TX
    • Pfc Terry L. Quinn, Huntington Beach, CA

  • H&S Company, 1/4:
    • Pfc James R. Pace, Memphis, TN

  • E Company, 2/4:
    • GySgt Billy Howard, Hialeah, FL (Navy Cross)
    • SSgt Lester G. Michels, New Milford, NJ
    • Sgt Raymond W. Wilson, Jacksonville, FL
    • LCpl John M. Bowers, Silver Spring, MD
    • LCpl Isiah Foster, Tampa, FL
    • Pfc Manuel Herrera, Pueblo, CO (Silver Star)
    • Pfc Fred Y. Wright, Muncie, IN

  • F Company, 2/4:
    • Cpl Daniel Tienda, Austin, TX


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- Rudyard Kipling -

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 29 Jun 2004
Last updated 08/10/2009