MG James F. Hamlet was a potential VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 01/05/2001 at the age of 79.1
Trenton, NJ
Date of Birth 12/13/1921
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with HHC 227 AHB 1 CAV in 66-67, 1 CAV in 71-72
This information was provided by John Keller, Skip Powell

More detail on this person: I don't know how many of our members would remember MG James F. Hamlet who died in January. I just learned of his death last week and am currently trying to get the details. Jim was one of the first black aviators to make general and when he retired he was a Master Aviator. He was my unit commander when I was a 2nd Lt stationed at Fort Ord, CA. He was, indeed, a fine officer and a true gentleman. He was ADC of the 1st Cav in 1967. I was invited to his retirement party at Bolling AFB in DC and will never forget what he said about his early days in the Army. He said, " When I entered the Army a black man was not allowed to lead a squad to the latrine. We have come a long way."

I will miss communicating with him from time to time. He was also the one who taught me that military friendships do not require constant nurturing because each time you meet you can pickup where you left off from the last meeting.

From: Bill Redman, bredman@energyunited.net

I've been "volunteered", and gladly accept the attempt, to gather all the recollections we can of a couple great Aviation soldiers--MGs James Hamlet and William Maddox. I understand from Dick Tierney that these two heroes were good friends and collaborators in some very significant efforts for Army Aviation. Ironic, like with Adams and Jefferson, that they should die on the same day.

Don't you agree it worthy to muster historical tales of these two pioneers and retain them in the Army Aviation Branch historical and memorialization files. Someday we're going to want to look at them in those lights. I will gather your inputs into a single document for each of the two Army Aviator Pioneers and forward them to the Army Aviation Branch Historian, who will insure their appropriate retention and use.

Follows is a great example, already received from a retired Army Aviation Master Sergeant and Army Aviation pioneer.

I served under MG Hamlet in Viet Nam, 71-72, 1st Cav, 11th Aviation Co. He would send us a case or two of steaks occasionally. CW-4 Bobby Bruce was his pilot just before I rotated in 72 and CW-2 Gillus (spelling may be wrong) was his pilot when I arrived in 71 from Germany. I remember a special formation he called. It seemed a couple of the 75th Ranger got drunk and set off their basic load of ammo. (scared the hell out of me) This happened at Bien Hoa, across the street from my hooch.

General Hamlet had a public "Ass Chewing" of the entire 75th Rangers in front of the whole 1st brigade, with them standing at attention and the remaining troops standing at ease.

From: Skip Powell, Skippowell@aol.com AAHF

LTC James F. Hamlet was assigned as the Battalion Commander of the 227th ASHB in RVN from November, 1966 to June, 1967. I flew with him in a 64 ship formation near the Cambodian Border area southwest of Pleiku in December, 1966. At the time, it was the largest combat assault of UH-1 Hueys the 1st CAV had ever attempted in RVN. He was an outstanding Officer and Aviator who was impressed with the caliber of Warrant Officers he flew with in the 227th BN.

From: John Keller A/227th 66-67, Colorado Springs

In the summer of 1966, I was transferred to Viet Nam and assigned to the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division based at An Khe. The Battalion Call sign was Bushmaster. I was further assigned as the XO of the gunship company, company "D". The company call sign was White Fang. LTC A.T. Pumphrey was the Bn Commander. In August, I was made the Company Commander. Shortly thereafter, LTC James F. Hamlet replaced LTC Pumphrey as the Bn Commander. Around the 1st of September the battalion deployed from the base camp and began continuous field operations. The Bn. was the primary aviation support for the 3rd Brigade. Every few days the Bn moved to a new fire base. The area of operations for the Bn. extended from the Laos border to the South China Sea just south of Danang.

In early February 1967, we were operating along the South China Sea moving northward towards the An Lo Valley. Normal operations consisted of providing six "slicks" and two "guns" as a ready Reaction Force {RRF) each night to the Brigade Commander in a forward firebase. On the 5th of Feb I was the lead Gunship and my wingman was Capt Grady King. We flew to LZ English just at dusk. We positioned the "guns" on the ground to cover the "slicks" and awaited further orders from Brigade. A firefight was going on along the north edge of the firebase. Soon the fog settled in and we settled in for the night with radio contact with Brigade. At about 2 AM we were hit by a heavy mortar barrage. Before we could untie the blades we were surrounded by dozens or mortar explosions. All of my crew and Capt King's crew were seriously wounded. After the mortar attack we gathered together and found an aid station. Later we learned that each helicopter had more than 250 fragment holes. At first light, evac helicopters took the two wounded crews to the 67th Evac Hospital at Que Nhon. After surgery the next day, I woke up to see LTC Jim Hamlet at the foot of my bed. I will never forget him grinning at me as he asked how I was doing. The other members of my Company were all evacuated to Japan. I remained in the hospital for 3 weeks and returned to my Company. LTC Hamlet then sent me with one of my platoons to a quiet base along the seashore south of Que Nhon. He wanted to give me a few days to recover from the hospital stay.

In March Jim relieved me from the Company and assigned me as his Bn S-3. For about four months we shared the Battalion Command Bunker and had adjoining hex tents whenever we moved. One day I was flying as observer of a first light Battalion Combat Assault maintaining radio contact with LTC Hamlet in the Command Bunker at LZ Dog. LTC Hamlet reported to me that the Division Ammo depot nearby had been attacked and was exploding. Pallets of artillery shells and rockets were exploding everywhere. Rockets were flying overhead and some had penetrated some of the sandbag bunkers and several soldiers were injured and 1 or 2 were killed. Jim remained calm as he talked to me on the radio and reported what was happening. The explosions from the ammo dump lasted for several hours. He diverted our flight to another nearby firebase.

In June LTC Hamlet was transferred from the 227th to become the Deputy Commander of the 11th Aviation Group.

In 1968, I again met Jim at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas. He was now a full Colonel assigned to the Combat Developments Command. On a couple of occasions he and his wife had dinner with us at our home with our family. In the 1970s, I visited him in his office as the Commanding General of Fort Carson, Colorado and the 4th Infantry Division.

In 1980, I retired from the Army after 30 years of service. During that period I never worked for a better boss than Jim. He was a superb commander, an extremely compassionate human being and a friend. I miss him greatly.

Robert M Gibbs, LTC US Army Retired

My Dad and Jim were best friends - went through all the basic courses together - Ord, Rucker, - we were stationed in Germany together and, as my second "father", Jim visited me in the hospital, helped me learn how to play baseball, football, golf. He visited us in Japan when he got the chance - made the comment once in front of Gen James Cash that Dad was the best aviator the Army ever had and would ever have - "Doc" laughed and asked "Why do you think I keep Jack around?" When Dad was CO at Sherman AAF at Ft. Leavenworth, Jim came to visit frequently with Faye and we had our "family" back together again.

Too many tales - too many memories - a lot of happiness.

From: Wesley J. P. Westphal II

I was assigned to Ft Carson, CO in August of 1972. We were the first WAC's to be assigned to Ft Carson since WWII. I was a mere Pfc when I chose to reenlist with an overseas option. I am a Black female & told the career counselor I wanted General Hamlet to swear me in. The career counselor advised that the general would be too busy but I insisted he at least ask. To my amazement General Hamlet took the time to swear in this lowly Pfc. I have photos of us during that occasion. Out of the blue I decided to google him & was sad to hear of his passing. I wish I had told him how much that meant to me.

From: Jan C. Campbell

I was transferred to F/9th Cav from 2/17th Cav when the 101st returned to CONUS and assigned to the Aero Scout platoon. First time I'd flown in the flatlands, quite a change of pace. Following leave I was reassigned to B/229th AHB and was directly involved in the siege and relief of An Loc. During my 2.5 years in Vietnam I did not serve under a more capable combat commander than BG Hamlet. He is remembered for a very simple reason. He was a leader, not a commander.

From: Dan Hilliard <2buntings@comcast.net>

While manning the land-lines and Radios at the TOC, Ranger Team 76 made radio contact. They were requesting permission to engage hostile forces who were taking a swim in a small stream. It was also stated that there appeared to be a Chinese Advisor with this group of approximately seven personnel. I informed Captain Collins, the TOC-OIC. He did not want to authorize permission to engage. A second fervent request was transmitted. I was informed that General Hamlet would have to make that decision and that the OIC was not about to wake the General. I said that I would do so, with TOC-OIC permission. Permission was granted. General Hamlet was very receptive to an E-5 knocking on his quarters door. I quickly briefed the General and while we were walking to the TOC, I further informed General Hamlet that Ranger Team 76 sounded extremely confident in their ability to accomplish this engagement. General Hamlet asked me what I would do. I would give permission to engage. General Hamlet spoke with the Ranger 76 Team Leader and gave permission to engage. All enemy combatants were KIA and several documents, in Chinese, were recovered. General Hamlet was a great leader of men. He instilled confidence and dedication to duty. Later I was to serve with General Hamlet at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This account may be redacted in any form should someone choose to have it added to the history of General James Hamlet. My home phone is 1-702-437-8636. Thank you for taking time to read this.

From: Harold Linscott Smith, SFC, US Army, Retired

This information was last updated 09/17/2018

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