James Morris Gridley
Major, United States Army
of his classmates
United States Military Academy Class of 1946
James Morris Gridley
James M. Gridley ---- classmate, husband, friend, but above all, soldier-departed this world Tuesday afternoon 7 February at Walter Reed General, Hospital after a valiant struggle against the ravages of acute leukemia. As the first notes of Taps sounded across Arlington Cemetery the "long line stiffened and straightened..." with the realization that one of its foremost members had become a cherished memory. Memory? Perhaps, but to those who knew him well there are more than just memories.
From his entry into this world on 14 September 1924 until his departure 37 years later Jim lived, worked, and played his many roles with all his heart and all his might.
Born in Oklahoma City, the son of then Lieutenant Cecil J. Gridley and his wife Maysie, he had one older brother John, a younger brother Bob, and a little sister Ellen. Jim always aspired to follow the military heritage of his father and spent his youth as an "Army brat," following his father to distant camps and stations from China to Washington. He realized one of his most important ambitions when he entered West Point with the Class of 1946. The years -which were filled with learning and service were climaxed by his graduation as an Infantry lieutenant and his marriage to Natalie, the lovely daughter of the USMA Adjutant General, Colonel Leland S. Smith.
It is interesting to note now what his roommates wrote of him in his HOWITZER biography: "The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce could not find a stauncher supporter than Jim, -whose unswerving loyalty to the Sooner state is only, surpassed by his craving for boodle. Always full of fun and with a cheerful word for everybody, his carefree exterior could not conceal a deep-seated devotion to duty; and with these added to his natural athletic ability and persevering ways, the Army cannot fail to get a fine officer. We shall always remember Jim as a good wife, a faithful friend, and above all a soldier's soldier."
Now with his shining gold bars pinned to his shoulders, his roles of husband, father, and Army officer streamed together. Natalie and Jim started their journeys at Fort Benning and thence to Japan, Fort Riley and back to Benning where he graduated first in his class from the Army Ranger School. They then attended the Infantry Officers' Advanced Course prior to Jim's entering combat in Korea. By this time they had three children, Sharen, Myra, and James Bartell (Bart).
In battle Jim displayed the bravery, courage and stamina which were to be shown in a different way during the last months of his life. His outstanding, military achievements were acknowledged by formal decorations by both the Belgian and United States governments. Some of us well remember his highly skilled and tireless efforts as operations officer of the 7th Regiment of the 3d Infantry Division.
After the armistice, Natalie and children joined
Jim in Okinawa, where they spent a wonderful year before returning to the
PMS&T office at Gettysburg College, Pa. It was while Jim was here that
the Army finally gave full recognition to him by selecting him for early
promotion to major on the "truly outstanding'' list. It was a happy day
when after being on this list a year, he pinned on the oak leaves in June
1958, just before finishing C&GSC at Fort Leavenworth. Jim's last troop
assignment was at Fort Lewis, Wash., with the 1st Battle Group of the 8th
Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. He was operations officer
once more. While on a corps maneuver at Yakima Firing Center, he was informed
he had been selected to attend the University of Southern California for
two years to acquire his Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering
(missiles). Between classes Jim acted as chief cook and bottle washer while
Natalie "moonlighted" by working as a teller in a bank. It almost seemed
that fate was preparing them for their tragedy. After graduating with honors,
Jim packed up his family and spent an entire month
Jim had barely reported for duty at Arlington Hall in Washington, D. C., when he went over to the Pentagon for his regular annual physical examination -- and here began his last but epic struggle. Despite the final nature of acute leukemia, Jim never lost his faith that he could conquer even this disease. To help medical research, he agreed to take experimental drugs which aggravated the pain and accentuated the damage to other body organs. All this Jim bore with a smile on his face and remained a pillar of strength and thoughtfulness to his family.
Jim's philosophy toward the end might well
be considered by those of us remaining. He said he had no regrets, no bitterness
and only thankfulness that God had given him a full and happy life and
had allowed him to provide for his family so that they would have no material
want. And if Jim could add a few words to those we say in tribute, they
might echo to Natalie, his family, and his friends the refrain of the song
"You'll never walk alone-."
Posted: 10 February 2001 Updated: 4 December 2001 Updated: 5 March 2003 Updated: 12 September 2006