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Vessey, John

Vessey, John (1922–), army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).Vessey hailed from Minnesota. After high school, he enlisted in the National Guard and was called to active duty in 1941. He served as an artillery sergeant in the North Africa Campaign and received a battlefield commission at the Battle of Anzio in 1944. After the war he remained in the army, rising to deputy chief of staff, operations and plans, and commander of the Eighth Army during the Korean War. Vessey was army vice chief of staff when President Ronald Reagan named him tenth chairman of the JCS in 1982. He saw no need for the major changes in the joint system proposed by his predecessor, Gen. David Jones. Instead, he moved to improve the system within the existing framework. Plainspoken and with a ready wit, he often induced his JCS colleagues to rise above service positions on controversial issues. To improve advice to the president, Vessey arranged quarterly meetings for the chiefs with the president and brought the major operational commanders into the budget and strategic planning process. Nevertheless, U.S. intervention in Grenada and the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon (both in 1983) raised criticisms about poor service cooperation and a cumbersome chain of command, which helped to bring about passage of the Goldwater‐Nichols Act in 1986, a year after Vessey's retirement.
[See also Lebanon, U.S. Military Involvement in; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


JCS Biography, General John W. Vessey, Jr., Willard J. Webb and and Ronald H. Cole , The Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1989.

Willard J. Webb

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