by Gordon I Peterson
Capt Arthur H. Barber III, the commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk, VA., has forwarded a proposal to the Chief of Naval Operations Adm Jay L Johnson to name a modern enlisted barracks in honor of Aviation Ordinanceman 3rd Class James A. Wall. Wall, a highly decorated Seawolf aircrewman and door gunner, was killed in action on April 19, 1971, while serving with Detachment 8 at Rach Gia, Republic of Vietnam.
Barber, who assumed responsibility for the former naval air station earlier this year following the regional consolidation of Naval activities in Norfolk, said that it was a pleasure and honor to name the enlisted quarters after Wall. He learned of Wall’s heroism through a Memorial Day article about Wall published in the Navy League’s May 1999 issue of Seapower Magazine.
“I appreciate efforts to perpetuate the memory of this Navy hero and patriot,” Barber said, ” and I am glad that I came across the article right at the time that I was looking for ideas on how to name the enlisted barracks at the former Naval Air Station after that base’s merger into my base earlier this year.
The Navy is expected to make a formal decision on the naming proposal early in 2000 according to Michael Rhodes, the Naval Station’s Combined Bachelor Housing Director. Building “S-30” at the former Naval Air Station, a six story, transient quarters for 500 sailors, would be named “James A. Wall Manor” if the proposal were approved. Preliminary plans call for a formal dedication ceremony to be held on the 29th anniversary of Wall’s death.
Rhodes has been especially active in recent months in his efforts to satisfy all Navy requirements for the building dedication. Wall’s surviving family members have been consented with the naming proposal, and Wall’s heroism was documented with exerpts from the award citations he received for his multiple decorations, including a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross.
“This proposal is especially exciting to me, “Rhodes said recently. “This particular event will allow us to dedicate a building to a Navy hero who is survived by several family members.” If the Naval Station’s proposal is approved, the Navy will fund the travel and lodging expenses for two of Wall’s surviving next of kin to attend the dedication ceremony. In addition to a sister and daughter, his mother and two grandchildren survive Wall. All live close to Wall’s hometown of Atlanta, Texas.
Angela Wall Solley, Wall’s daughter, was thrilled by the prospect that a major facility at the Norfolk Naval Station would be named after her father. “I feel proud to be the daughter of a man who left such a lingering expression on everyone he met,” she said. ” I have much hope that this will be approved,” she added. “I think Dad would be a remarkable example for anyone to follow.”
Prior to his duty with Detachment 8, Wall was assigned to Detachment 2 at Nha Be. He was severely wounded during a combat mission there in October 1970. Prompt first aid by his fellow door gunner, Petty Officer Meeks, saved his life. Wall spent nearly two months recovering from his wounds before again volunteering to return to the Seawolves and the combat flight duty that ultimately claimed his life.
The Association is mounting an effort to locate as many of Wall’s squadron mates as possible from Detachment 2 and Detachment 8. All members are encouraged to pass the word along. If you can help in this process, or if you are interested in attending the ceremony, please contact Gordon Peterson at the following Navy League email address: firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (703)528-1775 ext 580.