By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), will be the keynote speaker at the South Carolina Military and Naval Society’s quarterly dinner in Columbia, next month.
Livingston, who retired from the Marine Corps in 1995 after more than 33 years of distinguished service, is a recipient of the MEDAL OF HONOR, the nation’s highest award for combat valor. He was presented the award, May 14, 1970, by then-Pres. Richard M. Nixon for his actions during the Battle of Dai Do, Vietnam on May 2, 1968.
According to Livingston’s citation: “[While commanding Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines], then-Capt. Livingston maneuvered his men to assault positions across 500 meters of dangerous open rice paddy while under intense enemy fire. Ignoring hostile rounds impacting near him, he fearlessly led his men in a savage assault against enemy emplacements within the village.”
Throughout the attack, Livingston moved to the points of heaviest fighting, rallying his men and shouting words of encouragement all the while calling and adjusting supporting-arms fire. He was twice wounded by exploding grenades, but continued leading the attack against 100 mutually supporting bunkers manned by fiercely resisting North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars. As Livingston’s Marines stormed the enemy’s works, the fighting devolved into a grisly slugfest with the Marines either killing the enemy in close-quarters fighting or driving them from their positions.
Later, as Livingston’s leathernecks were regrouping and evacuating the dead and wounded, he learned of another advancing Marine rifle company about to be overwhelmed by a counterattacking NVA battalion.
“Swiftly assessing the situation and disregarding the heavy volume of enemy fire, Capt. Livingston boldly maneuvered the remaining effective men of his company forward, joined forces with the heavily engaged Marines, and halted the enemy’s counterattack,” his citation continues. “Wounded a third time and unable to walk, he steadfastly remained in a dangerously exposed area, deploying his men to more tenable positions and supervising the evacuation of casualties.”
Livingston held several command and leadership positions prior to the Vietnam War, including that of rifle-platoon commander, intelligence officer, Marine recruit-depot series commander, and shipboard Marine detachment commander. Following the war, he held myriad commands including (among others) command of the 6th Marine Regiment. This was followed by command of the Marine Air Ground Combat Center, 29 Palms, CA, where he developed the Desert Warfare Training Program. He then commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and ultimately the 4th Marine Division. He retired as commanding general of Marine Forces Reserve.
A Georgia native, Livingston, 77, today lives in Mt. Pleasant. He is one of three living-recipients of the Medal of Honor who call South Carolina home, including retired U.S. Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, 27 (the youngest living recipient in the nation), and retired U.S. Navy SEAL Lieutenant Mike Thornton, 68 (who today lives in Texas).
The 160-plus member South Carolina Military and Naval Society was founded in the late 1990’s. The society’s quarterly meeting and dinner is scheduled for Monday, May 15, at the Heath Building, S.C. State Fairgrounds in Columbia. The dinner will be held one day following the 47th anniversary of Livingston’s Medal of Honor presentation, and 49 years to the month after the Battle of Dai Do.
– For more information, please visit http://www.cmohs.org