John William Vessey Jr.
United States Army officer
Died when: 94 years 50 days (1129 months)
Star Sign: Cancer
John William "Jack" Vessey Jr. (June 29, 1922 – August 18, 2016) was a career officer in the United States Army. He attained the rank of general, and is most notable for his service as the tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A native of Minneapolis, Vessey was a 16-year-old Roosevelt High School student in 1939 when he began his 46-year military career by falsely claiming to be 18 so he could join the Minnesota Army National Guard's 59th Field Artillery Brigade, a unit of the 34th Infantry Division. His unit was activated for World War II, and he took part in combat in the North African and Italian Campaigns. Vessey received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant during the Battle of Anzio, and served as a field artillery forward observer until the end of the war. He remained on active duty after the war, and continued to advance through positions of increasing rank and responsibility, including assignments in West Germany during the Cold War. He graduated from the University of Maryland University College in 1963, and received a Master of Science degree from George Washington University in 1965. In addition, Vessey completed the United States Army Command and General Staff College and Armed Forces Staff College courses and the program of study at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. During the Vietnam War, he served as executive officer of the 25th Infantry Division Artillery and acting commander of 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, and he received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism during the Battle of Suoi Tre. He served as commander of the 3rd Armored Division Artillery from 1967 to 1969, and the division chief of staff from 1969 to 1970. Vessey was promoted to brigadier general in 1970, and assigned as commander of U.S. Army Supply Thailand, a logistics support area for soldiers serving in Vietnam. He commanded U.S. military activities in Laos from 1973 to 1974, when he was promoted to major general as commander of the 4th Infantry Division. In 1975, Vessey was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned as the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, G-3. He was promoted to general in 1976, and named to command United States Forces Korea and the Eighth United States Army. In 1978, Vessey also assumed command of the Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command. He served in Korea until 1979, when he was assigned as Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan named Vessey as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served until retiring in October 1985, and his tenure was most notable for his high-profile support of the Reagan-era increase in defense spending and military preparedness. Vessey opted to retire before the completion of his second two-year term; according to published reports, he had intended to retire in June 1985 in deference to his wife's wishes to leave Washington, DC for their home in rural Minnesota, but remained on duty until the resolution of the TWA Flight 847 hostage crisis and other ongoing military activities. After leaving the Army, Vessey became involved in efforts to account for military personnel listed as missing in action, and made several trips to Southeast Asia to search for remains as part of resolving the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Vessey died in North Oaks, Minnesota on August 18, 2016. He was buried at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls, Minnesota.