James E. Lynch

NO. 17462  •  1 Apr 1928– 16 Aug 2003

Died in Oftersheim, Germany
Interred in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point, NY


James Edward Lynch was born in Peabody, MA, to William, who had served in both world wars, and Mary Lynch. Perhaps because of his father's background, Jim seemed to be preparing for West Point and Army life even before he entered elementary school. According to his older sisters, Marie and Eileen, Jim was often seen marching up and down their driveway wearing their father’s WWI Army cap with a toy rifle on his shoulder. As he advanced in school, studies came easily, leaving him time for athletics and other activities. During the summers, Jim worked for the local water department, where the engineer became his mentor.

During his senior year in high school, Jim went to Washington to see his congressman, George Bates, about an appointment to West Point. Jim attended Millard Prep School in Washington, DC, and entered West Point on 1 Jul 1946 with the Class of '50. Jim had no difficulty with academics and, in Plebe year, played hockey and sang in the Catholic choir. During Yearling year, he joined the weight lifting, camera, and German dubs and directed the Catholic choir. Jim continued his participation in cadet activities for the remaining two years, continued to excel in academics, graduated in the top fifth of the class, and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers.

During graduation leave, Jim and some other classmates toured London and Paris before their leaves were cut short to send them to Korea, where Jim was assigned as a platoon leader and, later, company commander with the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 24th Infantry Division. Jim served with great distinction for 20 months, having supported the division in several battles, for which he received two Bronze Stars, an Air Medal, and a Commendation Medal. Jim’s next assignments were at Ft. Belvoir, VA, as a company commander at the Leaders Course; the Engineer District in New England; Princeton University for a master's degree in civil engineering; aide to LTG Uncles, VII Corps commander; instructor of military science and tactics at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn; and aide to LTG Walter Wilson, Chief of Engineers. Attendance at Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth followed.

Jim’s next assignment was in Viet Nam in the construction division of the Military Assistance Command headquarters located in the Victoria Hotel in Saigon. On Jim’s 38th birthday, the headquarters was bombed, and Jim was injured and awarded the Purple Heart. For his work in that assignment, he was awarded his first Legion of Merit. During 1967-68, he served with an engineer support team for NASA and, in 1969, with an Engineer Base Development Team in Korea. On his second tour in Viet Nam, he commanded the 554th Engineer Construction Battalion, earning another Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. He was next assigned as a student at the Army War College. After graduation, he went to Viet Nam for the third time as a senior advisor to the Vietnamese. He served during 1971-75 at USAREUR Headquarters and, from 1975 until his retirement in 1980, was the commander of the Labor Service Command in Heidelberg, where he spent the rest of his life. Upon retirement, he was awarded his third Legion of Merit.

Although Jim retired from the Army in 1980 after 30 years of distinguished service, he continued to serve. For many years after retirement, Jim was a volunteer at the Heidelberg base hospital, where he assisted Army retirees in health matters. He coordinated hospital care for retirees and their families and for years was an active member of the retired community. In the early 1990s, Jim suffered a severe allergic reaction to prescribed medicine, resulting in six months in hospitals, including three at Walter Reed, followed by five years of medication. Upon regaining his health, he was asked by the Heidelberg hospital commander to be his representative on the consumer health committee. This position gave Jim a greater opportunity to serve retirees, and he used that position to advance their cause.

Jim brought life and enthusiasm to his work, and although he appeared quiet and unassuming, he had quite a sense of humor. In the Class of '50 40 Year Book, Jim reported that, because of his ancestry, he has been an Irish citizen since birth and had certain benefits due to his Irish passport, writing, "So now I sign myself Jim Lynch of Heidelberg, Germany, and Kilrush, Ireland." In the 50 Year Book, as a life long bachelor, Jim commented that, although most classmates were reporting about their grandchildren and maybe even great grandchildren, Jim noted, "I can report no runs, no hits, and no errors."

After an illness of a few days, Jim died in his sleep at his home. A memorial service was held for him on 28 Aug 2003 at the Nachrichten Kaserne chapel. The true measure of a man is how others regard him. COL Don Daniels, deputy commander for clinical services, said Jim "was an icon at the hospital. He was well liked by everyone, was present at every ceremony and event at the hospital. He especially liked to attend our soldier events. COL Lynch will be greatly missed." Another friend noted Jim’s devotion to his church and regular attendance at the local U.S. Army Mark Twain Village Catholic parish. Others who knew him were equally lavish in praise of Jim and counted him as a friend.

Jim, you are a true son of West Point. You have carried the banner of "Duty, Honor, Country" as nobly and as completely as any graduate. We will miss you dearly.

- Classmate Louis Genuario