1st African-American U.S. Marine Medal of Honor Recipient, PFC James Anderson, Jr., U.S. Marines (1947-1967)

article top
PFC James Anderson, Jr. Medal of Honor, Vietnam, U.S.Marines

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  James Anderson, Jr.  was born in Los Angeles, California on January 22, 1947.  He graduated  from  high school and spent a year and a half at the Los Angeles Harbor Junior College.

Anderson left college early in 1966 and joined the Marine Corps in February 1966. He was sent to recruit training at the 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California.


When he finished his recruit training he was promoted to private first class.  In August 1966, he was assigned to Camp Pendleton, California where he received further training with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Training Regiment.

In December 1966, Private Anderson arrived in the Republic of Vietnam, where he served as a rifleman with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd Marine Division in Quang Tri Province. On February 28, 1967 he was mortally wounded.

A complete list of his medals and decorations includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one bronze star, the Vietnamese Military Merit Medal, the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a rifleman, Second Platoon, Company F, Second Battalion, Third Marines, Third Marine Division, in Vietnam on 28 February 1967. Company F was advancing in dense jungle northwest of Cam Lo in an effort to extract a heavily besieged reconnaissance patrol. Private First Class Anderson’s platoon was the lead element and had advanced only about 200 meters when they were brought under extremely intense enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. The platoon reacted swiftly, getting on line as best they could in the thick terrain, and began returning fire. Private First Class Anderson found himself tightly bunched together with the other members of the platoon only 20 meters from the enemy positions. As the fire fight continued several of the men were wounded by the deadly enemy assault. Suddenly, an enemy grenade landed in the midst of the Marines and rolled alongside Private First Class Anderson’s head. Unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, he reached out, grasped the grenade, pulled it to his chest and curled around it as it went off. Although several Marines received shrapnel from the grenade, his body absorbed the major force of the explosion. In this singularly heroic act, Private First Class Anderson saved his comrades from serious injury and possible death. His personal heroism, extraordinary valor, and inspirational supreme self-sacrifice reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


Private First Class James Anderson, Jr. is buried at the Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.  His grave is located at Plot: L-6.


The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external.  Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.





  1. When I visited the Hall Of Honor Museum on The Carrier Yorktown in 1999, I was quite taken by the Anderson tribute. He's up there with Audie Murphy, Sergeant York and many other heroes. I never served in Nam but was in the Army at the time. When I think of how some of the guys were treated when they came home–I get depressd–then I think of Anderson
    and his sacrifice and get angry at the goof balls who could never understand such sacrifice.
    Don Haines
    Woodbine, Md.

  2. I belong to an organization of former Marines that served with PFC Anderson in Viet Nam. Military records indicate he was from Compton CA. The goal of our group (2d Battalion, 3rd Marines, 3rd MarDiv; Viet Nam Era) is to have his hometown acknowledge Anderson's bravery and sacrifice. We have sent two letters to the mayor of Compton but have not received a reply. An email was sent to the new mayor last week so we will wait and see. There is a park dedicated to him in a neighboring city but we feel something bigger is worthy of this hero from Compton. We have patience and will follow through in our quest to have Anderson remembered.

Comments are closed.