James Howard Rumbaugh – Major General, United States Army

March 16, 1939 – March 8, 1989

From a contemporary news report:

“Army General James H. Rumbaugh, commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, died after making a parachute jump in the Honduras, the Pentagon has reported. He was 49 years old.  He died while being flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, from the U.S. military hospital at Soto Cano Air Base outside Comayugua, Honduras, a Pentagon spokesman said. Described in a Pentagon statement as an experienced parachutist, he participated in a jump from a helicopter on Tuesday morning while taking part in the annual Ahuas Tara 89 exercise in Honduras with a surgical team.

“He went about his normal duties immediately after the jump,” the Pentagon statement said. “But several hours later he sought medical attention for abdominal pains.” Defense Department officials who insisted on anonymity said physicians in Honduras discovered bleeding around his abdominal wall and recommended that he be flown to Brooke for further tests. “Preliminary information indicates that the General suffered cardiac arrest on the airplane and medical personnel were unable to resuscitate him,” the Pentagon said.

Born in Washington, Pennsylvania, he earned a Bachelors Degree at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylavania, and a Medical Degree at Thomas Jefferson University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He joined the Army in June 1963 and served an internsship and residency in psychiatry at Walter Reed. He was later assigned to a variety of psychiatry posts, and served in Vietnam with the 1st Air Cavalry Division. He also served as a surgeon of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1986 and Major General in October 1988, and served in 1985-86 as Deputy Commander of Walter Reed before being named Director of Professional Services for the Army Surgeon General. He took command of Walter Reed in August 1988.

He is surivived by his wife, Norma Jean, and four children, John, Kate, Nell and James.”

He is buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery, beneath a private memorial which reads:

“He did not simply exist in our world. He roared through it, carrying the rest of us in his vortex.”

During a visit to Arlington in February 1992, I noted a small plastic box resting against his memorial. A note was attached to the box which read:”General Rumbaugh:
For all the good times we had. Thanks for the memories. Now I get to give something back.”

(Signed) PFC Michael Alden, Third Relief, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” In the small box was a Tomb Guard's Badge.


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