McCloughan spent his childhood in Bangor, Michigan, where his parents moved to take over a family farm. It was there that he found his passion for sports and music. The consummate athlete, McCloughan was a four-sport varsity athlete at Bangor High School and went on to wrestle, play football and baseball at Olivet College. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a teaching certificate in 1968, McCloughan accepted a teaching and coaching position with South Haven Public Schools in Michigan. Three months later, McCloughan was drafted into the Army at the age of 22.
McCloughan reported to basic training in September 1968 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His training in athletics and coaching gave him a foundational knowledge of sports medicine, and his leaders took notice. Two months after arriving at basic training, he was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to complete advanced training as a medical specialist. On his last day of training, McCloughan received deployment orders to Vietnam. He was assigned as a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. His Vietnam tour was from March 1969 to March 1970.
The company air assaulted into an area near Tam Ky and Nui Yon Hill. On 13 May, with complete disregard for his life, he ran 100 meters in an open field through heavy fire to rescue a comrade too injured to move and carried him to safety. That same day, 2nd Platoon was ordered to search the area near Nui Yon Hill when the platoon was ambushed by a large North Vietnamese Army force and sustained heavy casualties. With complete disregard for his life and personal safety, Private First Class McCloughan led two Americans into the safety of a trench while being wounded by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade. He ignored a direct order to stay back, and braved an enemy assault while moving into the “kill zone” on four more occasions to extract wounded comrades. He treated the injured, prepared the evacuation, and though bleeding heavily from shrapnel wounds on his head and entire body, refused evacuation to safety in order to remain at the battle site with his fellow soldiers who were heavily outnumbered by the North Vietnamese Army forces.
On 14 May, the platoon was again ordered to move out towards Nui Yon Hill. Private First Class McCloughan was wounded a second time by small arms fire and shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade while rendering aid to two soldiers in an open rice paddy. In the final phases of the attack, two companies from 2nd North Vietnamese Army Division and an element of 700 soldiers from a Viet Cong regiment descended upon Charlie Company’s position on three sides. Private First Class McCloughan, again with complete disregard for his life, went into the crossfire numerous times throughout the battle to extract the wounded soldiers, while also fighting the enemy. His relentless and courageous actions inspired and motivated his comrades to fight for their survival. When supplies ran low, Private First Class McCloughan volunteered to hold a blinking strobe light in an open area as a marker for a nighttime re-supply drop. He remained steadfast while bullets landed all around him and rocket-propelled grenades flew over his prone, exposed body. During the morning darkness of 15 May, Private First Class McCloughan knocked out a rocket-propelled grenade position with a grenade, fought and eliminated enemy soldiers, treated numerous casualties, kept two critically-wounded soldiers alive through the night, and organized the dead and wounded for evacuation at daylight. His timely and courageous actions were instrumental in saving the lives of his fellow soldiers. Private First Class McCloughan’s personal heroism, professional competence, and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Americal Division, and the United States Army.
We honor you, James McCloughan.