Lieutenant General John “Bruce” Blount, a native of Pawtucket, Rhode Island had early ties to the University of Rhode Island. His mother was a cook in one of the campus’ dining halls, while his father operated the original Ram’s Den, a sandwich shop next to the family’s home on Upper College Road. Bruce attended South Kingstown High School where he was an outstanding track, basketball and baseball player. His high school record of 66 points in a single game stills stands as a state record today.
In 1946, Blount entered the University of Rhode Island. As captain of the basketball and baseball teams, he was selected to both the All Yankee Conference Team as well as the All East Team. He was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. Blount enrolled in Army ROTC while at URI, and he served as the Cadet Colonel in his senior year. In June 1950, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. During his subsequent thirty-seven years, he held demanding junior and senior leadership positions and led American soldiers into combat in both Korea and Vietnam.
From Jan 1952 to June 1953, First Lieutenant Blount served as a Platoon Commander, Company Commander and Aide-de Camp (General’s Aide) during the Korean War. As a leader in the fabled 45th Infantry Division, he was involved in some of the fiercest fighting with Chinese forces in the vicinity of “Old Baldy” along the Main Line of Resistance. The Battle of Old Baldy refers to a series of five engagements over a period of ten months for this critical Hill 266 in west-central Korea.
The contest for Old Baldy became very heated on June 26, 1952. The Chinese had established positions that posed a constant threat to the 45th Division troops in the area. The Division Commander decided to destroy the Chinese positions. After intense aerial bombing and artillery attacks, C Company (Reinforced), 179th Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant John B. Blount assaulted the dug-in Chinese positions. The assault forces soon ran into heavy small arms and automatic weapons fire from the two Chinese companies who comprised the defense force. After hours of fighting, the Chinese pulled back and directed artillery and mortar fire upon Lieutenant Blount’s attacking unit. The battle lasted for months.
An interesting incident in his career occurred in May 1954 when Blount was called to testify during the infamous “Army Hearings” held by Senator McCarthy. Senator McCarthy alleged that he was deceiving the committee. Lieutenant Blount not only was able to rebut the allegation, but did so in a manner which made everyone, including Senator McCarthy, laugh. Senator McCarthy thereafter commented that he could see why Lieutenant Blount was selected as a General’s Aide.
In 1968-1969, Lieutenant Colonel Blount served as the Commander 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in the Republic of South Vietnam. Arriving shortly after, the Tet Offensive, Lieutenant Colonel Blount’s Battalion fought to stop enemy reinforcements pouring into Quang Tri City from North Vietnam. In March 1968 the 1st Cavalry Division shifted forces and began “Operation Pegasus” to break the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sahn. All three brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division participated in this vast airmobile operation. On 8 April, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, linked-up with the Marines at the combat base, ending the seventy-seven day siege.
His next assignment was as Secretary of the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. Thereafter, he served on the General Staff of VII Corps in Stuttgart, Germany, initially as Deputy Operations Officer and then as Operations Officer. After serving as the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division Support Command, he was posted as the Chief of Staff of the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.
He served as Commander of the Army Training Center at Fort Jackson and as the Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command. Following his promotion to Lieutenant General in 1983, he became Chief of Staff, Allied Forces South in Italy, a NATO command consisting of units from Greece, Italy, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
His numerous awards and decorations include the Combat Infantry Badge (with star), Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with Numeral “9” and Valor Device, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Republic of Vietnam Honor Medal. Lieutenant General Blount was selected into the order of “Aaron and Hur,” a group whose goal is to enrich the religious life and the promotion of high moral precepts among those who serve in the Armed Forces.
Lieutenant General Blount spent his entire life serving his community and nation during peace and war. His exemplary devotion to duty, personal bravery and outstanding leadership is in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself his family and the University of Rhode Island.
Lieutenant General Blount and his wife Joan currently reside in Columbia, South Carolina.