Jim McClam was born on November 1, 1947, in South Carolina. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 19, 1966, and entered Infantry Officer Candidate School in February 1967. SP5 McClam was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, on July 18, 1967, and then served as a Training Officer with Company C, 1st Battalion of the 3d Training Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas, from August 1967 to February 1968. Lt McClam next attended Vietnamese language training at the Defense Language Institute Support Command at Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, from February to October 1968, and then Basic Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October and November 1968, followed by Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from January to March 1969. His next assignment was with Company C, 5th Special Forces Group in South Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970, and then with Company A, 6th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg from June 1970 to January 1971. During this time, Capt McClam served as the Marshaling Area Control Officer with Redwine Security Group during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. His next assignment was as Battalion S-1, (Personnel Officer) with 2d Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg from January to June 1971, and then as Company Commander of Company B, 2d Battalion of the 504th Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg from July 1971 to July 1972. He served as a Logistics Staff Officer with The School Brigade at Fort Benning from August to November 1972, and then attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning from November 1972 to August 1973. Capt McClam next received an assignment to complete his degree at the University of Tampa from August 1973 to April 1975, and then remained on at the college for several more months as an assistant with the Army ROTC program there. His next assignment was as a staff officer with 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, from September to October 1975, and then as Company Commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks from October 1975 to May 1977. He then served as Assistant S-3 (Training and Operations Officer) with 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division from May to October 1977, followed by service as Assistant G-3 (Training Officer) with Headquarters 25th Infantry Division from October 1977 to July 1978. Maj McClam served as Battalion S-3 (Operations Officer) with 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division from July 1978 to June 1979, and then attended Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from August 1979 to June 1980. His next assignment was as Tactical Plans Officer with Headquarters XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg from July 1980 to August 1981, followed by service as Executive Officer of 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment of the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg from August 1981 to July 1982. He served as G-3 (Plans Officer) with 1st Special Operations Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg from July 1982 to September 1983, followed by Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from September to October 1983. LTC McClam served as an Emergency Action Officer with the U.S. Army Element in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon before retirement from the Army on September 1, 1987.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint U.S. Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at Son Tay prison in North Vietnam. This valiant effort was motivated by deep compassion for his imprisoned fellow men-at-arms, and by a strong sense of military duty and national pride. Captain McClam was selected to control the extraction of the raiding force and the released prisoners. While en route to his position, he came under fire from an enemy force. Establishing himself in his assigned sector, he performed as a rifleman until the extraction began. With utter disregard for his personal safety, he stood, fully exposed to enemy fire at the rear of the recovery helicopter, until all forces were accounted for. He was the last member of the force to leave the area. His thoroughness in accounting for raid-force members was a keystone of confidence for all members of the force. His calm and efficient performance of duty while under fire reflects great credit upon himself and the United States Army.