A Brilliant Career

General James Lindsay, a luminary in the U.S. military with a career spanning nearly four decades, has passed away at the age of 90 in Vass, North Carolina. With an illustrious history that included commanding the U.S. Special Operations Command, 18th Airborne Corps, and the 82nd Airborne Division, his natural death was announced on Saturday night by the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Liberty.

“Last night, we lost a giant among leaders, Gen. Jim Lindsay. The Nation, the Airborne and Special Operations Forces owe him an enormous debt for his leadership, influence, and mentorship,”

stated Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Liberty, on Sunday.

Native Wisconsinite

Hailing from Portage, Wisconsin, Lindsay began his journey in the U.S. Army in 1952, first as a private and then as an infantry officer, after graduating from Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning in 1953. His military path led him from a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division to the first commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Lindsay’s motivations for joining the military were pragmatic. In a 1986 interview, he said, “I joined the Army after running out of money at the University of Wisconsin, thinking I’d come back on the GI Bill. But 34 years later, I’m still here.”

His career featured various significant postings, including the since-deactivated 77th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, where he married his wife Geraldine and raised four children.

Nominated By President Reagan

As a Major General, Lindsay interacted with Vice President George Bush during his visit to Fort Bragg in 1982. In 1988, President Reagan nominated him to helm the then-newly created U.S. Special Operations Command, where he showcased his leadership by integrating elite Army, Air Force, and Navy units into a unified force.

Described by The Capital Times as “tall, silver-haired, impeccably uniformed,” Lindsay was also known for his physical prowess, winning medals in the triathlon and completing 10 marathons.

Lindsay in the field
General Lindsay, right, chomping a cigar, instructs a young lieutenant on the finer point of map reading at Fort Bragg, NC. Image courtesy of The Fayetteville Observer.

His retirement in 1990 didn’t mark the end of his contributions.

Lindsay’s military career was adorned with numerous awards, including four Bronze Stars, four Silver Stars, two Distinguished Service Medals, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

His heroic acts in Vietnam were detailed in the citation for the Distinguished Service Cross, where his “exceptionally valorous” leadership led to the destruction of three main Viet Cong and North Vietnamese battalions in the Plain of Reeds.

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Off the battlefield, Lindsay’s legacy includes his tireless work to establish the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His dedication to the museum and his efforts in bridging the military-civilian divide in the community earned him Fayetteville’s inaugural Hometown Hero Award in 2018.

In a heartfelt tribute, Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said, “Gen. Lindsay was the epitome of a Paratrooper, a leader, and a noble human being. His 38-year-long journey of service has left an indelible mark on us. He will be profoundly missed. Our hearts and condolences go out to the Lindsay family and friends as they grieve the loss of this remarkable American.”