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James H. Brodt

James H. Brodt

No. 19785 • 4 Jun 1932 – 29 May 1963

Died: Killed in action near Gi Lang, Viet Nam
Buried: Interred in Memorial Gardens, Rockledge, FL

JAMES HENRY BRODT was born and raised in Blue Earth, MN, the third child, but only son, of Chester and Sybil Brodt. Jim’s personality and leadership were apparent as a student at Blue Earth High School. He was elected president of his class his senior year, played on the football and baseball teams, and participated each year in the class play. Jim received an award from the American Legion honoring his courage, character, service, companionship, and scholarship.

After surviving Beast Barracks, Jim was assigned to Company H-2. We remember Jim for the twinkle in his eye, his ready smile, and easy-going disposition; he was fun to be around. But, beneath all this, there was a serious side. Jim was serious about his training at West Point and did well enough in academics to select Armor, his branch of choice. In addition, Jim’s ranking in leadership led to his selection as a corporal his Cow year and supply sergeant in his First Class year. He also was the company representative on the Class Ring Committee.

After Basic Officer Training at the Armor School at Ft. Knox and Airborne Training at Ft. Benning, his first assignment was with the 82d Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC, as a platoon leader with the 44th Tank Battalion. During the summer of 1955, he renewed a relationship with Leason Chance Bovard of Cocoa, FL, who had been a bridesmaid in a wedding where Jim was best man. Never one to let a pretty girl go unnoticed, Jim tucked her into his memory bank for future reference. After she visited Ft. Bragg, Jim was immediately smitten with her charms, and they were married in Cocoa, FL, in 1956. Classmate Bill Acers, serving with Jim in the 44th Tank Battalion at the time, was best man.

In the fall of 1956, Jim and Leason moved to Ft. Carson, CO, to join the 8th Infantry Division, which was being transferred to Germany under Operation Gyroscope, a division rotation overseas. Jim was assigned to the Division Reconnaissance Squadron in Nurnberg, and there twin daughters Leslie Ann and Catherine Croix were born. Jim then decided to resign his commission, and in late 1957, he and his family settled in Cocoa, FL. Jim soon became dissatisfied with civilian life, however, and longed to return to the colors.

Upon being re-commissioned, he attended the University of Michigan and earned his master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1962. By that time, the advisory part of the Viet Nam War was heating up, and Jim volunteered for service with Special Forces. Jim’s letter, in which he volunteered for service in Viet Nam, is typical of his patriotism. In it, he states, “I returned to active duty to serve my country.”

Jim got his wish. As a captain, he was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa, which sent A teams, one of which Jim commanded, to Viet Nam for six-month TDY tours. Jim’s team was in Quang Ngai province in the Central Highlands of the Republic of Viet Nam, working with the Vietnamese to build their presence in the area. Jim plunged into the job with his usual enthusiasm and gusto. Not only were the Vietnamese he was advising fighting the Communist Viet Cong (who were often as much terrorists as soldiers), but they also were improving the lives of the highland tribesmen, Montagnards. Four months before his death, Jim wrote home, “I’m proud to be here and participating, even though it’s a minor role. Last week, the Viet Cong overran one of our outposts and burned a village about two miles away. They’re a ruthless bunch of killers, to say the least …. It’s gratifying to be able to help these people, to see their progress … I’m real proud of my team here.” During this assignment, Jim met his death on 29 May 1963. Jim had been scheduled to come home a few weeks earlier but missed field duty due to minor medical problems. He returned to his team to complete the six-month TDY assignment. This was typical of Jim: patriotism and dedication to duty.

Jim’s team was ambushed by the Viet Cong during a patrol in the last weeks of his tour. The details of the ambush are somewhat vague, but from what can be pieced together, Jim’s radio operator was wounded during the ambush. Jim returned to rescue him from the killing zone and, in doing so, was killed himself. Jim’s selflessness and courage were in keeping with the finest traditions of West Point and make us all proud to have been his friend.

Jim’s funeral was in Cocoa, FL, his adopted home during his brief stint as a civilian. He is buried in nearby Memorial Gardens, Rockledge, FL. The city of Cocoa has fond memories of him, and his name is engraved on a monument honoring the members of the community who gave their lives in our nation’s wars. A Special Forces Camp in Viet Nam was named Camp Brodt in Jim’s honor, and his class ring was returned to West Point by his widow for display in the Cadet Library. Jim’s widow later remarried COL Perry Huey, USAF. Sadly, she developed Alzheimer’s disease and died. She is buried next to Jim at Memorial Gardens.

Jim was one of the first of our classmates to die in Viet Nam, a war that now seems so long ago and far away. He died for a cause he believed in, and we remember him for his dedication and patriotism, for the twinkle in his eye, and for the good times we shared. I remember him with the following verse:

Green grows the turf above you
Friend of our happier days
None knew you but to love you
Nor spoke of you but to praise.  

Doug Stuart, along with
Yale and Phil Weatherby

Originally published in JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2007 TAPS.

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