James H. P. Kelsey

  • Colonel
  • Vietnam


James Kelsey was born in South Carolina to Major James and Theodosia Pitman. James’ father Major Pitman, U.S. Army, was killed in action while commanding the 45th Reconnaissance Troop, 45th Infantry Division in France during World War II.  Jim is a 1961 graduate of Rogers High School, Newport, Rhode Island, where he participated in varsity tennis and the tennis club his junior and senior years.

Buzz entered the University of Rhode Island in 1961 He was a member of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity and served as Vice President of Scabbard and Blade. He participated in the Army ROTC program for all four years. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration in June 1965 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. Jim was the first recipient of the LT Parker D. Cramer Saber, as the outstanding senior ROTC cadet.

2LT Kelsey was assigned as an Infantry Platoon Leader with the 35th Infantry Battalion, 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii after completing the Infantry Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. 2LT Kelsey deployed to Vietnam with the 25th Infantry Division in early 1966 as an Infantry Platoon Leader, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. On 29 May 1966, LT Kelsey distinguished himself by heroic actions in the Republic of Vietnam. A large North Vietnamese Army force ambushed the 3rd platoon. LT Kelsey led his platoon as a relief force, positioned his men and took the enemy under fire.

This heroic action resulted in eliminating ten enemy soldiers, two machine-gun positions and diverted the enemy fire from his platoon. Completely disregarding his own safety, LT Kelsey organized carrying parties for the wounded. By delivering a heavy volume of fire upon the advancing enemy, his platoon enabled the remainder of the company to organize a defensive perimeter. LT Kelsey’s courage and leadership inspired his men to hold their ground and deliver devastating fire on the attacking enemy. For gallantry in action and personal bravery, Second Lieutenant James H.P. Kelsey was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for Valor.

Following his first tour in Vietnam, LT Kelsey entered Special Forces Training and graduated from the Special Forces Officers’ Course in 1967 and served with the 10th Special Forces in Germany. Returning to Vietnam in 1968, Captain Kelsey commanded B Company, 27th Infantry Battalion, 25th Infantry Division.

Branch transferring to Military Intelligence (MI) in 1969, Colonel Kelsey subsequently served in various staff positions in the Office of the Chief of Staff for Intelligence; Office of the Chief of Staff, Army, in the Pentagon; Combined Field Army, Korea; US Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca; and the US Army Intelligence and Security Command. Colonel Kelsey commanded the 527th MI Battalion and the 66th MI Brigade in Germany.

Colonel Kelsey concluded his active duty in 1995 as Chief of Staff of the US Army Intelligence Center, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. During this assignment, Colonel Kelsey reorganized and streamlined the Military Intelligence Branch; and as a result, he is known as the “Godfather” of the MI Branch. Colonel Kelsey is a graduate of the Army War College and holds a Master of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado.

Colonel Kelsey was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1996. His awards include the Legion of Merit (5 awards) the Meritorious Service Medal (4 awards), the Bronze Star (3 awards), the Bronze Star with “V,” the Purple Heart (3 awards), the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Special Forces Tab and Parachutist Badge.

Jim spent 15 years in the defense industry before retiring in February 2012. Jim is married to the former Montie Pond, a 1964 URI Graduate; and they reside in Phoenix, Arizona. Colonel Kelsey has been and continues to be a loyal supporter of the University of Rhode Island Alumni Association and the University of Rhode Island Foundation.