Published Assembly Jun '74
James Montgomery Elder No.15882 Class of 1946
Died 16 February 1973 in Washington, D.C., aged 47 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia
The 1946 Howitzer describes James Montgomery
Elder as having a "sense of humor which took the gloom from
the grey walls of the Academy." That disposition shone
into much of the world-Japan, Vietnam, Germany, and most of the
United States; and wherever it went, it dispelled the gloom.
Jim was a son of the Great Southwest,
growing up in Phoenix, Arizona. He graduated from North Phoenix
High School and immediately entered West Point. Following graduation
In June 1946, he proceeded to the Field Artillery Basic Course
at Fort Sill.
His first real "duty" station
after commissioning was with the 8th Field Artillery Battalion
of the 25th Infantry Division in Japan.
During his time in Japan, Jim met and married
his beloved Kathy. Their life together was a continuous sharing
of ideas; both had a love of the English language and literature,
and an inborn ability to write. Jim encouraged and substantively
assisted Kathy's writing and teaching career. Perhaps their mutual
interest in the written and spoken word was the first great attraction
Jim's career next took a turn that shaped the rest
of his Army service, for he was never again far from the newest
and most modern tools of warfare. Jim and Kathy returned from
Japan and reported to the Guided Missile Course at Fort Bliss.
Following this initial schooling in the fledgling missile program,
he joined the nuclear weapons program at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jim then "put it all together" with an assignment commanding
an air defense battery near Buffalo, New York; this battery was
one of the early units combining both guided missile and nuclear
After a three year tour in the Nuclear Weapons Office
of Headquarters, United States Army Europe, Jim became a student
at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.
His solid background in new weaponry combined with his ability
to express himself, made him a natural selection to remain on
the faculty at Fort Leavenworth. His memorable classes profoundly
affected hundreds of students during his three teaching years.
Jim's long-time service to the Episcopal Church manifested
itself in a number of ways during his stay at Fort Leavenworth.
He helped found an Episcopal Mission at Fort Leavenworth and
contributed his talents to its sustenance by being a lay reader.
He also served as a lay reader and vestryman at Saint Paul's
Episcopal Church in Leavenworth. He helped found a chapter of
the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew inside the walls of the United
States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, and took his
turn as a Saturday Lay Reader for the prisoners. Jim later served
as a lay reader at Grace Church and Saint James' Church, Alexandria,
Upon leaving Fort Leavenworth, Jim was an advisor to
the Vietnamese Army early in that conflict. Following his year
in the Mekong Delta, he returned to the States and took command
of the 1st Missile Battalion, 43d Artillery, located near Spokane,
After completing his command assignment, Jim was selected
to join the Army General Staff in Washington. He spent two years
in the Army Research and Development community, after which he
was picked to serve in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
During this assignment, he spent a prolonged period in Vietnam
monitoring the effectiveness of newly fielded equipment. His
research and development experience on the Army and Defense staffs
made him an ideal choice to join the Combat Developments command
at Fort Belvoir. His tremendous breadth of interest and knowledge
caused him to become involved in almost every kind of development:
helicopters, computers, missiles, cinema. After about two years
there, his failing health forced his early retirement.
James Montgomery Elder was a man of many parts: soldier,
scholar, practicing Christian. He is survived by his wife, Katherine,
his daughter, Courtenay; two sons, Keith and Blake; and a host
of devoted friends and admiring associates. The family
now resides at 6108 Vernon Terrace, Alexandria, Virginia
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "As life is action
and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the
action and passion of his time at peril of being judged not to
have lived." Holmes would have found Jim Elder a man
who lived his life full, sharing in the action and passion of