James Lindsay was born in 1932 in Portage, Wisconsin. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 12, 1952, and was commissioned through Infantry Officer Candidate School on May 20, 1953. Lindsay served as a Military Intelligence Officer early in his career and he served with the 82nd Airborne Division before being assigned to the Military Advisory Assistance Group in the Republic of Vietnam from March 1964 to January 1965. He served a second tour of duty in Vietnam from February 1968 to April 1969, during which time he commanded the 2nd Battalion 60th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. General Lindsay's third tour in Southeast Asia was from July 1971 to May 1973, where he served in Thailand. His next assignment was with the 82nd Airborne Division from May 1973 to June 1977, where he served as a Brigade Commander, then Chief of Staff, and later as Assistant Division Commander. In June 1977, Lindsay became Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then in September 1978 he became commander of U.S. Army Readiness Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He next served as Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division from February 1981 to June 1983. He was Commanding General of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg from April 1984 to October 1986 when he became Commander in Chief of U.S. Readiness Command at MacDill AFB, Florida. General Lindsay became the first Commander in Chief of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB on April 16, 1987. He retired in that position from the Army on July 1, 1990. General Lindsay has been inducted into both the United States Army Ranger Hall of Fame and Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame. He completed Ranger School in 1953.
His Distinguished Service Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to James J. Lindsay (0-75235), Lieutenant Colonel (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters, 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 9th Infantry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Lindsay distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions from 31 May to 4 June 1968 during an operation which located and destroyed three main force Viet Cong and North Vietnamese battalions in the Plain of Reeds. After two days of tracking the enemy, Colonel Lindsay accompanied his battalion as it was inserted by air into the flank of the communists. Immediately upon landing, his men were brought under extremely heavy automatic weapons and small arms fire from a nearby woodline. Moving from position to position under the hail of bullets, he directed his troops' fire and, once fire superiority had been gained, led an assault into the hostile bunker complex which destroyed sixty of the fortifications and forced the enemy to withdraw. He then entered his helicopter and flew low over the embattled area to direct the encirclement of the foe. Noticing a group of Viet Cong escaping across a small canal which had not yet been sealed off, he stopped them with hand grenades and rifle fire. After returning to the ground, he exposed himself to the vicious enemy fusillade to coordinate return fire which repelled the enemy's attempt to break the encirclement. While leading a sweep through the woodline early in the morning of 4 June, he surprised three Viet Cong whom he engaged and killed before they could inflict any casualties upon his men. Lieutenant Colonel Lindsay's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.