The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, PFC James Lee Blanton Jr., who died in the service of his country on May 13th, 1969 in Pleiku Province, Vietnam. The cause of death was listed as Small Arms (Sniper at forward Artillery position). At the time of his death James was 22 years of age. He was from Memphis, Tennessee. James is honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Panel 25W, Line 94.
The decorations earned by PFC James Lee Blanton Jr. include: the Combat Medical Badge, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation.
(From his Obituary)
Pfc. James L Blanton Jr. was killed in action in the Central Highlands of Vietnam Tuesday. He was the 166th Shelby Countian to die in the war. He was a 1965 graduate of Douglass High School and worked for the Illinois Central Railroad for two years before entering the service.
Mrs. Blanton said the last letter she received from her son was dated April 23 in which he asked that canned goods be mailed to him. She said he did not complain about having to serve in Vietnam but that, "He just wanted to see the war ended."
Mrs. Blanton said another son, Leon Blanton, who has been in Vietnam for seven months, is expected to escort her sons body home.
Pfc. Blanton also leaves six sisters and three other brothers.
KIA James L Blanton news story from front page of the May 22, 1969 Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper. (There is a large photo of Leon Blanton standing at his Brother's coffin.)
Brothers Fly Home In Loneliness
"Freight" is something that does not occupy a seat, does not decline or accept a drink, does not get on or off a plane under its own steam.
Leon Blanton was a passenger on a flight from Vietnam to Memphis yesterday. His brother was freight.
A line like that chokes when uttered,it seems hard, callous but Army PFC Leon Blanton said it when he talked about Army Pfc. James L. Blanton Jr. He said it and then he mumbled "freight" two more times to himself and then he turned his back as they unloaded the gray wooden coffin, held together by 227 silver staples, from the plane, which a man on a forklift called a "freighter".
"He was 22," said Private Blanton. "Two years older than me. He did not get drafted, he joined. I was in the field when they said he got it. Hed hardly been there a month.
"I never saw him".
James Blanton became the 166th Shelby Countian to die in the war when he was shot at Pleiku in the Central Highlands of Vietnam on May 13. He was killed in action. His brother does not know the circumstances.
"I didn't ask. I don't care. He is dead. He was killed. I have been there over seven months. I am an infantryman, a foot soldier. He was too. I got five months to go when I get back. Yeah, I think about him. Yeah, I think about him a lot but I don't want to."
The plane taxied up to the American Airlines freight terminal at 4:23 yesterday afternoon. The coffin was on the third igloo (a fiberglass ark on wheels. The plane carried 14 igloos, each packed with various items. There were 12 sacks of freight around the coffin).
Private Blanton had to wait for the unloading. No one was there to meet him. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. James L. Blanton of 2220 Chelsea, and other members of the family had been asked by the Army not to come to the airport. They could of come, but it is considered a brutal scene at such an emotional time.
So private Blanton waited alone for a hearse from J.O. Patterson Funeral Home.
He had a flag in a cardboard box. It was given to him when the plane left Oakland, Calif. He spread it over the coffin, covering the scribbling of the freight agents along the route.
Maj. Patrick Burke, a survival assistance officer from the Defense Depot Memphis, arrived and helped young Blanton put a band around the coffin to hold the flag in place.
This done, the private stepped back and looked for a moment. "I have 15 days here," he said, "Ill, well, I dont know what I will do. Forget, most likely."
The hearse arrived. The coffin was loaded. A funeral home attendant told Private Blanton funeral arrangements are incomplete.. He said the family would be waiting at the funeral home. The private swung into the front seat and did not look behind him. The funeral home employee got in beside him.
The hearse driver signed a "freight claim" ticket and they left.
Buried in the Memphis National Cemetery in Memphis, TN. Section H Site 5157.