James Huffstodt grew up in La Salle-Peru, Illinois, a town that was predominately Irish, Italian, and Polish, in the 1950s. His father worked in newspaper advertising and his mother was a housewife, but during WWII she had worked in a munitions factory. Tragically, his father died when James was 10, and that shaped his childhood. After high school, he attended junior college for a year, and in July, 1966, he joined the Army. He attended Basic Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and shortly after Christmas, 1966, he found himself deploying to Vietnam. After initially being assigned to the Awards and Decorations section in II Field Force, he sought reassignment, and was sent to 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment in the 25th Infantry Division. During his time in country, he spent a portion of his tour in the Iron Triangle. Upon returning home, he met both the indifferent and the compassionate. Finishing out his enlistment, he worked on the newspaper staff at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with a group of professional journalists who were drafted.
In this interview, he describes his time in Vietnam, recalling a mortar attack on Long Binh, and the ammo dump explosion in the spring of 1967. He also talks about several incidents when he was on guard duty, and covering events as a photo-journalist for HHC, 2-34 Armor. After leaving the military, he went back to college, eventually earning his Master’s Degree in Journalism. Finally, he describes his passion for history and his decision to write about Civil War history, because “these men should be remembered.”