James Patrick McWilliams Jr., 72, a highly decorated Marine Corps Colonel who became an authority on southern Africa, died December 16, 2007, at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had cancer.
Colonel McWilliams spent 30 years in the Marine Corps before retiring in 1987 from the Pentagon, where he formulated crisis scenarios for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He trained at U.S. and British military schools and in specialized services, including the Army Rangers, the Navy SEALs and the Royal Marines.
Early in his career, he served two tours of duty in Vietnam, first as an adviser to Vietnamese marines and then as a battalion operations officer.
In 1969, Colonel McWilliams received the Silver Star for his defense of a landing zone near Tam Boi in Vietnam's Quang Tri province. He exposed himself to constant enemy fire as he developed a plan that provided maximum cover for his men during their evacuation.
His Silver Star citation said his actions were “instrumental in the North Vietnamese Army's loss of forty-two soldiers killed and numerous others wounded with only minimal Marine casualties.”
Colonel McWilliams's later assignments included a stint as an aide to Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., who was then chief of naval operations.
Colonel McWilliams's decorations included the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, three awards of the Bronze Star with combat “V,” the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Colonel McWilliams was born in Philadelphia, where he graduated from LaSalle University in 1957.
In 1972, he received a master's degree in foreign affairs from Villanova University. In 1989, he received a jointly conferred doctorate in African affairs from Howard University and Rand Afrikaans University, now the University of Johannesburg.
He was fluent in French and Swahili and spent a year after his military retirement traveling in South Africa and Namibia and interviewing political and tribal leaders.
Colonel McWilliams wrote a book, “Armscor, South Africa's Arms Merchant” (1989), and wrote reports for government agencies about his work in Africa.
He settled in the Washington area in 1976 and split his time among three Virginia communities: McLean, Boston and Catharpin.
He was a former president of the American Red Cross in Culpeper County and was a former chairman of the county's Republican Party. He was a Culpeper County magistrate and a member of the Rotary Club.
His marriage to Jane Stein McWilliams ended in divorce. His second wife, Maureen DeMot, whom he married in 1997, died in a car accident in 2000.
Survivors include his wife of seven years, Karen Hayes McWilliams; five children from his first marriage, Coleen J. Haun of Knoxville, Tennessee, and James P. McWilliams III, Mark G. McWilliams, Derek T. McWilliams and Deirdre M. Edmiston, all of Charlotte; a stepdaughter, Charlotte A. Hayes of Arlington; a brother; two sisters; and eight grandchildren.
MCWILLIAMS Col. JAMES P. McWILLIAMS (Age 72) USMC, (Ret.), Ph.D. Highly Decorated Combat Veteran and Authority on South Africa Died of cancer at Fairfax Hospital on December 16, 2007.
Colonel McWilliams, a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a graduate of La Salle College High School where he was an outstanding athlete. He was named to the All City, All Catholic, and All State teams in football and lettered in baseball and track. He was a graduate of LaSalle University, B.S., Villanova University, M.A. and Howard University/Rand Afrikaans University, South Africa, Ph.D.
Colonel McWilliams served two tours of duty in Vietnam. During his first tour of duty he was an advisor to the Vietnamese Marines which were formerly the Vietnam commandos when Indo-China was under French Colonial rule. He served as the Operations Officer for the First Battalion, Ninth Marines, Third Marine Division during his second tour of duty.
During his distinguished 30 year career in the Marine Corps he earned 29 military decorations which included the Silver Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, two Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars with Combat “V”, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal and three Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses.
He served as a test paratrooper with the Airborne and Electronics Board, and qualified as a Navy Hard Hat Diver. He trained with the SEALS/Underwater Demolition Team, Special Forces, the Royal Marine Commandos, United Kingdom, British Special Air Services and the USMC Force Reconnaissance units. He attended the U.S. Army Ranger School, Royal Marine Commando School (Honor Graduate), U.S. Army Special forces Warfare School (top graduate),Norwegian Army Ski School, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the U.S. Naval War College (distinguished graduate).
Colonel McWilliams, who was fluent in French and Swahili, was a politico-military scenario writer for the Joint Chiefs of' Staff, the Pentagon.
Colonel McWilliams an authority on South Africa and Namibia traveled throughout South Africa interviewing statesmen, politicians, and black leaders. He was the author of books and reports on South Africa which have been utilized extensively by government officials.
Upon learning of his death, Lieutenant General William Keys, USMC (Retired) stated the following: “Colonel James P. “Jim” McWilliams was an exemplary Marine of the old school. He was hard, tough, but fair and above all loyal. His heroic combat record and splendid overall Marine Corps career was storybook. He was admired and respected by Marines of all ranks. Without question he will be counted as among the very best to have ever worn the Marine Corps uniform.”
Upon retirement, Colonel McWilliams maintained two farms in Boston, Virginia on the Culpeper/Rappahannock border, as well as homes in Catharpin and McLean, Virginia.. He was the former President of the American Red Cross in Culpeper County, Chairman of the Republican Party in Culpeper County, a member of Rotary Club and served as a Magistrate in Culpeper County. He was a friend to the Middleburg Methodist Church, MiddIeburg, Virginia and to St. John's the Beloved Catholic Church of McLean.
His marriage to Jane Stein of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ended in divorce and his second wife, Dr. Maureen DeMot of Johannesburg. South Africa died in 2000. Survivors include his wife, Dr. Karen Hayes McWilliams; three sons, James Patrick McWilliams, Ill, Mark Gregory McWilliams and Derek Thomas McWilliams; daughters, Coleen Jane Haun and Deirdre Marie Edmiston; step-daughter, Charlotte Ann Hayes, eight grandchildren, a brother and two sisters.
He will be buried with Full Military Honors at Arlington National Cemetery on February 20, 20O8 at 10:45 a.m.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard