James H. Skeldon, a retired U.S. Army major general who was a battalion commander in the Korean War and who served as chief of the U.S. Army Advisory Group, died yesterday in his home in San Francisco. He was 86.
Mr. Skeldon was the son of Frank Skeldon, a former business editor and reporter at The Blade and director of the Toledo Zoo from 1922 to 1948. His late brother, Ned, was a Lucas County commissioner and influential area Democratic politician.
Mr. Skeldon was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, his brother, Philip Skeldon, said. He had been living in San Francisco since the 1960s. His last assignment was chief of staff of the Sixth U.S. Army at the Presidio of San Francisco. He retired from the army in 1973.
He grew up in South Toledo and went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grade School. He graduated in 1931 from the former St. John's High School in downtown Toledo.
As a youngster, he was given the nickname “Bim” because his younger siblings couldn't pronounce Jim, Mr. Skeldon said.
He briefly attended the University of Toledo before receiving an appointment in 1932 to the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., following in the footsteps of his older brothers, Frank and John, who graduated from the academy.
He married the former Elaine Holloway in 1937. A Toledo native, she attended Libbey High School. They met when they were students at Jones Junior High School.
After graduating in 1937 from West Point, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He quickly rose through the ranks, advancing from captain to major in 1942. As major, he was an executive officer attached to a headquarters company in the Panama Canal. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1943, assigned to the army motor transport section. He served in the European Theater in World War II, receiving the Bronze Star medal and Army Commendation Ribbon. Mr. Skeldon served nine months of combat duty in the Korean War. He was wounded in the arm in 1950. As a battalion commander with the 2nd Infantry Division, he won two Distinguished Service Crosses, the Silver Star, and Purple Heart. He was promoted to full colonel in 1951. While assigned to the 24th Infantry Division in Augsburg, Germany, he was appointed to brigadier general in 1961.
Mr. Skeldon was appointed senior member of the United Nations Command delegation to the Military Armistice Commission in Panmunjong, Korea, in 1970. He headed a UNC delegation that oversaw the keeping of the terms of the 1953 Korean armistice.
Mr. Skeldon often visited his family in Toledo. He was in Toledo in 1996 for Philip and Bernadine Skeldon's 50th wedding anniversary and again in July, 1998, for the dedication of Skeldon Plaza at the Toledo Zoo.
Surviving are his wife, Elaine; daughters, Judith James, Joyce Rychener, and Jennifer Attenhoff; sister, Mary Skeldon; brother, Philip Skeldon, and three grandchildren.
Services are pending in the chapel of St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco.