General Singlaub

WITNESSING HISTORY BY SHARI LACY

Mr. John Singlaub is a normal guy.  At least it seems that way when you first meet him.  He and his wife Joan, recent transplants from the Washington D.C. area, are moved into their new home on Westhaven Blvd. and are settling into life here nicely.  Three of their children, living between Memphis and Columbia, TN, wanted them to move closer to family at this stage in life, so everyone could be in proximity of helping each other when needed.

Take a closer look however, and you soon realize that the more you learn about Mr. Singlaub and his history, the more you understand his seemingly normal life has been steeped in everything but the ordinary.

To some, his name is John.  To others, he’s been known for decades as Major General John K. “Jack” Singlaub, a highly decorated soldier who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, parachuted behind enemy lines into occupied France to organize, train, and lead a French Resistance unit which provided assistance to the Allied invasion forces during WWII, was later Chief of a U.S. Military Liaison Mission to Manchuria, served two tours during the Korean War and is the recipient of 45 military decorations including multiple Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, Soldiers Medal and Purple Heart to name a few.

General Singlaub fought behind enemy lines in Europe and Asia, went to China to train and lead Chinese guerrillas against the Japanese, and just before the Japanese surrendered in WWII, he headed up a parachute team rescue mission into an enemy prisoner of war camp on Hainan Island.  This resulted in the release of 400 Allied Prisoners of War.  He led troops in Korea, managed the secret war along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War, and worked with the Contras in Nicaragua. 

The list of accomplishments throughout his career are endless and easily place him in the military elite. His family, first wife Mary, and their three children, lived the quintessential military lifestyle, seeing the world base by base over the years.  By all accounts, he’s a soldier’s soldier, and an intensely respected one at that. 

His autobiography, Hazardous Duty; An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century, gives a revealing look at his 35 year history as one of the military’s top officers, along with his experience as an army covert operations specialist, and interesting behind the scenes information on the unique positions he’s held over the years, including time as an officer with the OSS (The Office of Strategic Services) during WWII.  The OSS was the organizational predecessor of today’s CIA, an agency for which he would later become a founder.

General Singlaub turned 88 years old on July 10th and still talks about his military years with great interest and clarity. He recalls the late 1970’s with great detail, representing the last few years of his military career in which he had a highly publicized encounter with then President Jimmy Carter.  He opposed opposed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.   President Carter did not.  In an off the record interview with a reporter, General Singlaub expressed his disagreement with President Carter’s decision to pull troops from South Korea at a time when North Korea was bulking up its military presence in the region. “Withdrawal from North Korea will lead to war as sure as it did in the 1950’s,” Singlaub recalls saying from his desk in Korea in 1977.  The off the record discussion ended up on the front page of The Washington Post, above the fold, and the General would find himself being summoned back to Washington D.C. from Korea, to defend his position to the President himself.

JFKsinglaubThis event would be the beginning of Singlaub’s last years as a General in the U.S. Army but would not be the end of his involvement in military affairs.

After leaving the military, General Singlaub relocated to Winter Park, CO, where he was founder of the U.S. Council for World Freedom (USCWF) in 1981.  General Singlaub testified before Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings and continues to speak, teach and consult with the military to this day.  He remained in Colorado for over a decade before eventually migrating back to Washington D.C. It was in the nation’s capital, on Sept. 11, 2001, that he watched from a window in his home as American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon building as one of the planned and targeted attacks on the U.S. that day. He’s been witness to some amazing and historical events over the course of his long and storied career.

General Singlaub met his second wife, Joan, after his marriage of 44 years dissolved, and while on tour promoting his book. The two would later marry and have now been together for just under 20 years.  With three grown children from his first marriage, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, Joan’s three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren on her side, the Singlaub’s are, needless to say, quite busy.   It’s easy to see that General Singlaub has led a diverse, highly-respected and sometimes controversial life with the United States Army.  His personal relationships with figures such as General William C. Westmoreland, Congressman Henry J. Hyde, Former Head of the CIA, William E. Colby, Oliver North, Jimmy Carter and so many more, have placed him the middle of some of the past centuries most politically charged events.  If you run into Mr. Singlaub and Joan someday, walking around Westhaven, pay attention.  You’ll enjoy having them as your neighbors.  Keep in mind you could be running into someone who seems like a “normal guy,” only now you know differently.

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