COL (Ret) John Harrington’s great grandfather (USMA 1872) served in the Indian Wars, and lost his life with General Custer at Little Big Horn in 1876. John’s great-great-great grandfather, Claudius Berard, was West Point’s first professor of French, and his great aunt was appointed West Point’s postmistress by President Roosevelt in the 1940s. These connections played a role in his decision to attend the Academy, where he graduated in 1965. Commissioned as an Armor officer, he initially served in Germany in the 3d ACR. He spent his Vietnam tour as a rifle company commander and battalion S-3 with the 9th Division. He earned a Masters Degree in Operations Research from Tulane and was assigned to a Combat Developments position at the Air Defense School, where he helped develop the basis of automated firing doctrine for the Patriot missile system. Following Command and General Staff College, he returned to Germany with 3rd AD’s 1st Brigade as S-3 and S-4, ending as Executive Officer of 2-33 Armor. Returning to the US, he served in a wide variety of assignments, including weapons system analyst in the Directorate for Program Analysis and Evaluation (PAED), commander of the 2nd Squadron, 6th Armored Cavalry, student at the Army War College, division chief in ODCSOPS, and assistant director of the Center for Army Analysis.
In his interview, John explains how his family background influenced his decision to go to West Point, his ability to survive academics at the Academy, and his unusual assignment path once commissioned. Although he branched Armor after graduation, his career was a montage of positions from a rifle company commander in Vietnam’s delta region to a high-level analyst at the Pentagon. John recounts his many air assault operations in Vietnam, and describes how his training at West Point prepared him to adjust to the variety of assignments over his 26-year career.