War Heroes XVII - James H. Coffman Jr.

The President of the United States
Takes Pleasure in Presenting
The Distinguished Service Cross
James H. Coffman, Jr.
Colonel, U.S. Army

For Services as Set Forth in the Following Citation:

For exceptionally valorous conduct while assigned as the Senior Advisor to the 1st Iraqi Special Police Commando Brigade during a lengthy battle on 14 November 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, during which the unit likely would have been overrun were it not for the courageous leadership of Colonel Coffman and the one Commando officer not wounded.

At approximately 1030 hours on 14 November, Colonel Coffman moved with a Commando Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to reinforce a Commando platoon under attack at the Four West Police Station in Mosul. As the QRF neared the besieged platoon, it came under intense rocket-propelled grenade, mortar, machinegun, and AK-47 fire by a large insurgent force. Over the next four hours, the enemy repeatedly assaulted the Commandos’ position, at times culminating their attacks twenty meters from Colonel Coffman’s location.

With all but one of the commando officers killed or seriously wounded by the initial enemy fire, Colonel Coffman exhibited truly inspirational leadership, rallying the Commandos and organizing a hasty defense while attempting to radio higher headquarters for reinforcements. Under heavy fire, he moved from Commando to Commando, looking each in the eye and using hand and arm signals to demonstrate what he wanted done.

At one point, an enemy round shattered Colonel Coffman’s shooting hand and rendered his M4 rifle inoperable. After bandaging his hand, Colonel Coffman picked up AK-47s from Commando casualties and fired them with his other hand until each ran out of ammunition. With the assistance of the one remaining Commando officer, Colonel Coffman redistributed ammunition among the uninjured commandos until he had only loose ammunition that he loaded by placing magazines between his legs and using his one working hand. Throughout this period, he repeatedly demonstrated exceptional courage and an extraordinary example to the commandos as they repulsed attack after attack by the enemy.

Four hours after the start of the battle, a second Commando element arrived and Colonel Coffman guided them to his position. Even after their arrival, he continued to direct the fight, refusing to be evacuated until the enemy was defeated. Shortly thereafter, attack helicopters also arrived, followed closely by a Stryker Brigade QRF, and Colonel Coffman used Iraqi radios to direct air strikes and to provide vital information on the location of enemy and friendly forces.

After supervising the evacuation of several dozen wounded Commandos, Colonel Coffman led a squad-sized element to the Four West Iraqi Police Station, fifty meters ahead of the Strykers, to make contact with the Commandos still in the station. After they linked up, the Strykers moved forward, and attack helicopters engaged the buildings occupied by the enemy, following which Colonel Coffman returned to his original position to ensure that all of the Iraqi casualties had been evacuated. Only then did he consent to be evacuated for surgery for his own serious wound.

During the fierce four-hour battle, twelve Commandos were killed and 42 were wounded. Twenty-five enemy were killed and many dozens more were wounded.

Col. Coffman continues to train Iraqi police units in Iraq.

Previous War Heroes Threads - Brian Chontosh
Jason Dean Cunningham
Britt Slabinski
Justin D. Lehew
Mark E. Mitchell
John Chapman
Joseph B. Perez
Marco A. Martinez
Stephen Bass
Luis E. Fonseca Jr.
Rafael Peralta
Paul R. Smith - Medal of Honor
Scott C. Montoya
Willie L. Copeland III
Brent Morel
Donald R. Hollenbaugh


I am not an American, nor a soldier, nor even particularly supportive of the war in Iraq (I think it was probably not a good idea to invade in the first place and the follow-up was completly ignored in planning and has been screwed up since). However, like George Orwell, I believe that “We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

I appreciate the dedication and courage of those rough men, of whatever nationality and in whatever particular harm’s way their masters may have sent them into. Thank you, Mr Moto, for reminding us of this from time to time.