James B. Vaught
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011)|
|James B. Vaught|
November 3, 1926|
Conway, South Carolina
|Died||September 20, 2013
Horry County, South Carolina
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1944–1985|
|Commands held||24th Infantry Division
5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry
Director of Operations and Mobilization for the Army
|Battles/wars||World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War
Iran Hostage Crisis (Operation Eagle Claw)
James Benjamin Vaught (November 3, 1926 – September 20, 2013) was a United States Army General who was a combat veteran of three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In Korea he served as a company commander in the 24th Infantry Division and in 1967, in the Republic of Vietnam, on his first tour he served as the commanding officer of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry. He has also played a major role in numerous United States Special Forces Operations.
Early life and military career
Vaught grew up in Conway, South Carolina. A multi-generational native of the state, he has been identified as a direct descendant of Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion. He graduated from high school in 1943 and then was enrolled at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. During this time, with World War II being fought by Allied forces in two theaters, the Federal Government's Military Draft was altered so that college students were eligible. In 1944, Vaught was one of those drafted by the United States Army, though he was able to graduate and become a member of the Citadel's class of 1946. Now in the Army, he was commissioned and became an officer in 1945. As an officer, he served three and a half years in Germany.
Korea and Vietnam
After World War II ended, Vaught had a relatively short stay back in the U.S. before he was sent overseas again. This time he was sent to Korea, where he was involved in the fighting against the communist forces of North Korea and China. He saw combat on several occasions after his landing at Pusan and the subsequent advance north towards the Yalu River. During this time he was injured twice. Later, in 1967 during the Vietnam War, he was sent to South Vietnam, where as the battalion commander of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry, he played a key role in the liberation of Huế city during the Tet Offensive of 1968. He also helped the besieged Marines at Khe Sanh until the North Vietnamese Army retreated after failed attempts to take the base. Vaught was later injured in an auto accident which resulted in him being medevaced, in a full body cast, to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Although the "Vietnamization" policy was thought of as a failed concept, Vaught was a proponent of the policy and was a valuable asset to it throughout his second tour of Vietnam.
After Vietnam, Vaught continued his career with the Army and was eventually promoted to Major General, serving at The Pentagon as Director of Operations and Mobilization for the Army. Perhaps his most notable role was played during "Operation Eagle Claw", the infamous failed rescue mission of hostages in Iran, where General Vaught served as the overall Commander of the operation. When Vaught commanded the mission to rescue the hostages in Iran in 1980, eight service members died and four were injured in the operation when the helicopters on the mission collided in the remote Iranian desert. Although President Carter went on television the next day to announce the failure of the mission and to accept the blame, Congress and the Pentagon launched inquiries to determine the reasons for the tragedy. The Pentagon probe was handled by a board of three retired and three serving flag officers representing all four services; it was led by retired Adm. James L. Holloway III. The commission's report listed 23 areas "that troubled us professionally about the mission-areas in which there appeared to be weaknesses. The major criticism was of the "ad hoc" nature of the task force, a chain of command the commission felt was unclear, and an emphasis on operational secrecy it found excessive. The commission also said the chances for success would have been improved if more backup helicopters had been provided and if a rehearsal of all mission components had been held.
James B. Vaught served his final tour of duty as a Lieutenant General serving in Korea, where he was the Commanding General of the Combined US/South Korean forces. He resided in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina after his retirement in 1985.
On Feb. 8, 2012, General Vaught confronted Special Operations Commander Adm. William McRaven, over the recent increased media attention and resulting security leaks of operational procedures, surrounding Navy SEALs' following the Osama bin Laden raid and the rescue of an American hostage from Somalia. Several members of the audience quietly laughed (video link below) as Vaught chastised McRaven, whose missions were successful. Vaught was quoted as saying "get the hell out of the media." During Vaught's confrontation at the meeting of the members of the National Defense Industrial Association in Washington, D.C., the 85 year old Vaught stated, "Now back when my special operators extracted Saddam from the hole, we didn't say one damn word about it", he continued. "We turned him over to the local commander and told him to claim that his forces drug him out of the hole, and he did so. And we just faded away and kept our mouth shut." Though Vaught was long retired by the time of Saddam's capture, his reference to "his special operators" addresses Vaught's critical role in the early formation and employment of the Army's classified Special Operations Forces, for whom Vaught was a critical early advocate and higher commander during the Iran Eagle Claw/Desert One rescue mission of 1979. Special Operations Commander Adm. William McRaven politely listened to the elderly Vaught, answered the question with a reference to the PR film the "Green Berets" (not a valid analogy, given the timely leaks of operational information in recent events), and then continued on with the Q&A session.
- "Lieutenant-General James Vaught". The Telegraph. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
- Associated, The. "Coroner: Body of retired general found in SC pond | WCNC.com Charlotte". Wcnc.com. Retrieved 2013-09-23.