Lessons in Leadership highlights World War II, Vietnam, beyond

Lessons in Leadership highlights World War II, Vietnam, beyond

Monday, June 4, 2018

John R. Deane Jr. had a remarkable career in the U.S. Army – fighting in World War II under Gen. Terry Allen, leading a German espionage team against the Soviets in the Cold War, and serving as commander of the 82nd Airborne Division and then U.S. Army Material Command.

His memoir, Lessons in Leadership: My Life in the US Army from World War II to Vietnam, is the latest addition to the AUSA book program.

Edited by retired Col. Jack C. Mason, it recounts key events of the 20th century and offers observations of leadership and management through his work with some of the Army’s most influential figures: James M. Gavin, William E. DePuy, William Westmoreland, and Creighton Abrams Jr.

AUSA sat down with Mason to ask a few questions about the book.


AUSA: In the foreword of Lessons in Leadership, you describe meeting the ninety-two-year-old Gen. Deane as his escort officer for a visit to Redstone Arsenal. What brought you from that point to editing his memoir?

Mason: At the end of his official visit to Redstone Arsenal, Deane offered to take my wife, Hope, and I out to dinner as his way of saying thank you. He had so many interesting stories to tell that we stayed at the restaurant for almost six hours. It was the start of our friendship with many emails and phone calls.

AUSA: What were some of the lessons Deane learned from serving under Gen. Terry Allen during World War II?

Mason: How could a young man like Deane, entering combat for the first time, not take lessons to heart from such a dynamic leader?

Allen’s gifts as a leader lay not in his tactical or strategic ability, but how he communicated with his fellow soldiers.

Gen. George Marshall had his eye on Allen since their service together at Fort Benning and noted, “Allen is one of those very few who can enthuse all of his subordinates to carry through almost impossible tasks.”

Deane kept in contact with him throughout his career and visited Allen on occasion until his passing in 1969. Deane’s communication style with his soldiers closely mirrored Allen’s who he described simply as “one of the greatest leaders I have ever known.”

AUSA: Please explain why Deane sent Gen. Westmoreland a “deception plan” for the parachute jump he led in Vietnam.

Mason: Deane, against his protests, was forced to brief a previous parachute operation to other staffs.

Before the scheduled date of the jump, it was discovered that the plan had leaked and that all of the bar girls in the vicinity of the assault knew about it. When a new plan was authorized, Deane learned his lesson and prepared a deception plan with a fake location that he used for all briefings, including those for Westmoreland.

The actual plan was delivered to Westmoreland’s headquarters during the midnight shift, a matter of hours before the jump, and sat in the “in” basket.

Unfortunately, when Westmoreland went to observe the jump, his staff took him 20 miles away from the actual location.

AUSA: You must have many favorite stories in the book. If you had to pick one, what would it be?

Mason: What amazes me is how lucky the Army was to have a battle group commander with Deane’s background on site in Germany as the Berlin Wall was going up in 1961.

There is a picture in the book showing the aftermath of a confrontation between a rock-throwing crowd of West Berliners and an East German riot water cannon right at the Berlin Wall.

Then Col. Deane stood in front of the West Berlin crowd as the East German vehicle threatened him by shooting bursts of water on each side of him.

Deane didn’t move and the confrontation ended as the East Germans backed off.

If the photographer had been on the scene just a couple of minutes earlier to collect that image, it would have become the iconic photo of the Cold War.


Lessons in Leadership is published by University Press of Kentucky. To order a copy, visit www.ausa.org/books