James P. Bryant was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1930 and he grew up there, attending St. Pauls Grammar School and Snyder High School. As a fifteen year-old in high school, he worked for about a year as an usher in the Bergen Theatre in Jersey City. Leaving school early, as soon as he turned seventeen he enlisted in the Army. He later went into the service, to avoid a dead end situation in a bad section of Jersey, and he was determined to take control of his own future.
He entered active duty November 3, 1947 in New York, NY, did his 13 weeks of Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then was sent to the Transportation School at Fort Eustis, Virginia where he successfully completed the eight week course qualifying him as a Marine Oiler (in anticipation of being assigned aboard an Army ship). However, he was classified as an Infantryman and shipped to Korea.
Arriving in the spring of 1948, Pvt. Bryant was assigned to the Mortar Section of Company D, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division at Uijeongbu, north of Seoul and near the 38th Parallel. This was during the Post-WWII Occupation and security duty was a primary mission. Jim remembers trading cigarettes with Russian troops that were pulling guard duty on their side of the line. Later, during this first assignment in Korea, Jim was selected to be in the special unit that provided security for South Korean President, Syngman Rhee. This unit was provided really good quarters in Seoul and they lived exceptionally well, they were even provided special handling for their uniforms. But, after a few months the presidential guard function was turned over to the Koreans (ROK) and Jim was given the choice of returning to his unit in the 7th Infantry Division, that had been relocated to Japan at that time, or assignment to a reactivated unit in Hawaii. He chose to go to Hawaii.
His new unit was Company D, 5th Infantry Regiment. The 5th Infantry also had an Artillery Battalion (555th FA), an Engineer Company (72nd), and a Tank Company, rounding out its organization as a Regimental Combat Team (5th RCT). While there, Jim was selected for the four week Leaders Course and following graduation he was promoted to Corporal. Hawaii was a special assignment and he has snapshots in his photo album from Christmas in 1949.
Jim was aboard ship with his unit anticipating transfer to the Philippines. While on board, the Combat Team learned about the Communist invasion of South Korea and was immediately diverted to Korea; and with shells dropping in the harbor, the Team landed at the Pusan pocket in late July 1950. The 5th Regimental Combat Team was part of the United Nations successful effort to stem the Communist invasion and, through such battles as Bloody Gulch and the taking of Sobuk-san, recaptured much of Korea by October 1950. As they moved north, Jim recalls, taking a bath in the central fountain of Pyongyang, presently the capital of North Korea. After months of combat, the Combat Team was to be transferred out of theatre for rest and refitting.
Jim was in a jeep at the head of a convoy heading for an eastern port for transfer to Japan. As the convoy moved through what was thought to be secure territory, his lead jeep was hit by a multitude of bullets designed to stop the convoy. After hitting the ground and, while collecting himself, he located Battered Bastard his trusty carbine. Jim began firing on the Chinese Communist Force (CCF) infiltrators as they proceeded to attack succeeding vehicles. When his fire caught their attention, he realized additional trouble was coming his way when Communist heads began to turn in his direction. His fire and the defensive fire of the convoy started to save lives by driving off the CCF soldiers; but as they retreated to cover, a rifle bullet hit Jims left arm, breaking his humerus, followed by a small caliber bullet hitting his left hand. Jim remembers to this day that the CCF soldiers were wearing brand new two-toned blue uniforms.
A Captain found (then) Sergeant Bryant still alive, although the jeeps driver and Jims radio porter, a young Korean of about 14 years, had been killed in the initial attack. As the Captain was helping Jim back to an aid station, both men were fired on by the CCF, with the Captain being hit twice in the calf.
Jim was shuttled south from one aid station to another until he was flown to Tokyo General Hospital. There a visiting Florida Congressman presented him the Purple Heart. Also while at a field hospital Jim had heard that he had been recommended for the bronze star with V device (for valor), as his action at the convoy ambush had saved lives. However, the Captain received a silver star while Jims bronze star recommendation has been lost in time. However, when he arrived at Valley Forge Hospital he was told his rank was raised and he was now a Sergeant First Class.
Jim spent 13 months trying to rehabilitate his left arm in the Army Hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Discharged from the US Army in December 1951 with a nearly useless left arm, it took him several years to regain some reasonable use of the limb.
As a new civilian, Jim took advantage of the GI Bill, one of the most successful Federal laws, and returned to school. Graduating with a degree in accounting from Rutgers University (Class of 1960), he continued his schooling by studying tax law. His schooling and abilities earned him the eventual position of First Vice President and Director of Corporate Taxes for JC Penney. After JC Penney transferred its corporate headquarters to Plano, Texas, Jim, as a registered lobbyist, visited Austin often on tax legislation. Liking the area, as many do, Jim chose to settle in the Lakeway-Bee Cave area when he retired in 1993.
Jim and his life partner Gloria celebrated 57 years of marriage this past June. They look forward to visits with their daughter Mary, son-in-law Theodore and grandson Benjamin Shrader of Lakeway. This month, Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot James P. Bryant.