James Webb
AUTHOR

James Webb

The Honorable James H. Webb, Jr., has been a combat Marine, committee counsel in Congress, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, U.S. Senator from Virginia, Emmy-award winning journalist, filmmaker and author of 10 books. Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, one of 18 midshipmen to receive a special commendation for “outstanding leadership contributions,” and was the Honor Graduate, first in his class of 243 lieutenants, at Marine Corps Officer's Basic School. At age 23 as a rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with the combat “V” and two Purple Hearts, and was the most highly decorated member of the Naval Academy’s historic class of 1968. Webb graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1975, receiving the Horan Award for excellence in legal writing, then became the first Vietnam veteran to serve as a full committee counsel in the U.S. Congress, serving from 1977 to 1981 as assistant minority counsel and then full counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. In 1982, he led the fight to include an African-American soldier in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Webb was the first-ever Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs in 1984, and in 1987 the first Naval Academy graduate in history to serve in the military and become Secretary of the Navy. At the Pentagon, he also was a member of the Armed Forces Policy Council and the Defense Resources Board. He was a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics in 1992. Webb served six years representing Virginia in the United States Senate. While in the Senate, in 2007 Webb delivered the response to the President’s State of the Union address, and served on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, and Joint Economic committees, including four years as Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, and of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He wrote and guided to passage the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the most significant veterans’ legislation since World War II. Despite strong opposition by the Bush Administration and Republican leaders, Webb conceived and implemented a bipartisan approach and accomplished the passage of this landmark legislation in only sixteen months. He also was the leading voice in the United States Congress on behalf of reforming America’s broken criminal justice system, and co-authored legislation which exposed $60 billion of waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan wartime-support contracts. The Atlantic Magazine spotlighted him as one of the world’s “Brave Thinkers” for possessing “two things vanishingly rare in Congress: a conscience and a spine.” Having widely traveled in Asia for decades, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Asia-Pacific Subcommittee, Webb was the leading voice in calling for the U.S. to re-engage in East Asia, meeting frequently with key national leaders throughout the region. He personally initiated what later became known as the “strategic pivot to Asia,” two years before Obama was elected President. He also conceived and carried out the process that resulted in opening up Burma (Myanmar) to the outside world. In 2009, he was the first American leader to be allowed entry into Burma in ten years, leading a historic visit that opened up a dialogue that resulted in the re-establishment of relations between our two countries. A long-term observer of the strategic balance in East Asia, Webb has been warning for twenty years about Chinese expansionism in the Senkaku Islands and in the South China Sea. He speaks Vietnamese and has maintained strong relations with the American Vietnamese community, including extensive pro bono work dating from the late 1970s. He has maintained continuous relations in Thailand for more than thirty years, and In 2015 was a guest of Thai government leaders to discuss how to improve deteriorating US – Thai relations. He also has maintained similar relations in Japan. In addition to his public service, Webb has had a varied career as a writer. He taught “Poetry and the Novel” as writer in residence at the Naval Academy. He wrote frequent policy-oriented articles and editorials for major American newspapers and magazines, particularly in the area of defense and national security issues, including numerous articles for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal editorial pages. Traveling widely as a journalist with multiple assignments in Japan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, Webb was the first American journalist ever allowed access to report from inside the Japanese prison system. He covered the American military in many ways, including TV coverage of the Marines in Beirut in 1983 for PBS for which he received a national Emmy Award, and in 2004 as an “embedded reporter” with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Webb is the author of ten books. These include six best-selling novels, notably “Fields of Fire,” widely recognized as the classic novel of the Vietnam War. His nonfiction books include “Born Fighting,” a sweeping cultural history of the Scots-Irish people that author Tom Wolfe termed “an important work of sociological history…the most brilliant battle-flare ever launched by a book." Webb has extensive experience in Hollywood as a screenwriter and producer. He wrote the original story and was executive producer of the film “Rules of Engagement,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel Jackson, which held the top slot in U.S. box offices for two weeks in April 2000. Webb has received more than 30 national awards, including two American Legion National Commander Awards for his work in the area of Veterans Affairs and for his writings, including the Vietnam classic “Fields of Fire,” and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership (in April 2014), which is the University of Virginia’s highest recognition for public service. He received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 1987, as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award for being an American who “exemplified the ideals that make our country strong and a beacon of liberty to people throughout the world” (President Ronald Reagan was the previous year’s recipient of this award). Each year, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation presents a series of awards to Marines and civilian community members, recognizing exemplary work in advancing and preserving Marine Corps history. The James Webb Award is named for the senator, author, and Navy Cross recipient. It is given for distinguished fiction dealing with U.S. Marines or Marine Corps life. Webb has six children and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Hong Le Webb, who was born in Vietnam and is a graduate of Cornell Law School.
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