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John William Vessey

Date of birth: June 29, 1922
Place of Birth: Minnesota, Minneapolis
Home of record: Minneapolis Minnesota

John Vessey began his military career in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 when he was still 16. He received a battlefield commission during the Battle of Anzio in World War II. He served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, earning the Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he graduated from college in 1963 at the age of 41. From 1979 to 1982 he was the 17th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. He served as the 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from June 18, 1982 to September 30, 1985. When he retired in 1985 at the age of 63, he was the last four-star World War II combat veteran on active duty and the longest serving active duty member in the United States Army.

AWARDS AND CITATIONS

Distinguished Service Cross

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (Field Artillery) John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with 2d Battalion, 77th Artillery, 3d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Vessey distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 21 March 1967 while serving as a Battalion Commander during a combat mission near Suoi Tre. During the early morning hours, Colonel Vessey's battalion received a massive assault by a Viet Cong regiment. Although more than 200 mortar rounds fell, Colonel Vessey fearlessly moved through his unit area, first to alert his men, then to direct various phases of the defense. When vital howitzer positions were destroyed by hostile fire, he rallied men from other sections to man the guns, and he himself assisted as a cannoneer. He was wounded during this action, but continued to lead and fire the artillery pieces. At one point, he spotted Viet Cong rocket launchers that were placing devastating fire into the battery perimeter. He seized a grenade launcher, moved into an open area and knocked out three of the insurgents' weapons. When an enemy tracer round ignited a drum of diesel oil and threatened to set off two drums of explosives nearby, Colonel Vessey ran to that highly dangerous point and helped move the drums to safety. His professional command and courageous fighting throughout the battle were instrumental in turning back the numerically superior enemy force and killing more than 600 Viet Cong. Lieutenant Colonel Vessey's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Action Date: March 21, 1967

Service: Army

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Battalion: 2d Battalion

Regiment: 77th Artillery, 3d Brigade

Division: 4th Infantry Division

Defense Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Peace Time Awards

The Secretary of Defense of the United States of America has presented the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General

Defense Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Peace Time Awards

The Secretary of Defense of the United States of America has presented a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General

Army Distinguished Service Medal

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(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General

Army Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Army Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General

Air Force Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 18 June 1982 to 30 September 1985.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

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Awarded for actions during the Vietnam War

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: General John William Vessey (ASN: 0-65047), United States Army, was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service in a position of great responsibility to the Government of the United States, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from 18 June 1982 to 30 September 1985.

General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4206 (August 18, 1967)

Service: Army

Rank: General