Major James A. Scanlon enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 1941. He completed his recruit training with 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California.
Scanlon was assigned to the 3rd Anti-Air Group, 2nd Defense Battalion in Parris Island, South Carolina. The unit embarked and sailed from San Diego on the SS Lurline and joined the 8th Defense Battalion in Tutuila, American Samoa. In July 1942 the unit sailed and was stationed at Wallis Island in the Pacific Ocean.
He received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant in April 1943 and assigned as the Commanding Officer, Headquarters and Service Battery, 3rd Anti-Air Group, 8th Defense Battalion. The unit came under heavy enemy attack in January 1944 where he was promoted to First Lieutenant. The unit then transferred from Wallis Island to Hawaii in April 1944.
In July 1944 he was reassigned to the Intelligence field and spent four months in Anacostia, Washington D.C. at the Aerial Photographic Interpretation Course before being reassigned to Pearl Harbor, Headquarters Battalion, 5th Marine Division, Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area.
In January 1945 his unit departed Pearl Harbor on the USS Cecil and eventually landed and fought the historic battle of Iwo Jima. He returned to the United States in January 19466 and was attached to the 27th Marine Regiment.
Major Scanlon was discharged in April 1953. He resided in Eden Prairie, raising his family here. His son Kelly graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 1979.