James Jackson was born in 1940 in New York City. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 5, 1958, and completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in August 1958. Pvt Jackson next completed medical corpsman training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in February 1959, followed by service as an operating room specialist with the 7th Surgical Hospital at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, from February 1959 to December 1961. Sgt Jackson next attended Special Forces Medic training with the Special Forces Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from December 1961 to March 1962, and he then attended additional medical training at Fort Sam Houston and at Fort Gordon, Georgia, from March to November 1962. He served as a Special Forces Medic with Company B at the Special Forces Training Group at Fort Bragg from November 1962 to March 1963, and then as a medic with Company A and C of the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from April 1963 to March 1965. His next assignment was as a Special Forces Medic with Company D of the 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam from March 1965 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War on July 5, 1966. After spending 495 days in captivity, SSG Jackson was released by his captors in Cambodia on November 11, 1967, and returned to U.S. forces on November 13, 1967. He was hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Fort Bragg from November 1967 to April 1968, and then served as a Special Forces Medic instructor at the Special Forces Training Group at Fort Bragg from April 1968 to September 1969. SFC Jackson next attended Spanish Language training at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey, California, from October 1969 to February 1970, followed by service as a medical supervisor with Company A and then Headquarters Company, 8th Special Forces Group (became 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group in June 1972) at Fort Gulick, Panama, from April 1970 to December 1972. He completed additional medical training at Fort Sam Houston from February 1973 to January 1974, and then served as a Senior Special Forces Medic Instructor and then as Chief Special Forces Medic Instructor with the Special Forces Detachment at the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance at Fort Bragg from February 1974 until his retirement from the Army on September 1, 1978.
His Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:
For distinguishing himself by outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam during the period March 1965 to November 1967. Through his untiring efforts and professional ability, he consistently obtained outstanding results. He was quick to grasp the implications of new problems with which he was faced as a result of the ever changing situations inherent in a counterinsurgency operation and to find ways and means to solve those problems. The energetic application of his extensive knowledge has materially contributed to the efforts of the United States mission to the Republic of Vietnam to assist that country in ridding itself of the communist threat to its freedom. His initiative, zeal, sound judgement and devotion to duty have been in the highest traditions of the United States Army and reflect great credit on him and on the military service.