James Justus Cobb was born and raised in Sioux City, IA, son of Dr. Elliott and Juliette Cobb. He attended Central High School in Sioux City, graduating with honors. After a year at Morningside College in Sioux City, he entered West Point in July 1939.
Jim adapted to the rigors of West Point quickly. He was a member of the plebe football team and played “B” squad football in subsequent years. His fellow cadets nicknamed him “Cobbo,” which stuck for his lifetime. He was blessed with wonderful classmates who became lifelong friends: Dick Taliaferro (Texas), Flywheel Flanagan (New York), Jim Hackler (North Carolina), Bob Fiss (Minnesota), and Tut Frakes (Tennessee).
World War II brought on early graduation, and those who chose Field Artillery attended the abbreviated course at Ft. Sill before scattering to their first assignments. Cobbo joined the 14th Armored Division at Camp Chaffee, AR. After field training in the Tennessee Maneuver Area, the division was deployed to the European Theater, landing at Marseilles in September 1944. Captain Cobb was battalion S-2 and headquarters battery commander of the 500th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The division entered combat in the Epinal area of Alsace in France. By December 1944 the Division closed on the German Siegfried Line. In March, the defenses were penetrated and the Rhine River crossed. The subsequent campaign across Bavaria ended on the Czech border, east of Munich, on V-E Day. On the way, the Moosberg POW camp was liberated, freeing 12,000 U.S. and British prisoners. Captain Cobbo was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his combat services.
In 1948, Jim earned a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Michigan that led to assignment to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Unit at Sandia Base in Albuquerque, NM. He served on a nuclear weapons assembly team and as a liaison officer to the Atomic Energy Commission weapons modernization program.
It was in Albuquerque that Jim met Jean Wagner. She was an engineer employee of the Sandia Corporation, the weaponizer of the U.S. nuclear weapons program. They were married in 1949 with January ’43 ushers to add to the “Memory Lane” of their wedding!! Jean was the “Perfect Army Wife” and mother of three beautiful daughters: Justine at Ft. Bliss, Jeanine in Taiwan/Formosa, and Jamie at West Point.
After attending the Field Artillery Advanced Course, the family spent two years in Taiwan assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) that re-equipped and trained the Chinese Nationalist Army that had withdrawn from main land China.
Jim’s next assignment was with the Division of Military Application of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, DC. A year at the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, followed.
In 1958 we returned to West Point for a most rewarding tour in the Tactical Department. Jim was a cadet company tactical officer and S-4 on the Commandant’s staff.
In 1961 Jim joined the 7th Infantry Division Artillery in Korea, commanding the 8-inch Howitzer/Honest John Rocket Battalion, providing nuclear weapons support to the division.
In 1962 he attended the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, AL, as an exchange student with the Army War College.
In 1963 Jim joined the Army General staff in the Office of Research and Development. He was promoted to colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service in the Pentagon.
Assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1966, he served as the chief of staff and as the commander of the division artillery, comprised of four battalions with nuclear capability supporting the division’s brigades.
In 1968, Jim joined the Safeguard System Command at the Redstone Arsenal as comptroller. This project developed an antiballistic missile system to protect the United States from attack by nuclear missiles during the Cold War. Jim was awarded an oak leaf cluster to the Legion of Merit for his service.
Jim retired from the military in 1970, and the family settled in Atlanta. Jim’s post retirement positions were with two federal health programs. He helped separate mortuary and ambulance services and later helped create neonatal intensive care units in the hospitals of Georgia. Jim was an active member and ex-president of his Rotary Club, which helped to make polio vaccines available to children worldwide.
Jim then enjoyed an extended retirement with his wife and relatively nearby daughters. Entertaining, golf, travel, and family reunions happily dominated the rest of Jim’s long, excellent life! Let it be known that James J. Cobb did once shoot a hole in one!!!
Jim died of Parkinsonism at the age of 88 years. He is remembered by his family and friends as kind, honest, happy, and strong. In his quiet way, he led his family to cherish each other, God, and our country. His unselfish life was rewarded by the devotion of many. His legacy is a reminder to enjoy life, treat each other well, and be grateful for each day.
“When our work is done, our course on earth is run
May it be said, ‘Well done, be thou at peace.’
E’er may that line of gray, increase from day to day;
Live, serve, and die, we pray West Point, for thee.”
—Justine Glover, daughter
- Class of 1943 January
- Ms. Jean W. Cobb
- Mr. James R. Dempsey JAN '43
- Ms. Mari M. Meyer
- Mrs. Robert H. Schellman