Bahnsen, John C., Jr.
Bahnsen, John C., Jr.
Home—New Cumberland, WV. E-mail—[email protected]
United States Army, commissioned officer in Armor branch, 1956; Army aviator, beginning 1957, became brigadier general.
Distinguished Service Cross; five Silver Stars; four Legions of Merit; three Distinguished Flying Cross awards; Bronze Star medal with three Valor citations; two Purple Heart medals; Meritorious Service medal; fifty Air medals; three with Valor citations; three Army Commendation medals, one for Valor; inducted into Army Aviation Hall of Fame, 2007.
(With Wess Roberts) American Warrior: A Combat Memoir of Vietnam, Carol/Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2007.
John C. Bahnsen, Jr., is a highly decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army who served tours of duty in Vietnam in 1965 to 1966 and 1968 to 1969. A 1956 graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, Bahnsen became a cavalry officer and commanded both air and ground cavalry units in combat. He retired as a brigadier general and as one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War era; in 2007 he was inducted into the U.S. Army Aviation Hall of Fame. With Wess Roberts, Bahnsen has written about his military career in American Warrior: A Combat Memoir of Vietnam.
Bahnsen became an army aviator almost immediately after graduating from West Point. His personal career dovetailed with the introduction of the Cobra aircraft as an effective tool for air-to-ground missions. In Bahnsen's memoir, one of his colleagues describes him as "tough" and "bullheaded," a commander who led his troops in desperate assaults rather than directing others from a safe distance. A contributor to a profile of Bahnsen on the Quad-a Web site wrote that his "presence and leadership carved out new thresholds of aviation combat effectiveness, almost beyond emulation or replication." This observation is reflected in the numerous medals and citations Bahnsen received, including the Distinguished Service Cross, five Silver Stars, four Legions of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and a Bronze Star medal with three Valor devices. Such combat experience does not come without a price. Bahnsen has also received two Purple Heart medals for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
American Warrior traces Bahnsen's youth and education at West Point, but the bulk of the narrative rests on his two tours of duty in Vietnam. There he led surprise attacks on enemy strongholds, using Cobra helicopters and other strategies that relied upon stealth and quick strikes. Bahnsen is frank in his memoir about his own failures and the mistakes made by those around him, but he also records many anecdotes of heroism on his own part and on the part of his comrades. The book additionally includes third-person accounts and interviews with some of Bahnsen's fellow officers who witnessed his command. A Publishers Weekly correspondent liked Bahnsen's "vivid, first-person recollections." In a review of American Warrior for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Gordon W. Keiser called the book "a well-told piece of military history and leadership." Booklist contributor Roland Green felt that the work "adds considerably to the … military student's knowledge of the Vietnam War."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bahnsen, John C., Jr., and Wess Roberts, American Warrior: A Combat Memoir of Vietnam, Carol/ Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Booklist, March 15, 2007, Roland Green, review of American Warrior, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, January 22, 2007, review of American Warrior, p. 180.
U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, August, 2007, Gordon W. Keiser, review of American Warrior, p. 86.
Quad-a,http://www.quad-a.org/ (April 12, 2008), brief author profile.