James Dibernardo was born on October 18, 1934, in Fulton, New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 6, 1953, and after completing basic training at MCRD San Diego, California, in June 1953 he was trained as a Combat Correspondent and in Public Affairs. Sgt Dibernardo served in public affairs and as a photographer at MCAS El Toro, California, from July 1953 to January 1955, and then with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Okinawa from January 1955 to March 1957. His next assignment was as a public affairs information man and photographer with Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps in the Pentagon from August 1957 until he left active duty on October 12, 1958. Sgt Dibernardo went back on active duty beginning April 1, 1959, and then served in public affairs and as a photographer at MCB Camp Pendleton, California, from April 1959 to February 1961. His next assignment was in public affairs with the 1st Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, at MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, from February 1961 to March 1964, followed by service as Press Information NCO with the 1st Marine Corps District in Garden City, New York, from March to July 1964. He served as an instructor with the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, from July 1964 to November 1966, and during this time he received a direct commission in the Marine Corps to 2nd Lt on July 15, 1966. His next assignment was as a Public Affairs Officer at MCAS El Toro from November 1966 to August 1967, followed by service as a Public Affairs Officer with the U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam from October 1967 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on February 3, 1968. After spending 1,858 days in captivity, Capt Dibernardo was released during Operation Homecoming on March 5, 1973. After recovering from his injuries at Camp Pendleton, Maj Dibernardo served as a Public Affairs Officer at MCAS El Toro from October 1973 to July 1977, and then at Camp Pendleton from July 1977 until his retirement from the Marine Corps on June 15, 1978. James Dibernardo died on November 20, 2009, and was buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
His Bronze Star Medal w/Valor Citation reads:
For heroic achievement while interned as a Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia from February to August 1968. Soon after Captain (then First Lieutenant) Dibernardo's capture, he and a group of prisoners began their journey to a permanent installation. During this period, he exerted himself in a positive leadership capacity, maintaining the military organization of the men at all times. In the first of the temporary camps which the group was to occupy, he instructed his group to resist against providing anything more than the most basic biographical information. Although subjected to routine cruelties for refusal to cooperate, Captain Dibernardo continued to provide leadership and guidance for his group. Through his professionalism and dedication to duty, Captain Dibernardo reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
The Combat Distinguishing Device is authorized.