Retired Major General John Singlaub, a decorated military legend well-known not just for his service but also for publicly criticizing Former President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy in Korea, has passed away at 100.

John Singlaub reportedly died peacefully last Saturday, survived by his children and loving wife, Joan. The Special Operations legend fought and survived in World War II. the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 George A. Valdez, a team sergeant with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), receives the first General John Singlaub Award from Gen. Singlaub himself in Feb. 2016.

Special Operations Legend

John Singlaub first entered the US Army as 2nd Lieutenant for the US Army Infantry during World War II, January 14, 1943. He was immediately deployed to France, where he was part of Operation Jedburgh. It was a three to four-man special operations team composed of soldiers from the British Special Operations Executive, the US Office of Strategic Service (OSS), and the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action. Note that the OSS would go on to become the CIA – staffed by many former members of the OSS.

This operation, composed of multiple, small units, were involved in covert missions behind Axis lines, providing intelligence and helping resistance fighters. Singlaub was one of the 83 Americans selected to participate in the program, along with French, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers. Singlaub was assigned to Jedburgh team “JAMES” and worked with French Maquis to pave the way for the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Singlaub In Asia

After Germany surrendered, Singlaub would then be sent to the Pacific. He would parachute onto Hainan Island,  in Nationalist China, leading an 8-man team to rescue American, Australian, and Dutch prisoners of war (POWs) from the Japanese. He didn’t stop there. He also arranged food and medical care for all POWs while still fighting the Japanese.

He would then be recruited in the CIA after the OSS had disbanded. He stayed in Manchuria to monitor the political situation of the Chinese Communists and the Nationalist Chinese in their Civil War. He would come home to the States for only a brief period and come back to Asia for the Korean War. In the 1950s, tensions within North and South Korea would come to an all-time high. He gathered intelligence as part of the Joint Advisory Commission in Korea (JACK) as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander in 1951. He also led an infantry battalion in the Korean War while doing intelligence work. Because of his accomplishments, he was awarded the Silver Star.

In 1966, Singlaub led the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) during the Vietnam War. This mission involved him leading special operators from the US military to fight North Vietnamese communists. Particularly, he had a direct hand in the mission to interdict the Ho Chi Minh trail, a vital supply line for communists. In later interviews, his team and colleagues would emphasize that Singlaub was one of the most dedicated and passionate officers they ever knew.

Not just a warrior but also an academic, Singlaub would return to the States to attend the Army Command and General Staff College and the Air War College. He also completed flight school at Fort Rucker as a 50-year-old in 1971.

Going back to Korea as Chief of Staff of the US Forces in 1977, he feuded publicly with former President Jimmy Carter as he proposed to withdraw US troops from war-torn Korea. This would get him fired and relieved of duty. He would also be forced to retire in 1978 when he continued to criticize Carter during a Georgia Institute of Technology lecture.

Together with former Congressman Larry McDonald and British Journalist John Rees, he would start the Western Goals Foundation. This private intelligence agency was directly involved with the Iran-Contra network.

Retired Major General John K. Singlaub attending a US Army Special Operations Command Red and Black Ball in 2016 (USASOC Public Affairs)

Active for over 40 years with the military, Singlaub was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with the oak leaf cluster, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with not one but two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and Bronze Star, the Order of the Cloud and Banner, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the Air Medal with lead cluster to name a few.

In honor of him, the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) created the Major General John K. Singlaub Award in 2016 to honor US military personnel who served courageously off the battlefield. He was also inducted into the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2006 and a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007.

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