To Marines and Special Operators, Major James Capers, Jr. is a legend and a real American hero.
The son of sharecroppers from Bishopville, S.C., was the first enlisted African American Marine to receive a battlefield commission and the first African American to command a Marine Recon company. A pioneer in Recon training, many of the tactics he devised are still used by Special Operations forces throughout the world today.
A member of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Commando Hall of Honor, Major Capers:
- Participated in over 50 classified missions;
- Was wounded 19 times in battle;
- Was the face of the famous “Ask A Marine” recruitment campaign;
- Rescued 16 Recon Marines who were being overrun by 1,000 Viet Cong;
- Went behind enemy lines to rescue American POWs; and
- Was part of a secret mission that located a crashed B57 rumored to be carrying a nuclear
Yes, Jim Capers is the stuff of legends. In fact, he is the subject of the 2022 documentary, “Major Capers: The Legend of Team Broadminded.”
However, it was what he did in April of 1967 near the village of Phu Loc in Vietnam, as the commander of Team Broadminded, that has led to Congress authorizing the president to award him the Medal of Honor in the recent National Defense Authorization Act.
Capers’ nine-man recon unit was ambushed by an entire North Vietnamese army regiment. With two broken legs and shrapnel throughout his body, Capers continued to fight to free his men. After a shot of morphine and facing severe blood loss, Capers ordered his men to evacuate in a small helicopter that could barely hold all of them.
Capers continued to fight and hold off the regiment on his own. Capers men, though, would not leave their leader behind, and at the last second the overloaded chopper was barely able to take off and head to safety with Capers onboard.
In 2007, a team of Marines led by now retired Major General James Williams, and backed by the late U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr., began an effort to have the Medal of Honor awarded to Capers. Their work included collecting documentation and testimony from eyewitnesses and survivors as a result of Capers’ actions.
The effort also received the support of Williams’ boss, then 2nd Marine Division Commander, Major General Walter Gaskin. In 2010, without making any comment on its reasoning, The Marine Corps awarded Capers the Silver Star.
In the last couple of years, the cause to have Capers awarded the Medal of Honor has been spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. Recently, Norman’s efforts paid off. His legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan, was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House of Representatives.
Specifically, the NDAA authorizes the president to award the Medal of Honor to Capers for his acts of valor as a member of the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Further, the NDAA recommends that the Secretary of the Navy name a vessel of the United States Navy, the “U.S.S Major James Capers, Jr.,” in honor of Capers.
Jim Capers is also a man of faith whose life has been about helping others. He sponsors a vacation every year for Gold Star Widows and raises money for their children. And he has started the Gary and Dottie Capers Foundation (named after his late wife and son) to help special needs children like his late son.
And his book, Faith Through the Storm: Memoirs of Major James Capers, Jr. is a powerful testimony on how his faith in God has guided him through the storms of life.
This is a time when America needs heroes — real American heroes. Education is a national security issue and the youth of our nation need to know the story of the James Capers(es) of America, who sacrificed so much to give us the freedom we enjoy today.
The great journalist, Elmer Davis, who served as Director of the Office of War Information during WWII said, “This will remain the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave.”
Eighty-six-year-old Major James Capers, Jr.’s entire life reminds us that America is still the home of the brave. His bravery and self-sacrifice against an overwhelming hostile force, in an effort to save all the men under his command, exemplifies “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
The president of the United States should honor him and our nation by awarding the Medal of Honor to Major James Capers, Jr.
Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." He is the 2018 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Sept. 11 Garden Leadership Award for National Security. Read Van Hipp's Reports — More Here
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