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"I was there a year… and I never had a day go by when somebody didn’t shoot at me, for one reason or another." (Video interview, 23:45)

   James Verlin Kimsey
Collection image
James Kimsey at time of interview
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: 82nd Airborne Division
Service Location: Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Dominican Republic; Duc Pho, Vietnam; Fort Lewis, Washington
Rank: Major
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Despite a shaky academic start to his career--he was thrown out of a private high school for being “unruly and obstreperous ”--Army Major James Kimsey eventually received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which paved the way for a commission in the Army and an assignment as a company commander with the 82nd Airborne Division. His first taste of combat came when he was deployed to the Dominican Republic in 1965; he went on to serve two combat tours in Vietnam. First stationed near Duc Pho, he was an advisor to thousands of troops spread over a vast swath of countryside. Later, during his second tour, he was dispatched to different provinces around Vietnam to evaluate the effectiveness of the Phoenix program. After the war, he decided to trade Army life for the challenges of being a businessman--eventually going on to found such notable companies as America Online.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (62 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Attending Georgetown; deciding to apply to West Point; motivation not to fail; learning self-discipline. (03:34) Surprise of being accepted to airborne ranger training; enjoying ranger school and time in the Army; differences between being a West Point cadet and leading a platoon in the Army. (01:55) Deployed to the Dominican Republic; first experience with combat; never lost any men; leaving Fort Bragg on short notice; being the first company on the ground there; chaos of arrival. (07:15)
Arrival in Vietnam; receiving assignment to a local district; seeing action right away. (01:49) Attempting to establish an orphanage for Vietnamese orphans in Duc Pho; advocating for it to be located in Duc Pho instead of elsewhere; meeting resistance; orphanage finally built; bringing Vietnamese nuns to work there. (05:30) Responsibilities during first and second tours; different views of the war; changes over the course of the war; living with the people during first tour; learning a bit of Vietnamese; enjoying being in the Army but deciding to leave after eight years. (06:16)
Getting out of the Army; no idea what to do for a career; looking at buying real estate; eventually buying a bar; establishing first bar in the world with NYSE ticker inside it. (05:26)  

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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