Jesse James By Another Name – The Bastard Bunch

Bastard Duty Holds Down Bloody Harlan

Unlike his brother, Jesse and Bessie’s eldest son, John William James, lived a long and adventurous life until age 71. John William James never talked about family history or the Civil War, topics popular among the James family. Saddled with the stigma of the Bastard Bunch, John William James wanted to get as far away from Somerset, from Pulaski County, and from his family as he could. He was not close to Jesse, Bessie, or any of his family. He was never affectionate. When visiting home, he always was considerate. Taking sides, however, as the James do, proved the bane of his existence, but also his triumph.

Running away from home at age 16, John William James enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard at Bowling Green. He was sent to Harlan County to quell the coal wars in bloody Harlan County.

May 19, 1939. Striking union members are guarded by National Guardsmen at the entrance of Harlan-Wallins Coal Corp. at Verda in Harlan County. Kentucky coal miners bled and died to unionize. Their workplace became a war zone. Gun battles punctuated union protests.

He was positioned with a machine gun, facing the coal strikers. When ordered to fire under cover of night, John William James believed he had killed some of the rioters. The guilt of killing fellow countrymen weighed heavy on his mind.

Fearing retribution in Kentucky, John William James fled to Canada. He became a Canadian Ranger in 1939. During World War II, his Canadian forces joined the British Army. He disliked this for good reason. In the disastrous raid of Dieppe, 907 Canadian soldiers were killed, 2,460 were wounded, and 1,946 were taken prisoner. The Kentuckian, John William James, was fated to become one of the few survivors of the Dieppe raid.

Bastard Commitment Returns Victory

After the raid at Dieppe, less than half of all Canadian forces sent to Dieppe returned to England. Months later, John William James returned again with British forces to the theater of war. This time for the secretive Operation Torch and the invasion of Northern Africa.

Fusilier’s patch from the uniform of John William James

John William James then joined the colorful and historical Royal Scots Fusiliers who had fought much earlier in the American Revolution in the 1770s. Beginning as a quartermaster, his service with the Fusiliers took him to a prison camp in North Africa, then on to service in Algeria, Tunisia, and Italy.

In return for his service, Great Britain invested in John William James. They sent him to Oxford University. As World War II came to an end, the British government also educated him in preparation for the formation of a Reciprocal Trade Agreement between the allies Great Britain and the United States of America.

10 Reasons to Join the British Army

Medals & Accolades for the Scorned

During eleven years in the U.S. Army Air Force, plus two years more in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, John William James of the Bastard Bunch distinguished himself, building an impressive record of service. When John retired, the U.S. military was sorry to see him go.

The U.S. Military awards of John William James

Aside from being a flight engineer, the U.S. military also educated John William James in business skills which would benefit him well when he transitioned into civilian life. At the University of Virginia, he studied business administration. He also took government courses in cost accounting and personnel management. At Trinity University, courses in time motion, job evaluation, and quality control followed, initiating the course his private life would take.

Military photo of John William James

Letter of Appreciation, 29 November, 1951

To: T/Sgt John W. James

1. Your return to civilian status affords me the rare opportunity to deviate from the usual military channels and address you as a personal friend. The ability and conscientiousness you displayed in supervising the establishing procedures for the processing of Foreign Nationals resulted in a commendation for this section by Air Materiel Command, and is most sincerely appreciated by all concerned.

2. It was through your personal effort and supervision that this was accomplished, and you may feel proud that the procedures you established have been incorporated as a Base Regulation.

3. It is with considerable regret that I see you leave the military service, but I realize that your chances of financial success will be much greater in civilian life.

Thomas B. Carver, Capt., USAF, Foreign Liaison Section

The Irregular is Lauded as “Honorable”

These documents of discharge offer indisputable evidence of the service John William James provided his country. His perception of disgrace and failure at Bloody Harlan required no other atonement. Always lingering at home, though, no redemption was conferred by the James family for the blunder of his ancestral birth and being.