Major General James W. Ball was born in Sandy Hook, Mississippi on February 1939. He received a Regular Army commission as a second lieutenant in 1960 upon completion of the Reserve Officer Training Corps as a Distinguished Military Graduate at Mississippi State University.
After two years assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an Infantry officer, he began his Ordnance career as a project officer for the Procurement and Production Directorate at the United States Army Missile Command. Of his five overseas tours, his second tour in Vietnam was the most noteworthy.
He was one of the last Americans to leave when North Vietnamese forces moved into Saigon in April 1975. As a member of the Defense Attaché Office, he handled all requisitions for supplies, equipment, and spare parts. He was one of the officers in charge of the evacuation of American and allied soldiers and civilians, as well as their families.
In 1988, he became Chief of Ordnance and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School. He was instrumental in improving both the quality of the soldiers recruited into the Ordnance Corps and the quality of training at the Ordnance School. Officer training became 50 percent hands-on and the Ordnance Noncommissioned Officer Academy became the first accredited NCO Academy. The clarification of –10 and –20 Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services, the Palletized Load System, Army Space Heaters, Improved Recovery Vehicles, and the Contact Maintenance Truck are among the systems developed during his two years.
His final two positions were Deputy Chief of Staff for Supply, Maintenance, and Transportation, U.S. Army Materiel Command and Director of Supply and Maintenance, at the Office Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics. General Ball retired in 1993.