Jim (known by his buddies in ‘Nam as “Tiny”) was raised in West Brightonite a town on Long Island New York. In 1967 he graduated from Port Richmond High School. By April1969 he was drafted and shipped to Fort Gordon, Ga. for Basis Training and Advanced Infantry Training. October 1969 found Tiny Aanonsen in Vietnam assigned to the 101st and more importantly to Alpha Company 2/506. Here he served in the First Platoon as a machine gunner under the direction of Lieutenant Joliet.
By March 1970 Alpha Co. was under the leadership of Capt. Burkhardt and First Platoon had a new LT in Dudley Davis. Under these leaders, Jim participated in the first attempt to secure Firebase Ripcord on 12 March 1970. It was a bad day for Alpha with the loss of Lt. Davis and his RTO Dan Heater as well as numerous others wounded.
“After Ripcord was secured in April we didn’t see a lot of contact till we hit the hot LZ in May.” remembers Aanonsen years later, “By this time my platoon leader was Lt. Wilcox.” On May 13th Alpha Co. combat assaulted onto a hot LZ southeast of Ripcord. The firing had quit by the time the last choppers came in. After securing the area, hot chow was flown in for the evening meal. As dawn edged it’s way over the trees, the troops loaded with three days worth of food and water prepared to head out. For the morning of the 14th Captain Burkhart had First Platoon lead in column towards the southwest. Bob Lowe of Ohio and Jim Aanonsen had become friends on the flight over to Vietnam. As luck would have it they ended up assigned to the same company and platoon. That morning Bob was the point man with Jim following behind the slack man as they moved down the trail. They hadn’t gone 200 yards when an enemy sniper in a bunker shot and killed Lowe. In the ensuing firefight Tiny brought his machinegun to bear on the enemy fire and in the process mowed down trees and bushes through out the area while his comrades moved behind him. He continued to provide continuous suppressive fire as Sgt. Koger crawled up to retrieve Lowe. In the short but furious battle shrapnel wounded Jim in the arm, shoulder and leg.
When the fight was over he was medivaced back to Camp Evans then to the USS Sanctuary, a hospital in Japan and finally, ended in the St. Albans Naval Hospital in Queens, NY. His courage and gallantry under fire, in spite of his wounds, earned him a Silver Star. After a lengthy recovery he spent his last 8 months in the service on an honor guard at Fort Totten also located in the Queens.
Following his Army tour he joined the New York City Police Department where he served 12 years at the Midtown North Precinct and another 11 years in the Manhattan Emergency Service Unit. This final assignment dealt with rescues, hostage situations, jumpers, and assisting the bomb squad. Finally after 23 years he retired in 1996.
When he reported for duty, Irene Hyde (his future wife) spotted him and decided this might be a guy she wanted to know. Since she also worked for the police department she had an easy time checking him out and after that he was hers even if he did not know it at the time. They have been married for over 25 years, still live on Staten Island and have two grown daughters.