SP4 James Patrick Barrios

Lemoore, CA

12 January 1969

After joining the Army, James was sent to Vietnam in June of 1968. He was attached to a small infantry Unit with the Ninth Infantry Division and assigned to D Company, 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry. 6⁄31st was part of the Mobile Riverine Force – a joint venturebetween the Army and Navy to patrol the numerous rivers and canals in the Mekong Delta area just south of Saigon.

The Ninth Infantry was tasked with securing the southern access to Saigon and for years had been a ‘hotbed’ for enemy infiltration. Troops would alternate between being inserted by small Navy boats and helicopters. Search and destroy missions were being done daily by the various units and contact was almost a certainty.

On January 11th, SP4 Barrios was inserted into the field for another typical day. He had just turned 21 two weeks previously and was a seasoned combat infantryman. Men there that day remember how quiet and smooth the day went…an eerie feeling amongst all of them. They had very little contact throughout the day and settled in for the night in the field, expecting to be picked up early the next morning by their replacements.

For some, daylight would never come. At 2:30 in the morning, all hell broke loose. Jim’s platoon was attacked by a large force of NVA with a barrage of machine gun fire and grenade launchers. Two men died immediately. The US soldiers fought back but theattack was relentless. By 3:15AM, they were able to get some air support into the area to help being overrun and at least one helicopter was shot down. James consistently continued to kill the enemy and helped bring wounded and dead soldiers back to safety when he too, was hit, and died. The battle continued until 5:30 when the enemy retreated at first daylight. The count was worse than they had thought: 10 men killed, 23 wounded from D Company, including their Medic.

Although there were many stories of heroism that night, SP4 James Barrios and SP4 Calvin Robinson were posthumously awarded the Army’s Distinguished Service Cross medal – an award that is the second highest for combat efforts next to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Editors note: Of the 2-1⁄2 years that 6⁄31 was in Vietnam, the morning of Jan. 12, 1969 was the bloodiest battle while they were there. This day resulted in more losses than any other single day during their tenure. Throughout their time in Vietnam, 6⁄31 received a total of only 8 DSC awards, and these were the only 2 earned during all of 1969 for the Unit.

James Patrick Barrios was a member of the Tachi Yokut Indian Tribe and is buried in their Tribal Cemetery at the Santa Rosa Rancheria, near the city of Lemoore, Calif. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC on Panel 35W, line 74.

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