Fresh out of West Point, John Howard arrived for his first tour in Vietnam in 1965, the first full year of escalation when U.S. troop levels increased to 184,000 from 23,000 the year before. When he returned for a second tour in 1972, troop strength stood at 24,000 and would dwindle to a mere 50 the following year. He thus participated in the very early and very late stages of American military involvement in the Vietnam War. His two tours—one as a platoon commander and member of an elite counterguerrilla force, the second as a senior advisor to the South Vietnamese—provide a fascinating lens through which to view not only one soldier’s experience in Vietnam, but also the country’s.
John D. Howard graduated from West Point in 1964, beginning a military career that included two tours in Vietnam and service as platoon commander, company commander, battalion commander, brigade commander, division operations officer, division chief of staff, deputy commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division, executive assistant to the U.S. Army vice chief of staff, and U.S. Defense Representative in Pakistan. He is a graduate of the Infantry School, Airborne School, Ranger School, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Army War College. He retired in 1992 as a brigadier general and spent the next twenty years as a business executive. His combat awards include the Silver Star, Purple Heart, five Bronze Stars, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Howard lives in Arlington, Virginia.