Scales’ original story

By Gus Bode

Though James Scales’ Army records indicate he served in Germany, Wisconsin and Kansas, he told the Daily Egyptian a different story.

In a Daily Egyptian article published Nov. 13 Scales described combat in Vietnam, where he said he earned one of three Purple Hearts, which are given to soldiers who are wounded or killed in combat.

He said he earned the other two Purple Hearts during a military career that involved assignments in Bosnia, Honduras, Panama, the Persian Gulf and Iraq. He said he retired as a colonel May 30.


According to Scales’ records, none of those statements was true.

His stories about Vietnam in particular were filled with vivid details.

Scales said the 33 days before he saw combat in Vietnam were boring: ‘We were trying to figure out, ‘What’s the hype about Vietnam? This is great. It’s like being on a beach except everybody dresses the same way.”

He described combat as an ‘occupational hazard’ and said he turned down a chance to leave the front lines after several years on duty in Vietnam. Scales said he earned the nickname ‘Crazy’ when he told his superior why he declined the offer:

‘I said … ‘When the sun goes down, I go into the jungle hunting Charlie. Why? Because Charlie just entered the jungle hunting me. I turn it into a big game. Whoever finds the other one first kills him. That’s how simple it is for me.”

Scales described earning a Purple Heart, which records indicate he was never awarded:’You didn’t want to make a big deal of it because there were any number of your friends that had already died. It’s kind of like you were celebrating war.’

Scales’ descriptions of combat were particularly graphic: ‘It became a meat grinder. We’ll chew up as many of them as we can. They’ll chew up as many of us as they can.’


Scales’ military records, obtained from the Army Human Resources Command, indicate he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel on May 31, 1998 – a decade earlier than the date he gave the Daily Egyptian.

The story, which was roughly 1,400 words long, appeared above the fold on Page One of the Nov. 13 edition of the Daily Egyptian. More than one-third of the story was direct quotes from Scales.

To read the original story in its entirety, check out