Career Of Sen.-Elect James Webb, D-Va.

November 10, 2006

James H. “Jim” Webb is descended principally from the Scotch-Irish settlers who came to this country from Northern Ireland in the 18th century and became pioneers in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.

Both sides of Jim’s family have a strong citizen-soldier military tradition that predates the Revolutionary War.

Jim grew up on the move, attending more than a dozen different schools across the U.S. and in England. He graduated from high school in Bellevue, Nebraska. First attending the University of Southern California on an NROTC academic scholarship, he left for the Naval Academy after one year. At the Naval Academy he was a four-year member of the Brigade Honor Committee, a varsity boxer, and was one of six finalists in the interviewing process for Brigade Commander during his senior year. Graduating in l968 he chose a commission in the Marine Corps, and was one of 18 in his class of 841 to receive the Superintendent’s Commendation for outstanding leadership contributions while a midshipman.

First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, Jim served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam, where as a rifle platoon and company commander in the infamous An Hoa Basin west of Danang he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. He later served as a platoon commander and as an instructor in tactics and weapons at Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, and then as a member of the Secretary of the Navy’s immediate staff, before leaving the Marine Corps in 1972.

Jim spent the “Watergate years” as a student at the Georgetown University Law Center, arriving just after the Watergate break-in in 1972, and receiving his J.D. just after the fall of South Vietnam in l975. While at Georgetown he began a six-year pro bono representation of a Marine who had been convicted of war crimes in Vietnam (finally clearing the man’s name in 1978, three years after his suicide), won the Horan award for excellence in legal writing, and authored his first book; Micronesia and U.S. Pacific Strategy. He also worked in Asia as a consultant to the Governor of Guam, conducting a study of U.S. military land needs in Asia, and their impact on Guam’s political future.

Jim has written six best-selling novels: Fields of Fire (1978), considered by many to be the classic novel of the Vietnam war, A Sense of Honor (l981), A Country Such As This (1983), Something To Die For (1991), The Emperor’s General (1999) and Lost Soldiers (2001). He taught literature at the Naval Academy as their first visiting writer, has traveled worldwide as a journalist, and his PBS coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut earned him an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Jim has traveled extensively, particularly in Asia, as a journalist, business consultant and screenwriter-producer. He speaks Vietnamese and has done extensive pro bono work with the Vietnamese community dating from the late l970’s. In 1989 he met with key Japanese government and industrial officials as a featured guest of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. He has worked on feature film projects with many of Hollywood’s top producers. His original story “Rules of Engagement”, which he also executive-produced, was released in April 2000 and starred Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson. It was the number one film in the US for two weeks. His fifth novel The Emperor’s General was purchased by Paramount pictures as the largest book-to-film deal of 1998. His book Born Fighting, which is his first commercial non-fiction effort, was published in October 2004 by Broadway Books.

In government, Jim served in the U.S. Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from l977 to l98l, becoming the first Vietnam veteran to serve as a full committee counsel in the Congress. In 1982 he first proposed, then led the fight for, including an African American soldier in the memorial statue that now graces the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall. In 1984 he was appointed the inaugural Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, where he traveled extensively in, and worked closely with, our NATO allies. As the Assistant Secretary he directed considerable research and analysis of the U.S. military’s mobilization capabilities. In 1987 he became the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and later be appointed Secretary of the Navy. He resigned as Naval Secretary in 1988 after refusing to agree to a reduction of the Navy’s force structure during congressionally-mandated budget cutting.

Among Jim’s many other awards for community service and professional excellence are the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, the Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the American Legion National Commander’s Public Service Award, the VFW’s Media Service Award, the Marine Corps League’s Military Order of the Iron Mike Award, the John Russell Leader-ship Award, and the Robert L. Denig Distinguished Service Award. He was a Fall 1992 Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

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