Lieutenant Colonel John H, Leach, Jr. is a native of Ashaway, Rhode Island and a 1953 graduate of Westerly High School. John was an outstanding athlete playing football, basketball, track and baseball. He was selected as a Rhode Island All-State baseball player. In addition, he was the class president for two years.
He entered the University of Rhode Island in 1953 and immediately demonstrated his dynamic leadership. He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and was elected Vice President his senior year. John, a walk-on athlete, who became a six-letterman at URI in football and baseball, was a prominent member of the 1955 undefeated URI football team and an Academic All-American.
While at URI, John enrolled in the Army ROTC program. During his senior year, he was the Cadet Brigade Commander. He graduated in 1957 as a Distinguished Military Graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical Education, and he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
Following his initial Infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Second Lieutenant Leach was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington where he excelled as a rifle platoon leader. Captain Leach became an armored Infantry Company Commander in Germany at the height of tensions in the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. Again, his professional competence and talent for developing junior leaders was readily apparent by the stellar performance of his unit. In addition, Captain Leach was a standout in the logistics field. His talent and expertise benefited the Army in his next two assignments.
In July 1966, Major Leach arrived in the Republic of Vietnam and was assigned to 2-7th Cav, 1st Cavalry Division. The division was on the leading edge of developing and executing the tactics, techniques and procedures for large scale airmobile operations in Vietnam. During this period, Major Leach participated in “Operation Pershing,” a large scale search and destroy operation of enemy base areas in the mountainous Highlands Region in which 5,400 enemy soldiers were killed and 2,000 captured. During a bitter air assault mission, he was wounded by an enemy mortar round in the landing zone. He recovered from his wounds and returned to duty with his outfit.
During the period 1967-1968, Major Leach was an Assistant Professor of Military Science at the University of Rhode Island. He was a natural as an instructor and excelled as a mentor and role model to the Corps of Cadets. One of the newly commissioned Second Lieutenants said: “I just want to be as good an officer as Major Leach.” Several of the cadets he personally mentored rose to the highest levels in the Department of Defense, a testament to his ability to develop junior leaders.
Major John Leach led by example. He returned to the battlefield, this time as a Senior Advisor to the 5th Infantry Regiment, South Vietnam Army. His tactical prowess and ability to motivate the soldiers won him the confidence of all the South Vietnamese soldiers and leaders. Their operational effectiveness increased significantly.
From 1973 to 1977, Major Leach was assigned to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was a fully qualified tactics instructor and later was a major contributor to the development of Army Field Manual 71-100, Airland Battle Doctrine. This manual was the driving force in the US Army for the next 20 years.
Lieutenant Colonel Leach’s awards include the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart, Soldiers Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Airborne Badge and Ranger Tab.
Lieutenant Colonel John H. Leach, Jr. retired 31 August 1984 after more than 28 years of service to our nation. He later became manager of the URI Conference Center and the operations manager at Westerly High School. Lieutenant Colonel Leach lived his entire life serving his community and nation and his accomplishments reflect great credit to himself, his family and the University of Rhode Island.
Lieutenant Colonel John H. Leach, Jr. and his wife Carol reside in Westerly, Rhode Island.