Capers was born on August 25, 1937 in South Carolina to a family of sharecroppers during the Jim Crow era. He later moved to Baltimore where he would meet the love of his life and future wife Dottie and decide to enlist in the Marines. This would be the start of a legendary career that overcame obstacles and broke barriers on and off the battlefield as one of the greatest Marines to ever serve.
While serving, he would be selected to join the elite Force Recon Marine unit where he excelled, breaking training records, participating in 64 long range reconnaissance patrols and five major campaigns in Vietnam. He was a natural leader and father figure to Team Broadminded, a specialized group of Force Recon Marines. Capers & Team Broadminded were routinely selected to go on the most dangerous and clandestine missions in Vietnam.
Missions included a POW rescue ordered by President Johnson, amphibious assaults in the DMZ, recovery of a B-57 rumored to have a nuclear bomb, and search and destroy patrols in Phu Loc.
A soft-spoken man, his commendations offer an inspiring view of his heroism and self-sacrifice. Nominated for the Medal of Honor, he has been awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and Combat V, three Purple Hearts, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, three Good Conduct Ribbons, Battle Stars, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, CG Certificate of Merit, multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation.
As an African American his achievements included being the first African American to command a Marine Recon company and the first enlisted African American Marine Officer to receive a battlefield commission.
In the fall of 1967, still recovering from combat injuries, Major James Capers was selected to represent the U.S. Marines in a national recruiting campaign. With full integration completed only in 1960, Capers’ image became the Marine Corps most popular recruitment campaign.
Following Vietnam, Capers participated in many Cold War covert operations as a field agent in Eastern Europe and Africa. Details of these operations remain classified today.
His wife Dottie and son Gary passed away in 2003 and were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Capers celebrated his 50th anniversary with Dottie one week before her passing.
In 2010, Major James Capers Jr. was one of only 14 members inducted into the inaugural class of U.S. Special Operations Command’s Commando Hall of Honor at a ceremony in front of USSOCOM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. Major Capers Jr. is recognized as a pioneer in Recon training tactics which are still used by Special Operations forces around the world.
He and the surviving members of Team Broadminded meet annually to celebrate and honor those who have passed. Capers currently resides in North Caroline and continues to be part of the special operations community.