About – john harrison

JEHDJOPatriceConnolyPhoto by Patrice Connoly

During the Vietnam War I enlisted in the Army as a private. I was commissioned as an Infantry Lieutenant upon completion of Officer Candidate School at 20 years old. I was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Initially I was the Executive Officer, later assumed additional duty of Rifle Platoon Leader. While in Viet Nam I served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Executive Officer and Rifle Company Commander, including combat operations incidental to the Tet ‘68 Offensive.

Upon returning from Vietnam I graduated from Georgetown University and worked in real estate while going to law school at night. While practicing law I also worked in real estate and mortgage banking for about 30 years and finally achieved my lifetime ambition to be a high school history teacher.

Several readers have asked me about the genesis of the two articles, “Cone of Violence” and The Day Smith Died. The Day Smith Died was written first many years ago, probably right after I saw the mini-series Gettysburg on television for the first time. Watching it, I was struck by the similarities in courage of the Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, MOH, and the VC Province Chief I had run into near Phan Thiet, RVN. So, I wrote the article soon after. While I have never regretted shooting the Province Chief, I have almost always regretted the necessity that required me to shoot him. It was probably the death of Jim Bunn and Smith, and the killing of the Province Chief that drove me from the Army—I have always hated killing people.

I refight that day, February 2, 1968, every day in my mind’s eye. At one point when I was doing that in front of a computer, I just started writing and “Cone of Violence” was what came out. It came out all at once, complete. That was several years after I wrote The Day Smith Died. To me: one is history, what happened, and the other is emotion, what was felt.

Both “Cone of Violence” and The Day Smith Died are now in my new book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive, which is available on Amazon at (https://www.amazon.com/Steel-Rain-Tet-Offensive-1968/dp/1977045448/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1517494115&sr=1-1-catcorr) My Mother’s machine-gun which is my personal favorite, is in the book as well, but is also still available in the “Vietnam” category in the right side column on this page.

In the “Memoir” category on the right, you will find the story of United States Senate candidate Ruthann Aron, and how she once hired a hit man to kill me and another lawyer according to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney. (See: https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/have-you-ever-been-the-target-of-a-hit-man/) However, after she had failed at poisoning her husband’s chili, she changed her mind and decided to have the hit man murder her husband, instead of me. And you thought that being a lawyer was a safe job, all inside work with no heavy lifting? Danger lurks in the strangest places.

One of the neatest things about the blog has been the feed back, particularly from people that were there when the action happened. but also from people that have added to the stories from their own experiences in their comments. After I wrote A Dangerous Tossing Game Played At Night I found out from several readers that something called “rock apes” prowled the highlands and delighted in throwing rocks at troops and others. I also learned that while there were numerous “guerrillas” no one has ever seen a gorilla in Vietnam.

We met “rock apes”, tigers, elephants, snakes, peacocks and many other animals, great and small, in the wild, often with deadly results for the animals. However, other than snakes, the Army mentioned none of them in training. We trained mostly for combat patrols in the jungle, but fought mostly in pitched battles in cities, towns and villages. There are fewer and fewer of us every year and at some point Agent Orange, deployed originally for troop protection, will probably prove itself more deadly to us than bullets. It is these ironies that interest me right now, but I have not yet written of them and I do not know why.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the blog.



19 thoughts on “About – john harrison

  1. John Stapler

    You are a gifted writer John. We share the same first name and your analysis of its appropriateness matches my own on your FB page. I’ve only read your favorite so far and it was choice. Do you mind if I share it? I have several among family and friends (vets or vet family all including my son Sean) who will get a kick out of it. Will get to the others later as I have time…right now I have to get back to cleaning up after our difficult NE winter. By the way…I admire your patience and forbearance dealing kindly with young David the Chomsky acolyte…I don’t have quite the self discipline necessary to do that as graciously as you have. 😉 Regards John Stapler USA Ret Abn FA , RVN 70-1 173rd Abn Bde FO D 3-503PIR & XO A3-319 Abn FA & XO Binh Dinh Prov.

  2. James F. Webb

    I enjoyed two of your articles and look forward to reading more. I read “the Day Smith Died” and “What Goes Up, Must Come Down”. I am also writing my own book about Vietnam about the fun crazy things that we did. The title is, “What Are They Going TO Do, Send Me To Vietnam”. I hope to have it finished in a month or so.
    I served with the 801st Maint. Bn. in Fort Campbell from November 1966 until the Second and Third Brigades deployed to Vietnam and finished my 3 years and 25 days in the Army in Vietnam with the 101st. After a year of driving trucks I extend for six months as a door gunner with Company A, 158th AHB, 101st AB (the Ghost Riders) out of Camp Evans leaving there on 15 July 1969.
    Thank you for the great articles.

    James F. Webb (aka ChickenHawk)

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      Thanks for the kind words. I am glad you enjoy the articles. I am glad you are writing a book. Good literature about Vietnam is scarce. Welcome home.

      We all said your title before and after we went to Vietnam and it really meant way too different things before and after going. Cool title.

  3. John Hatcher

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. We both served in the same division at the same time, but our experiences are miles apart, mostly. Thanks again. Peace, out.

  4. Jay

    Your site might be blocked in China: as a lawyer, writing about politics and the Vietnam war (that China was actively involved in), they might want to avoid their populace reading “incorrect, destabilizing, agitating” history…

    1. JohnEHarrison Post author

      I actually finally have a single Chinese reader. I have several in Macau and a lot in Hong Kong as well. You are probably correct though. Thank you for the comment.

      1. Jay

        Just FYI: the last four links are not working as they somehow got chopped (note the ‘…’). Maybe they are just too long – or not copied properly. If you want to use the short versions, edit the posts – they provide short-urls in there. However, the original urls should work, so I would try that first.

  5. althompson101

    Amazing to meet the author. Amazing that our paths crossed in close proxity. Glad there were some experiences not shared. God knows the load each one of us can handle.

    Thanks for your leadership LT.


  6. kfreuler

    Thanks so much for sharing your time, your thoughts and feelings with the rest of us, especially about your time in Vietnam.
    I have only read one post about the knoll but will definitely read all of the others..there is nothing like reading and sharing someone’s experience. Be it good or bad..
    Thanks again

  7. nordrof

    Looking forward to reading your book LT I like the title Steel Rain , Very appropriate as I remember a lot of steel falling from the sky when the VC blew up the ammo dump very big and scary explosion. Amazon is suppose to deliver your book to me on Tuesday I’m excited to read it .See you at the wall I arrive on the 16 th and will be staying at fort mead.

  8. Gary Wheeler

    I read your eulogy for Jimmy Odonnell and would like to talk to you about him. I think he might be the person I was trying to locate, I think I may have met him back in the 70’s. Please contact me. Thanks


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