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March 24, 2013

An Horry County native whose family history traces back to the beginnings of English settlements in this area, James Vaught also possesses one of the most distinguished military resumes among the many veterans in the area.

Vaught’s ancestors received a land grant of 8,000 acres from the King of England in 1683 to establish a salt works.

“The original land grant ran from the present Dunes Club area back through the Waterway Hills area,” Vaught said.

Vaught graduated from Conway High School in 1943 and attended the Citadel before being drafted into the U. S. Army. He received basic training and went to Officers Candidate School before shipping to Germany as part of the occupation force after World War II.

“I wound up with the Constabulary Headquarters as a traffic and demonstration aide to the commanding general in Germany,” he said. While in Germany, Vaught also worked for two officers who he would reconnect with several times during his 38-year army career -- Colonels Earl Wheeler and Creighton Abrams. Both Wheeler and Abrams went on to become four star generals and Chiefs of Staff of the Army. Wheeler also served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Vaught returned to the U.S. after 42 months in Germany, but only stayed a short time before being sent to Korea where he served as a company commander with the 24th Infantry Division during the Korean conflict. “We saw a lot of fighting,” he said. “The city of Seoul changed hands four times in nine months.”

After his tour in Korea, Vaught returned to the United States where he was in the career course at Fort Benning, Ga. He then attended Ranger school. After spending one year as an ROTC instructor, he was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, where, among other things, he witnessed an atomic bomb test.

After being promoted to major, Vaught returned to Korea for a 20-month tour of duty before being chosen for the Armed Forces Staff College. A tour to the Pentagon followed where he was attached to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then, on to the National War College.

Vaught was sent to Vietnam as the battalion commander of the 5th Battalion of the 7th Cavalry right in the middle of the Tet Offensive. His unit participated in considerable action, including driving to Hue to liberate the Marines who had been surrounded there.

“We were pretty much in the middle of it for four months,” said Vaught. “Other than that it was a quiet tour.”

Injured, when a 10-ton truck rolled over, Vaught returned to the U.S. in a body cast and spent the next six months in Walter Reed Medical Center. He was next assigned to the Pentagon before being called back to Vietnam by now General Abrams to serve as a Combat Development Liaison officer.

Vaught returned stateside as brigade commander of the 12th Support Brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C. Sixteen months later, he was promoted to Brigadier General and became the assistant division commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. He next commanded the 24th Infantry Division before going back to the Pentagon as Director of Operations and Mobilization for the Army.

During the Pentagon tour, Vaught was heavily involved in the attempt to rescue the U.S. Embassy hostages taken in Iran in 1979.

By now a Lieutenant General, Vaught served his final tour of duty back in Korea as commander of the combined U.S./Korea forces, a job in which he commanded a total of 350,000 troops, including 81 generals.

“I had a great opportunity to work with some of America’s best soldiers in two wars and one occupation,” Vaught said. “My goal throughout was to get the mission done and enable the soldiers to live another day.”

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March 24, 2013

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