Press Release

General John W. Vessey, Jr. kicks off new lecture series at The National World War II Museum

WWII Veteran and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan to speak November 8, Broadcaster Tom Brokaw on December 5


NEW ORLEANS (October 8, 2008)  – On Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 6:30 pm, General John W. “Jack” Vessey, Jr. will present the inaugural lecture in the General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series on World War II. Vessey, who served as Reagan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will discuss World War II in the Rear View Mirror of One Veteran. Using his personal story as a starting point, he will discuss those that fought in World War II and continued to serve their countries after the war and how the experience shaped their views and, ultimately, the nation’s policies.
This exciting new free lecture series is devoted to the legacy of America’s largest war. Speakers will include writers, scholars, distinguished members of the Armed Forces and journalists like the former NBC anchorman and author of “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw.
In May 1939, at the age of 16, Jack Vessey enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard where he later served with the 34th Infantry Division and saw the early setbacks suffered by the U.S. forces in North Africa. He also saw combat in Italy, including Anzio, where he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant.  After World War II, Vessey continued his service, being assigned to the 4th Infantry Division in Germany and then the Eighth U.S. Army in Korea. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second highest award for heroism, for actions in Vietnam, and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1971.
These experiences left him with a life-long commitment to military preparedness through training, equipment and inter-service cooperation.
In June 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed General Vessey Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the last World War II veteran to hold that post.  He retired in September 1985 after 46 years of military service.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush awarded General Vessey the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, for his efforts as an emissary to Vietnam to account for U.S. servicemen listed as MIA.
The General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series on World War II is made possible through the generosity of Major General and Mrs. Raymond E. Mason, Jr. and the Raymond E. Mason Foundation.  A native of Columbus, Ohio, General Mason graduated from Ohio State University in 1941. He served in the European Theater of Operations during World War II in the 4th Armored Division of General George S. Patton’s Third Army. Prior to retiring from the military in 1976, he held several high-ranking Pentagon positions, including Assistant Deputy Chief for Operations and Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Logistics.
This lecture series is free but seating to all events is limited.  Reservations are strongly encouraged. For more information on this and future lectures in this series, please call 504-527-6012 x 331 or email Registration is also available online at

The next presentation in the General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Distinguished Lecture Series on World War II will be on December 5, 2008 featuring Tom Brokaw. Attendees to the Vessey lecture will have the opportunity to reserve tickets for the Brokaw event before they are available to the public on November 10.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.  Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as the nation’s official World War II Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, call 504-527-6012 or visit