Specialist Five James C. McCloughan

Specialist Five James McCloughan

born

1946

hometown

South Haven, Michigan

enlistment date

Aug. 29, 1968

Military Occupation (MOS)

91B20 Medical Specialist

unit

Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division

Tour of Duty

Republic of Vietnam, 1969-1970

Spc. 5 James C. McCloughan was born in South Haven, Michigan, April 30, 1946.

McCloughan spent his childhood in Bangor, Michigan, where his parents moved to take over a family farm. It was there that he found his passion for sports and music. The consummate athlete, McCloughan was a four-sport varsity athlete at Bangor High School and went on to wrestle, play football and baseball at Olivet College. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a teaching certificate in 1968, McCloughan accepted a teaching and coaching position with South Haven Public Schools in Michigan. Three months later, McCloughan was drafted into the Army at the age of 22.

McCloughan reported to basic training in September 1968 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His training in athletics and coaching gave him a foundational knowledge of sports medicine, and his leaders took notice. Two months after arriving at basic training, he was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to complete advanced training as a medical specialist. On his last day of training, McCloughan received deployment orders to Vietnam. He was assigned as a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. His Vietnam tour was from March 1969 to March 1970.

Then-Pfc. James McCloughan at Basic Combat Training, September 1968. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Then-Pfc. James McCloughan at Basic Combat Training, September 1968. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Then-Pfc. James McCloughan in front of the Vietnam Regional Exchange Snack Shop, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Then-Pfc. James McCloughan in front of the Vietnam Regional Exchange Snack Shop, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Following his service in Vietnam, McCloughan returned to his teaching and coaching profession. In 1972, he earned a Master of Arts in counseling and psychology from Western Michigan University.

McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School until his retirement in 2008 earning him the Michigan Education Associations’ 40 years of Service Award. He was also the recipient of the Wolverine Conference Distinguished Service Award for 38 years of coaching football and baseball in addition to 22 years of coaching wrestling. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993, Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame 2008. McCloughan was also a Michigan High School Athletic Association wrestling official for 25 years.

McCloughan’s Army awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Army Valorous Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palms and one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Medical Badge, and the M16 Expert Rifle Badge.

He currently lives in South Haven, Michigan with his wife Chérie.

Pfc. James McCloughan (left) is awarded the Bronze Star with “V” Device, Feb. 10, 1970. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Pfc. James McCloughan (left) is awarded the Bronze Star with “V” Device, Feb. 10, 1970. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

The Battle

May 13-15, 1969 | Tam Kỳ of Vietnam | Nui Yon Hill of Vietnam

Spc. 5 James C. McCloughan distinguished himself during 48 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces, May 13-15, 1969. At the time, then-Pfc. McCloughan was serving as a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, America Division, in the Republic of Vietnam.

May 13th

May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol
May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

On the morning of May 13, 1969, “Charlie Company” was combat assaulted into an area near Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill and came under small arms and machine gun fire. During the combat assault, two American helicopters were shot down, one of which had crashed roughly 100 meters from the company’s position. With fierce enemy gun fire surrounding the position, a rescue helicopter could not land. Instead, a squad was sent out and ordered to bring the pilot and crew back to Charlie Company’s defense perimeter.

When the squad reached the perimeter around the crash site, they saw a wounded Soldier lying on the ground nearby, too injured to move. McCloughan ran 100 meters to the Soldier through an open field, ducking and dodging the crossfire of his company and a charging platoon of North Vietnamese Army. Upon reaching the wounded Soldier, McCloughan shouldered him and raced back to the company, saving his fellow Soldier from being captured or killed.

Later that afternoon, 2nd Platoon was ordered to scout the area near Nui Yon Hill. The platoon was ambushed by a large NVA force and sustained heavy casualties. McCloughan entered a trench as American airstrikes were being dropped on the nearby NVA targets. Looking over the top of his trench, McCloughan saw two Soldiers without weapons, huddled near a bush.

With complete disregard for his life and personal safety, McCloughan handed his weapon to a fellow warrior, leaped on the berm of the trench and ran low to the ground toward the ambush and the two U.S. Soldiers. While McCloughan was looking for wounds on the men, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded and pelted him with shrapnel. He pulled the two Soldiers back into the safety of a trench. McCloughan ignored a direct order to stay back and braved an enemy assault, moving into the kill zone on four more occasions to extract wounded comrades.

Bleeding extensively, McCloughan treated the wounded and prepared their evacuation to safety. Although the Americans were heavily outnumbered by NVA forces, he refused to evacuate and remained at the battle site with his fellow Soldiers, knowing they would need a medic.

May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol
May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol
May 13th Combat Assault and Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

May 14th

May 14th Patrol
May 14th Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

On May 14, 1st Platoon was ordered to move out toward Nui Yon Hill. The Platoon advanced to the initial trench line, and were approaching the second trench when they saw the enemy moving in the grass ahead of them. The Americans fired on the NVA while an airstrike was called on the enemy’s position. The platoon then received orders to continue forward, but they were ambushed. The medic from 1st Platoon was killed, leaving McCloughan as the sole medical specialist in the company. In the intense battle, McCloughan was wounded a second time by small arms fire and shrapnel from a RPG while rendering aid to two Soldiers in an open rice paddy.

In the final phases of the attack, two companies from the NVA and an element of 700 soldiers from a Viet Cong regiment descended upon Company C’s position on three sides. McCloughan, again with complete disregard for his life, went into the crossfire numerous times throughout the battle to extract wounded Soldiers, while also fighting the enemy. His relentless, courageous action inspired and motivated his comrades to fight for their survival. When supplies ran low, McCloughan volunteered to hold a blinking light in an open area as a marker for a nighttime resupply drop. He remained steadfast while bullets landed all around him and RPGs flew over his exposed body.

May 14th Patrol
May 14th Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

May 14th Patrol
May 14th Patrol

Tam Kỳ and Nui Yon Hill area

May 15th

During the morning darkness of May 15, McCloughan knocked out the RPG position with a grenade. He continued to fight and eliminate enemy soldiers. In addition, he treated numerous casualties, kept two critically wounded Soldiers alive during the night and organized the dead and wounded for evacuation at daylight. McCloughan is credited with saving the lives of ten members of his company.

196th Infantry Brigade "Chargers"

196th Infantry Brigade

196th Infantry Brigade

Read Unit History

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade "Chargers" served in the Republic of Vietnam from July 15, 1966, through June 29, 1972. The unit was first posted in the western portion of the Ill Corps Tactical Zone. It initiated Operation Attleboro into War Zone C, of Tay Ninh Province, which developed into a major action after a large enemy base camp was uncovered, Oct. 19, 1966.

In April 1967, the brigade was selected, along with the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, to form a provisional division-sized unit called Task Force Oregon, and the unit was moved to the I Corps Tactical Zone. The brigade stayed with this command, which was converted into the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal), on Sept. 25, 1967.

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade officially joined this division on Feb. 15, 1969. It operated throughout northern Vietnam. After the division closed out of Vietnam on Nov. 29, 1971, the 196th Light Infantry Brigade was reconstituted as a separate (provisional) brigade-sized element, and was responsible for safeguarding the same area of operations.

In April 1971, the brigade was relocated to Da Nang, for major port security duties. It finally departed Vietnam as the last U.S. Army combat brigade to leave in Increment XII of the U.S. Army withdrawal.

The brigade suffered 1,188 Soldiers killed in action, and 5,591 wounded in action, in Vietnam.

196th Infantry Brigade

196th Infantry Brigade

Read Unit History

Image of Landing Zone East before it was overrun by North Vietnamese Army Sappers, June 10, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Image of Landing Zone East before it was overrun by North Vietnamese Army Sappers, June 10, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Image of Landing Zone East after it was overrun by North Vietnamese Army Sappers, June 11, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Image of Landing Zone East after it was overrun by North Vietnamese Army Sappers, June 11, 1969. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

Image of Landing Zone East after it was overrun by North Vietnamese Army Sappers, June 10 (left) and June 11, 1969 (right). (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

James McCloughan marches in the 2015 Memorial Day Parade in South Haven, Mich. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)

James McCloughan marches in the 2015 Memorial Day Parade in South Haven, Mich. (Photo courtesy of Spc. 5 James McCloughan)