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Home » James N. Nappier, Jr.

"So many things went wrong that night, and they wouldn't let us take them out." (Video Interview, 58:33)

   James N. Nappier, Jr.
Image of James N. Nappier, Jr.
James Nappier [2005]
War: Cold War Era, 1945-1991; Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, 2001-present
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 (NMCB Seabees)
Service Location: Ramadi, Iraq
Highest Rank: Petty Officer Second Class
Place of Birth: Groton, CT
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James Nappier's persistence and devotion to serving his country resulted in the improbable scenario of a man in his 40s with a grown child enlisting in--and being accepted by--the Navy's Seabees. By virtue of his six years in the Marines beginning when he had dropped out of high school, Nappier's real age was knocked down to just under the upper limit for eligibility. This was in 2000, when no one had any idea of military deployments to a war in the Middle East. In Iraq, Nappier kept volunteering for the most dangerous missions, figuring he was saving one younger man with young children from harm's way. Though still a firm believer in the military and the mission, Nappier does express serious misgivings about the armored protection and amount of ammunition he and his men were given, as well as leadership during an engagement which resulted in two fatalities in his unit.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview  (86 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
How he was contacted in 2000 by a Navy recruiter; he wound up enlisting in the Seabees; he was 41 years old and qualified by dint of his prior service in the Marines; what the Seabees do; he worked as equipment operator and mechanic; battalion was mobilized in 2004 to go to Iraq; volunteered for the Tactical Movement Team, doing convoys and convoy security. (06:12) Nature of convoy escort work and other duties: transporting people and supplies; had two teams of escorts, the Blue and Gold, of six Humvees each; improvised to get better armor protection for their vehicles; they were sometimes short on ammunition; was determined not be captured alive, so he carried a grenade. (07:48) Losing two close friends when the unit was kept in a kill zone for 2 1/2 hours; they were ordered to hold their fire; they weren't allowed to take the bodies out of the area right away; he lost his hearing from an IED he had watched someone set up; when they got back to base, they were told not to talk about the incident; blames the lack of bullet-proof glass they were promised for one of the deaths; his convoy commander was replaced; Nappier hit during a mortar attack. (10:54)
Getting treated for his wounds; not wanting to give up a letter from his wife which he had been holding when he was hit; a newspaper reporter wrote up a story with his name in it which appeared before his family knew of his injuries; his wife was never notified officially, nor was any other family in his unit except for the two men in killed in action; almost lost his leg; he had bones from a buddy imbedded in him. (06:52) Was told not to talk about IEDs to anyone, but is convinced that information is easily obtained on the Internet; their intelligence in country was outdated but when they went on line they were able to find up-to-date information; was dismayed when ordered to take the same route back to base every day and eventually went on line to find alternate routes. (02:14) 
Home » James N. Nappier, Jr.
  The Library of Congress
  May 29, 2007
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