Vessey Jr., John W.


1979 TLS as Army Vice Chief of Staff, last WW II Joint Chiefs Chairman 1982-85, only one not a service chief or head of a unified or specified command


Autograph ID: 6935
Condition: Very good, very faint clip stain at top left
Description: “(1922-2016) Career US Army officer, attained the rank of general, served as 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He began his 46-year military career in 1939 by falsely claiming to be 18 to join the Minnesota Army National Guard. His unit was activated for WW II and he took part in combat in North Africa and Italy. Vessey received a battlefield commission to 2nd lieutenant at Anzio and was a field artillery forward observer to the end of the war. He remained on active duty after the war, and advancing with increasing rank and responsibility, including assignments in West Germany in the Cold War. He attended the Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. During the Vietnam War, he was XO of the 25th Inf. Div. Artillery and acting commander of 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, awarded the DSC for heroism in the Battle of Suoi Tre in Operation Junction City. Vessey led 3rd Armored Div. Artillery 1967-69, division chief of staff 1969-70. Promoted to brigadier general 1970, he was assigned as commander of US Army Supply Thailand, a logistics support area. He commanded military activities in Laos 1973-74 promoted to major general commanding 4th infantry Div. In 1975, he was promoted to lieutenant general as the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, G-3. He was promoted to general in 1976, commanding US Forces Korea and the 8th US Army. In 1978, Vessey became 1st commander of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command 1978-79, then assigned as Army Vice Chief of Staff. In 1982, President Reagan named him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (only chairman who had been neither a service chief nor a commander of a unified or specified command, last WW II veteran to hold that position) until retiring in October 1985. His tenure was notable for his high-profile support of the Reagan-era increase in defense spending and military preparedness. Vessey and the Joint Chiefs in 1982 & 1983 advised against deployment of a Marine contingent to Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force; their advice was not taken, and in 1983, a truck-bomb attack on the Marine HQ building in Beirut killed 241 Marines and Army men. Vessey oversaw execution of the 1983 Grenada operation that rescued US citizens and brought a pro-US government into power. During Vessey's tenure, there was increased emphasis on space as a theater of operations. Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative and a US Space Command was activated in 1985. After retirement, Vessey was involved in efforts to account for military personnel listed as missing in action, and made several trips to SE Asia to search for remains as part of resolving the Vietnam POW/MIA issue and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and West Point’s Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1996.

TLS “Jack” on 8 ½ x 7 4-star letterhead as General US Army and Vice Chief of Staff, Washington, December 17 1979, to “Dee” (Major General DeWitt C. Smith, Commandant, U Army War College). General Vessey informs Smith that on the 3rd try, his staff has determined that funds are available to solve his “official guest funding problem” and they will publish “an interim change to AR-230-1 in January to spell out the details”, apologizing for the delay and sending holiday wishes.

DeWITT C. SMITH, JR. (1920-1985) US Army officer, former deputy Army Chief of Staff, twice (and longest-serving) Army War College commandant 1974 -77, 1978-80. In 1942, he joined the Army commissioned a 2nd lieutenant with the 4th Armored Div. in combat after Normandy to the end of the War. Wounded 3 times, awarded Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars for Valor, and 3 Purple Hearts. Discharged 1946, returned to active duty for the Korean War and stayed in the Army. He was an aide to Chief of Staff Gen. Maxwell Taylor, served in the "Old Guard" at Fort Myer, a battalion commander in Germany, and served at the Pentagon before going to the Army War College. He led a combat brigade of the 1st Infantry Div. in Vietnam. In 1970, under his leadership, Fort Carson, Colo. was made an initial test site for the modern volunteer Army concept. He retired in 1980.”

Type: Letter

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