James M. Masters, Sr.
|James M. Masters, Sr.|
|Nickname(s)||Jungle Jim, El Tigre (The Tiger)|
June 16, 1911|
|Died||August 5, 1988
|Buried||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1933-1968|
|Wars||World War II
|Relations||John H. Masters (brother)
William A. Kengla (brother-in-law)
James Marvin Masters, Sr. (June 11, 1911 – August 5, 1988) was a United States Marine Corps lieutenant general who during the course of his career served as a China Marine, fought in numerous battles in the Pacific during World War II and commanded units from platoon to division size. He received the Navy Cross for his actions during the Battle of Okinawa and was also a recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal during a military career that spanned the 35 years between 1933 and 1968. He died at his home in Washington, D.C. on 5 August 1988.
Early life and education
James Marvin Masters (who was designated 'Sr.' after his namesake father died in 1936) was born 16 June 1911, in Atlanta, Georgia. When he was 12 years old, his grandfather (a one-time Confederate soldier in the 15th South Carolina Infantry Regiment) died, and his father moved his wife (Cecilia Hale Masters) and three sons back to the family farm in Anderson, South Carolina. There, James would frequently hunt his family's dinner.
Masters completed high school at Anderson in 1927 at age 16, delivering the valedictory speech when he was still only 16, saying, "If we fail to prepare for our role in society, we play falsely with our God, our country, and with the inner man, our conscience." Though he had appointments to both the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy upon high school graduation, his father thought Masters too young to enter immediately, and insisted that his son attend The Citadel for a year. A cousin, a Naval Academy graduate, encouraged him to attend Annapolis instead of West Point, which he did in 1929. His appointment before the Wall Street Crash of 1929 spared him from the business loss his father incurred.
During his battleship cruise to the Azores, Halifax, and Bermuda in 1932, Masters opted for the Marine Corps, observing "...that really made up my mind, because I’d read so much about Marine camaraderie. And I’d also observed it within Marine detachments on board ship, the close relationship between officers and men." He found a role model in Commandant of the Marine Corps John A. Lejeune, who had retired that year. Due to the Great Depression, the Academy could only fund commissions for half of the graduating class in 1933, Masters included.
Marine Corps Career
Masters was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 1 June 1933, then reported to The Basic School at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The financial difficulties of the time reached him even there. One of Masters's instructors, Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Sr. (nicknamed "Bayonet Tony") took the young Marine under his wing to teach him in close combat. He graduated in May 1934 in the smallest-ever class: 20 academy graduates and one mustang.
Masters was then assigned to the Marine Detachment aboard the USS New Mexico (BB-40). Captained by John W. Reeves, Jr. at the time, the ship was the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, and Masters was soon qualified as a watch officer In July 1935, he joined the 1st Marine Brigade at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Thanks to the expiration of the then-mandatory marriage waiting-period (for two years after graduation), Masters was free to marry his sweetheart Dorice "Dottie" Mary Kengla, who was the sister of his Naval Academy classmate and also newly commissioned 2nd Lt. William A. Kengla, on 14 September 1935.
James and Dottie maintained a friendship with Tony Biddle and his wife, Cordelia. In 1937, Biddle wrote a combat manual entitled Do or Die, noting in the dedication: "During the period of his service as instructor, the writer enjoyed the able assistance of Lieutenant James M. Masters, USMC, and Lieutenant William A. Kengla USMC. The two latter named gentlemen were formerly pupils of the writer in Individual Combat at the United States Marine Corps Basic School for Officers: they are both fine swordsmen. Being of inventive genius, Lieutenants Masters and Kengla devised several excellent new forms of attack and defense, as shown in this treatise." Biddle's bayonet techniques can still be seen in skills taught in recruit training today.
After the Fleet Landing Exercises, which saw the USS Arkansas landing 1st Battalion 5th Marines at Culebra, Puerto Rico during January to May 1936, Masters became Personnel, Intelligence, and Communications Officer for the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Brigade. He was promoted to first lieutenant in July 1936. In August of that year, Masters assumed duties in the Headquarters Company, and began to express his desire to grow in leadership. In December, he became an aide-de-camp to Brigadier General James J. Meade, the brigade commander.  The brigade was soon transferred to the West Coast of the United States, where Masters was detached from the unit for reassignment to the Fourth Marine Regiment in China.
In February 1937, Masters and his wife departed from the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles on the liner SS President Polk for Shanghai, a trip he shared with First Lieutenant Victor H. Krulak, Lieutenant Colonel William H. Rupertus, and their wives. Because Dorice and Rupertus's wife Alice had gone to school together, James earned his senior's trust and was offered a position in the elder's future command: 1st Battalion 4th Marines.
In 1937, Charles F. B. Price commanded the Regiment in China; Price’s wife Dolly was godmother to Dorice, and this connection got Masters a prime assignment. He worked for LtCol Francis I. Fenton in the regiment's deputy Athletic Officer and Club Officer, and became editor for the regiment's newsweekly magazine, the Walla Walla, purportedly meaning "much talk" in Chinese.
Masters and his wife enjoyed an active social life through the Spring and early Summer – in the company of other Marines and members of the English-speaking community in Shanghai.
But, the lively social scene unraveled on 7 July 1937, when the Marco Polo Bridge Incident signaled the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War. In mid-August 1937, the Chinese attempted a bombing raid on the Japanese Fleet. The raid was ineffectual, a few bombs even strayed into the Shanghai International Settlement, killing civilians. But it gave Masters his first ‘taste’ of combat, and he soon arranged to be given a command: a platoon and later Company F, under 2nd Battalion commander Roswell Winans. Despite being stationed in the Suzhou Creek, his platoon never directly engaged Japanese troops, but witnessed the Defense of Sihang Warehouse. After defending Americans from Japanese harassment until September 1938, he was temporarily assigned to the SS President Coolidge, in Shanghai port to supervise the security during loading of the gold and silver bullion that belonged to Chase Bank.
On 16 August 1939, Dorice gave birth to a son, James Jr., who earned the nickname "Champ" after a slightly-inebriated suggestion from Bruno Hochmuth. The following month, Masters Sr. was promoted to captain.
In November, he returned to the United States, and was assigned to Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., again under William Rupertus until June 1940. In March 1940, he became a company commander in the Marine Guard detachment at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia, under the command of LtCol Charles T. Brooks, and became close to the president during an extended retreat. At one point, the guards performed silent exhibition drill for the president and patients  at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.
In June 1940, Masters served briefly again at MCB Quantico during the Officer Candidates School's Platoon Leaders Course. In September, he was assigned to Marine Corps Base, Parris Island in South Carolina, as a battery commanding officer with the 4th Defense Battalion. He and his family were transferred with the battalion to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba in February 1941. In November, they embarked on board the USS Henderson with the battalion for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-–the week before the surprise attack there.
World War II
The Masters family arrived in Pearl Harbor on 1 December 1941. As the air attack raged on the Sunday morning of December 7, James was slowed by gawking sight-seers on the road to Pearl, and couldn't make it to his post until the attack was over. President Roosevelt declared war the next day, and Masters embarked aboard the USS Mahan en route to and in command of the first reinforcements for Johnston Island on Christmas Day, not to see his family again for more than two years.
Masters would remain at Johnston Island until November 1942, receiving a Bronze Star for his service there, as well as a promotion to major in May. Shortly after Masters' promotion, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz paid a visit to Johnston, boosting morale.
Masters then returned to Pearl Harbor to join the 10th Defense Battalion in November 1942. Later, as executive officer of the battalion, attached to the I Marine Amphibious Corps, he served in the Solomon and Russell Islands. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in April 1943. In August of that year, he commanded 2nd Battalion 1st Marines briefly in Australia prior to bringing the unit into combat again from December 1943 to February 1944 at the Battle of Cape Gloucester, again under the command of Rupertus, now the Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division.
The Battle of Cape Gloucester was part of the larger New Britain campaign, named Operation Dexterity, in turn part of Operation Cartwheel of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. While at Finschhafen preparing for the Cape Gloucester landings, General Douglas MacArthur inquired of Masters, "Young man, are you ready for this operation?" He replied, "More important, General, my troops are ready," which drew a grin from MacArthur.
Masters' two-fold trail blocking mission was defensive in nature. Firstly, after landing at Green Beach (southwest of what is today Cape Gloucester Airport, near the western side of Mount Talawe), his battalion (code-named Stoneface Group) was to block attempts by enemy troops to retreat in a south-westerly direction from the main Japanese force at the airdrome. Secondly, in case the battle to capture the two airstrips was protracted, his command was to prevent Japanese reinforcements from the south. Once the airdrome was under Marine control, 2nd Battalion was to rejoin its regiment and link up with the rest of the 1st Division.
On D-Day, the morning of 26 December 1943, the first wave of Landing Craft Mechanized landed as planned on Green beach. The landing was unopposed, and even after the Marines were ashore, no enemy resistance was encountered. By nightfall Stoneface Group had met all of its defensive position objectives and began patrolling vigorously inland to locate enemy troops. Except for a communication barrier due to mountainous terrain that made contact with division headquarters tedious, the first two days were without major incident, just a few skirmishes.
As daylight faded on 29 December, the volume of Japanese fire from the jungle began to increase, signaling an imminent attack against Stoneface defenses. At about 2 AM the next morning, the Japanese made a Banzai charge, which cost the Marines 6 men killed at the point of attack. For a few moments, enemy troops occupied part of Stoneface Group's front lines, but were repulsed when Gunnery Sergeant Guiseppe [sic] Guilano Jr. stepped into the breach with a light machine gun. A second Japanese assault nearly overran Marine positions, but again it was beaten back, with Guilano (wounded seven times during the night) at the forefront. After the second failed assault, two further dispirited banzai attacks were stopped cold. As dawn broke, a casualty count found 6 Marines killed with 13 wounded, while enemy losses were counted by a burial detachment at 256 at the front lines (though another source indicates "at least 89 enemy dead,"). Five prisoners were captured, including a Japanese officer who spoke English. When MacArthur learned of the captured officer, he sent a PT boat to deliver the prisoner to Finschhafen for interrogation. Later, MacArthur sent a congratulatory dispatch indicating that the prisoner was the first Japanese officer of the war to be captured alive. Masters recommended Guilano for the Medal of Honor for his heroics, but it was downgraded by Rupertus to a Navy Cross.
Once the entire airdrome was firmly in Marine hands, General Rupertus raised the American flag there and dispatched the news to General Walter Krueger. No longer in need of the trail block west of Mount Talawe, General Rupertus ordered Masters to secure his battalion and rejoin the Division. After securing its wounded, equipment, and supplies, 2nd Battalion made a march from Green Beach into the Division lines at the airdrome, at which point the Stoneface Group was disbanded on 12 January 1944.
After a couple of days to rest, and attempts to dry out the "jungle rot" between rain squalls, Masters and his battalion were reassigned to the 7th Marine Regiment, commanded by Julian 'Bull' Frisbie. When Masters reported, he was met by executive officer LtCol Lewis "Chesty" Puller, with whom he had served in China. Puller took the opportunity to indulge in some combat humor at the expense of Masters (the junior officer) by belittling the 2nd Battalion's 'little fight' at the hands of the Banzai charging Japanese troops at Mt. Talawe.
For his actions on Cape Gloucester, Masters was awarded the Legion of Merit, somewhat unusual for a combat commander to receive, in place of the Silver Star. After 37 consecutive months overseas, he returned to the United States in March 1944 for duty at Headquarters Marine Corps with the Division of Plans and Policies, G-3. Upon seeing him for the first time in more than two years, his now-nearly five-year-old son didn't know who he was. In September, Masters detached for duty at Pearl Harbor, and on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian.
In November 1944, Masters was transferred to the 7th Marine Regiment and began serving as executive officer at Pavuvu. From April to June 1945, he fought in the Battle of Okinawa, where he earned the Navy Cross for manning a vital observation post under heavy attack during the assault on Dakeshi Ridge.
Masters returned to China in October 1945 as the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 for 1st Marine Division at Tientsin until he returned to the United States in March 1946. He was again assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps where, in May 1946, he began a two-year assignment in the Inspection Division. In May 1948, he was ordered to the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, serving as executive officer, and later, commanding officer of the Basic School. He was promoted to colonel in August 1949. In September 1950, he was transferred to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, to assume command of the 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division for 18 months. He attended the National War College from August 1952 to June 1953, then became a member of the Joint Strategic Plans Group, for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for two years.
In August 1955, Masters took command of the 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii until he was named Fleet Marine Force, Pacific Liaison Officer to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet in June 1956. While serving in this capacity, he was promoted to brigadier general in July 1957. He returned to Headquarters Marine Corps as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 in September 1957. He was assigned additional duty as Inspector General of the Marine Corps in June 1960, and was promoted to major general the following month. He continued in the post until July 1961.
Masters assumed command of 1st Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, on 31 July 1961, until June 1962, when he became the commanding general of the base. He returned to Okinawa in May 1963 to command 3rd Marine Division. He then commanded Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island from 19 June 1964 to 15 June 1966. Promoted to lieutenant general on 1 July 1966, he was assigned duty as Commandant, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. In January 1968, Marine Corps Schools was redesignated Marine Corps Development and Education Command, and Masters's title was changed to "Commanding General".
Masters was presented the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by Commandant Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. during his retirement ceremony at Quantico, 28 June 1968. He died at his home in Washington, D.C. on 5 August 1988.
Awards & honors
A complete list of his medals and decorations includes:
|Navy Cross||Navy Distinguished Service Medal|
|Legion of Merit w/ valor device||Bronze Star||Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ 1 award star & valor device||Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 service star|
|China Service Medal w/ 1 service star||American Defense Service Medal w/ Base clasp||Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 5 service stars||World War II Victory Medal|
|Navy Occupation Service Medal||National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star||Order of the Cloud and Banner||Order of Service Merit, 2nd class|
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross to
U.S. Marine Corps
for service as set forth in the following citation:
For extraordinary heroism as Executive Officer of the Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the assault on Dakeshi Ridge, Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, from 10 to 12 May 1945. On 10 May, when the advance of the Regiment was checked by a strong hostile force, Lieutenant Colonel Masters unhesitatingly went forward of the front lines on reconnaissance and obtained information concerning the Japanese and unfamiliar terrain which enabled a successful attack to be made the following day. On 11 May, he established an advanced observation post in the only possible position on the front lines from which the attack that day could be observed and directed and, despite unusually heavy casualties at the post from intense enemy mortar and small-arms fire, continued to man it and report information vital to the capture of desperately defended Dakeshi Ridge, Moving the observation post forward again on 12 May, he advanced under intense hostile fire to the Ridge before that ground had been completely seized by assault troops and, although the Japanese continued to inflict heavy casualties on his force, persevered in his mission to observe the enemy and terrain, thus securing information which aided materially in the formulation of successful plans for continuing the attack. His inspiring leadership, courage and unremitting devotion to duty throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
- Marine Corps Oral History Collection, James M. Masters Sr. Interview Transcript, Interview conducted by Benis Morton Frank, August 5, 12, and 20, 1981
- "James Masters, Marine General, Dies at age 77", The Washington Post, 6 August 1988
- Masters, Jack. Masters Family History 1691-1989. ISBN 0-9622761-0-3.
- Oral History Collection: "I love the outdoors. As a youngster I spent every moment I could hunting. I used to come home from school at 2:30 in the wintertime and I was out of the house, hunting until sunset."
- Original copy of the valedictory speech, in Masters Family library, 1927
- Oral History Collection: "I felt driven, somewhere deep inside me, I wanted to be a soldier, or a sailor, or a Marine. I just had the desire to serve my country in that capacity."
- Schuon, Karl (1963). U.S. Marine Corps Biographical Dictionary (1963) (1st ed.). Franklin Watts, Inc. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
- Oral History Collection: "As it turned out, I had a cousin, a Naval Academy graduate, who was a Lieutenant (junior grade) in the Navy. He was home on leave, and he talked me into going to Annapolis rather than West Point."
- Oral History Collection: "Those were hard times. If I hadn’t gotten my appointment to the Naval Academy, my father would have strained his guts some way or another to give me an education; but it would have been miserably tough on him. He had been a successful businessman in the 1920s, first with Met Life as Southeastern Manager in Atlanta where I was born, then as the exclusive Southeastern Distributor for old Dearborn Trucks. But he lost damn near everything in the Crash."
- Oral History Collection: "He was gone by the time I came in, but I always admired General Lejeune. Thought he was a gentleman and a scholar, a true leader, and a superb tactician. I never met him, but he was my dream Marine."
- Oral History Collection: "When we graduated, we were the poor man’s class. There was only enough money in the military budget to commission the first 50% of us. In 1934, a fixed number of the remaining graduates were asked back to receive their commissions. And in 1935, the balance of the class was asked to return for commissioning. So, there were three sections to my graduating class; 33A commissioned 1933, 33B commissioned in 1934, and 33C commissioned in 1935."
- Oral History Collection: "I had only one thing in mind... to be a first class Marine officer. I didn’t worry about The Wall Street Journal; I didn’t worry about real estate. Hell, I didn’t have any money, any way. I came into the Marine Corps with a pay cut of 15%. My base pay as a second lieutenant was US$103.80 a month. So I had to communicate with Mr. Ewing Wall for help every now and then." Wall was founder of the First National Bank of Quantico.
"H. Ewing Wall Dies at 71; Founded Bank at Quantico". The Free Lance–Star. December 17, 1970. p. 11. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- Oral History Collection: "Tony was a grand, generous man – I really liked him. He was getting on in years when we went to the Basic School... nearly 60, about 5'10", getting a little chunky. And two of his teeth in front were broken off. But he refused to have them fixed because Gene Tunney had broken them off in a sparring match with him. And Tony was proud of it."
- Biddle Sr., LtCol Anthony Joseph Drexel (1937). Do or Die, Military Manual of Advanced Science in Individual Combat. Marine Corps Association. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
- Masters, Jack. "Masters Family Index". www.jackmasters.net. pp. I – K. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- William A. Kengla, 'The Short End Technique' from 'Cold Steel' by John Styers, text prepared by Karl Schuon, photographs by Louis Lowery
- Oral History Collection: "Cordelia Rundell Bradley Biddle was a delightful woman, who was from wealth and the proper main line society in Philadelphia. And, she took a fondness to Dottie, my wife. And as I told you, old Tony and I were on close terms and whenever he came down to Quantico he would bring Cordelia down with him in this big long black Cadillac. Once they were in Quantico for about six weeks – and there wasn't a day that that car didn't pull up to our quarters at 218-C with some sort of gift for us. For instance, Cordelia dropped by one morning about 10 o'clock and Dottie was still house cleaning – this was in September, starting to get a little chilly – and when Dottie came to the door in a light housecoat, Cordelia said, 'My dear, you must be freezing.' Dottie said, 'No Mrs. Biddle, I'm fine.' Next day Cordelia came down and brought Dottie a beautiful quilted housecoat. The Biddles would drive up together at cocktail hour, couple of bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label or something like that. Well, good God, I wasn't able to drink anything better than beer at that time of life. Pay was US$103.80 a month. They were lovely people. Very generous."
"One day Tony said to me, 'Young fellow, I want you and Mrs. Masters to come to dinner with Mrs. Biddle and me, I'll send the car down to Quantico for you at 6 o'clock, and you can join us for dinner at seven.' So Dottie and I spruced up with our best civilian bib and tucker and the Cadillac drove up. Christ, it was about two city blocks long and we jumped in it, were driven to the Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C., went in, and were escorted to Tony and Cordelia and guess who? The Commandant of the Marine Corps and Mrs. Russell! Goddamn, I near choked on my Adam's apple. But, after we had a drink, one drink before dinner, we went in, had a beautiful dinner, soup to nuts, wine to liquors. During the course of the meal someone brought up a subject and the Commandant remarked that it concerned him... and Cordelia reached over and patted him on the knee; and she said, 'Sonny, don't you worry about little things like that.' I damn near fell off my chair."
- Oral History Collection: "My real desire was to become an honest to God leader. I got my start as a young adult at the Academy where I was a platoon leader. I liked the relationship with human beings – trying to figure them out, getting the best response from them in a tactical situation. And now, looking back, I think my career is marked by the leadership theme."
- Hoffman, Major Jon T. (1995). "From Makin To Bougainville: Marine Raiders in the Pacific War". p. 1. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- Oral History Collection: "He was a delightful old gentleman, who'd joined the Marine Corps at the turn of the 20th century. He was not socially inclined, so my social duties only required that I go to lunch with him occasionally. And, when we'd go to lunch where there was drinking, he'd always pass the drink to me and say, 'Take care of this, young man.' By that he meant that I should drink it. Well, I poured many of them down the palmetto."
- Oral History Collection: "We went from Wilmington to San Francisco to Honolulu and then across to Shanghai. There were only three Marines on board. 1stLt Masters, 1stLt [Victor H.] Krulak, and LtCol [William H.] Rupertus."
- Oral History Collection: "Her maiden name was Alice 'Sleepy' Hill, daughter of a naval officer. Alice 'Sleepy' Rupertus she became. And she was a beautiful, charming girl – 20 to 25 years younger than Bill Rupertus. My wife Dorice and Sleepy Rupertus had gone to school together – and there was a closeness between them because of it – a closeness that influenced the relationship among all 4 of us. And, before long, Lt. Col. Rupertus told me, 'I want you to be my Lieutenant, I'm getting the 1st Battalion 4th Marines.' Well, what could I say: 'I’d be delighted, Colonel,' I replied. But, I was just a green 1st Lieutenant then, didn’t know my way around Jack Robinson. And, when we neared China about 2-3 days out, Dottie informed me, for the first time, about another relationship that might well trump the relationship we had with the Rupertuses."
- "4th Marines Small Unit Histories". History and Museums Division, U.S. Marine Corps. Jack E. Turner. 2008. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- Oral History Collection: "And that sealed the deal of where I’d start my career with the China Marines. When I reported into the regiment, old Charlie Price said to me, 'Young man, I'm going to give you a job where you can get to know the city and the Orient. I'm going to make you editor of the Walla Walla newsweekly magazine – and Assistant Athletic Officer of the regiment attached to the regimental HQ.'"
- Oral History Collection: "I loved the ground Frank walked on. He was a diamond in the rough, though – tough and foul-mouthed. He could tear up the Queen and all her guards. But he was a loveable person – and one of the greatest baseball fans you’ve ever seen."
- Wukovits, John (May 2006). "Stories From Okinawa". Something About Everything Military. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- "Reference". chinamarine.org. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- Oral History Collection: "I've got a complete file of all the Walla Wallas that were published during my watch out there. They bound them all and gave them to me before I left China. All things considered it was a good publication. It gives a good picture of what Marine life in China was like. But, it also contained a lot of 'in family' jokes that made it difficult to understand to anyone who wasn't there. I did the proof reading, and I let all things go through – as long as they weren't vulgar or smutty."
- Oral History Collection: "The first time I was in China (February 1937 to November 1939) Dottie and I were young, and, except for acquiring a life-long appreciation of Chinese food, we didn't have the sense to try to understand the Orient, get to know the Chinese. We mostly socialized with Marines, other Americans in the International Settlement. Our social life was active, but exclusively within the English-speaking crowd. The Shanghai Volunteer Corps was the source of a lot of socializing, but we weren’t elbow-rubbing close with them – though we did make a few close friends among the British. Brian Brayne-Nicholls was one of them. He was a very fine officer, got to be rear admiral - was a protégé of Mountbatten. Brian and his wife Wendy became life-long friends with Dottie and me. Another fine officer, our own Ronnie Wilde used to date Wendy before she was married. And she was one of the most charming ladies you ever saw. We shared many happy times."
- Oral History Collection: "I went to Charlie Price and said, 'I'm a Marine, let me be where the fighting is.' After some wrangling, he sent me on TAD to 2nd Battalion, which was commanded by Medal of Honor-awardee Roswell Winans.
"Roswell was a real character, and he decided to put me to the test – giving me a platoon in one of his companies. We were down on the Suzhou Creek at that time, and he began to raise hell about lax security in my platoon. I knew our security to be as good if not better than other platoon areas, so I decided to put the bite on the old man. I instructed every man in my platoon, 'Nobody moves through this area at night, not even the Regimental Commander, without me being summoned to make a personal identification.'
"Well, Roswell came down that night and my men stopped him cold. They came and got me, and I identified him. He appeared to be a little grumpy, but he didn't say anything. About 3 hours later, he tried again, got stopped cold again, and I had to identify him again. Next morning, he sent for me. He was sitting behind his desk when I arrived, and he reached down in his desk and pulled out a bottle of Old Grand-Dad and two drinking glasses, which he filled. He said, 'Young man, you're going to do all right. Let's have a drink together.' Well, it was about 8:30 in the morning and I said, 'Colonel, I don’t drink when I'm on duty.' He said, 'The hell you don't! Suppose I order you to?' I said, 'Colonel, I'd have to disobey your order'. He said, 'Well all right young man, I'll take one for both of us.' And he downed his glass.
"From then on, I could do no wrong with old Roswell Winans. And first chance he got (in December 1937), he gave me command of rifle Company F... me, a 1st lieutenant - the only 1st lieutenant in command of a Company in the 4th Marines at the time. Captain Wally Greene had rifle Company E. And George McCloud [sic] had the machine gun company."
- Oral History Collection: "My platoon was never in a direct fire fight with Japanese troops, but we were in the hottest part of the Soochow Creek area – and observed a lot of fierce across-the-street fighting between the Chinese and Japanese forces."
- Oral History Collection: "The Chinese holed up right across from my platoon front in one of the godowns, at the corner of Weilan Road and Soochow Creek. That final night, Japanese Regular Army troops brought 75mm field pieces up beside the godown wall and began firing right into the place. The surviving Chinese troops would wait until the Japanese paused their fire, and then they’d run across the street into the British sector, where they were safe. It was a helluva night, we were right on the scene... though none of us ever got our Soochow Creek Medals for it."
- Oral History Collection: "We had days like 'double ten'; 10th of October – a Chinese celebration day. And the Chinese had all those flags up, and the rodents [out-of-uniform Japanese troops] would come into the sector, trying to tear down as many of these flags as they could. But, if the rodents ever came into his sector, the old man [ Clifton B. Cates ] would raise holy hell – and waste no time getting his Marines to chase them out. One time, when I was his adjutant, he sent me sprinting after one of the Japanese troop trucks. When I managed to pull it over, the old man came puffing up a few seconds later. 'You got him, Jimmy, good work. Now, throw the bastards out of here.' He was a great man, too. I tell you, I loved him."
- Oral History Collection: "When I made captain, I figured I had only one rank to go before I got to be God. I thought major was as high as normal human being Marines ever got to be."
- Oral History Collection: "There was no question in my mind that we were going to have trouble with the Japanese ourselves, someday soon. I was pretty young and not thinking too deeply about it, but I was apprehensive."
- Patterson, Michael Robert (18 January 2009). "James Marvin Masters, Sr.". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- Oral History Collection: "In March of 1940, I took a very carefully hand-picked company down there – with mess hall provisions for ourselves and the Secret Service. The overall detachment commander was Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Brooks. He was Bill Rupertus's executive officer at the Marine Barracks. Charlie was a real gentleman. Never raised his voice, I never saw him get angry with anybody. He had a health problem at the time, but he didn't let that interfere with his duties, I assure you.
"We all went down about a week before President Roosevelt was due to arrive. But with about 3 days to go, he came down with intestinal flu. And that wracked him up for about a month. So rather than bring us back to the Barracks and send us back again, they kept us there – and we had several weeks of recreation. Played golf, hiked through the hills with the troops. It was delightful.
"When the President was fully recuperated, he came down, arriving on the midnight train. They sent an old battle-axe touring car to pick him up and we gave him the full guard treatment. He and Mrs. Roosevelt sat down in that touring car and just watched us. It was a beautiful thing.
"Every day the President went down swimming in the Warm Springs pool. He would drive down there himself, and hoist himself out of the car into a wheelchair – he was a beast from the waist up – and roll himself into the swimming pool. And, always polite, always had a word to all the Marines. I stood by his car while he got out. I'm telling you, he made quite an impression on me. And, in three days that man looked like a youngster again. He had the most remarkable recuperative powers.
"I made a few rather warm friends in the Secret Service. The head of the Secret Service detachment at the time was an old gentleman by the name of [Edmund William] Starling. Colonel Starling was a real operator. He had arrived down there the day after we arrived. He came down into our camp and he treated me just like a son. And I felt like I was related to him. He said, 'You want to go out and check the outlying security with me, Sonny?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' He made a sweep of the radius of about 40 miles and he checked out everything in that radius. And, of course, it checked out, but he left no stone unturned. The Secret Service detail and the whole of President Roosevelt's entourage were extremely dedicated to him; extremely close. They thought he was the savior reincarnate. No question about it.
"The President could charm the snake out of a tree. But, he had that little old Ford convertible down there; that had all the things on the wheel that you could shift. And he'd get out and drive around these country roads down there, and of course, the Secret Service would follow him in a big black Cadillac. All of a sudden, he'd come to a side road, and he was gone. Half the time, he'd end up down in our camp. And he'd say, 'Well, I gave 'em the slip again, young fellow.' Oh, he loved to give them the slip. What a charmer, he was.
"I got invited 3 times [to the president's cocktail hour]. And, he made quite a ceremony out of it. Had all the condiments and everything in front of him on a little low table. And boy, you had to drink his Old Fashioned, he was an Old Fashioned's perfectionist. He even muddled the sugar himself. The bitters and everything. He was the majordomo in person at the bar. And, he wouldn"t mind having a few snorts himself!
"I never saw much of Missy LeHand or Judge Rosenman. But I saw Harry Hopkins on a number of occasions. He was in and out visiting. He looked very ill, even at that time. His son was a Marine, wounded during WWII.
"[ Eleanor Roosevelt's] personal appearance was on the plain side. But, she was a very dignified and charming woman. I didn't sense a close warmness between the two of them. They seemed to be mutually respectful and dependent on one another, rather than personally intimate.
- Oral History Collection: "Our original silent drill was not nearly as complicated as it is now, but it started with us, in Warm Springs. We made a few maneuvers right and left, forward and backward, and did some manual of arms with it. And, the President loved it. He brought all the kids at the Foundation, the polio victims, to watch us, from in and around the big pool. We’d been putting on other shows every afternoon for the kids. And, we thought our silent drill would be a little something to arouse their interest a bit more. They were very enthusiastic anyway. But when we put that on, they damn near jumped out of their wheelchairs."
- Oral History Collection: "The last 4 nights going into Pearl we sailed in black-out conditions. So, things were a little tense, but we arrived safely. From Camp Catlin, where we stayed for a couple of days in tents, we went to stay with [Robert C.] 'Slash' and Betty McGlashan, just up the road from Pearl."
- "General James Masters, decorated Marine", The Washington Times, August 6, 1988.
- Oral History Collection: "I was tossing [my son] in the air – and I heard this booming. I hollered in to Slash. I said, 'Slash, what the hell is going on here?' And Slash said, 'Oh, the goddamned Army, they’re always on some sort of maneuvers.' Well, I got up to see for myself, and I went out on the front porch and I saw these bursts of anti-aircraft fire. And, I looked a little higher and I saw a plane flying over, with the red ball on it. And I roared back into the house. I said, 'Army maneuver hell, the Japs are here, Slash. Let's get going.' In a few minutes, we were on our way down to Pearl Harbor. But, where ordinarily it would have taken us 15 minutes to get there, it took us an hour because of the sightseeing crowds that were on the road approaching Pearl Harbor – everybody was out to see what was going on... it was unbelievable. We got down there, got down to Camp Catlin but by that time, there wasn't much we could do. The attack was over. It was a horrible, horrendous mess. And, of course, the attack knocked the guts out of the Navy. They really didn't get their composure back until the Battle of Midway. That battle was a turning point of the War, because we destroyed the greater portion of the Japanese aviation corps at the time."
- Oral History Collection: "The skipper of the Mahan was a fellow named Roger Simpson. He was a real tiger – and he liked Marines. He took us down to Johnston. We were loaded to the gills with supplies... sitting ducks. We had a couple of submarine scares; and old Roger Simpson filled the ocean with depth charges. He raised some debris once, but we never knew if we had a submarine attack or not."
- Oral History Collection: "Admiral Nimitz had come through, in late May or early June. He was a delightful fellow and very, very competent. He held a meeting with all the officers, and told us that the Battle of Midway was coming up. And, though he didn't get into detail, he assured us that he'd be ready. And he was. Because at that time (after we broke the Japanese [naval] code) we were reading all their mail like nobody's business. And we knew everything about the Japanese task force coming in toward Midway."
- Shaw Jr., Henry I.; Maj Kane; Douglas T. History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II (PDF). Vol II: Isolation of Rabaul. United States Marine Corps Historical Division. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
- Oral History Collection: "Hello, fellow, how're you doing?" asked Puller.
I said, "I'm doing fine, colonel. I've been ordered down to reinforce your regiment with my battalion."
He said, "That's good, that's good. I hear you had a little fight over Talawe the other night [in reference to the banzai attacks]."
I said, "Yes sir, we did have a little fight. Not a big one but, I thought we did pretty good,"
Puller then asked, "How many Japs you kill?"
I said, "Well, I don't rightly know, Colonel, because we didn't go out and search for any bodies in the rain forest. We buried 256 of them in a ditch we dug with a bulldozer in front of the line."
"Oh, that's good, that's good. How many Marines did you lose?" he asked.
I said, "I had six killed and 13 wounded. Colonel."
He looked at me and said, "Hell, Masters, you didn't have no fight."
- Oral History Collection: "Gen. Rupertus called me up and said, 'Jimmy, I’d normally recommend you for the Silver Star [for combat]. But, I’m going to recommend you for the Legion of Merit.' And, I said, 'Well, I didn’t expect anything, General.' I was lying, of course. He said, 'I'm recommending you for the Legion of Merit because that’s the ranking medal. And I consider you did a better job than the Silver Star.' I said, 'Thank you very kindly, sir.' But, it should have been a Silver Star, which I would have been delighted to receive."
- Official portrait circa 1966: File:Masters JM.jpg, taken from United States Marine Corps History Division website
- "Lieutenant General James M. Masters, Sr., USMC (deceased)". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- James M. Masters Sr. interred at Arlington National Cemetery
- World War II: A Compact History, by Colonel R. Earnest Dupuy (1969) - Hawthorn Books, Inc. Library of Congress Card Number: 73-85433 LOC Search: 73085433