John Wheeler, Vietnam Memorial Leader, Murdered

John P. Wheeler III, chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund during the Ronald Reagan era, has been murdered.

Sad news:

A man who fought to get the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built and served in two Bush administrations was murdered, Delaware police say.

John P. Wheeler III, 66, was found dead in a Delaware landfill, and his death has been ruled a homicide by Newark, Del., police. They are asking the public for leads in the case.

Wheeler’s body was found in Wilmington on Friday after a disposal truck containing his body made pickups in Newark.

Wheeler, who lived in New Castle, was chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund during the Ronald Reagan era. He also held many high-profile government positions after graduating from West Point in 1966.

The USMA Class of 1966 was an illustrious group, profiled in Rick Atkinson’s The Long Gray Line.

Jim Fallows has a warm memorial to his friend:

I worked with Jack on a book called Touched With Fire, about the post-war experiences of people who were in uniform during Vietnam and people who (like me) were actively opposing the war. He was chairman of the committee that got the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built. That is now taken as a great, triumphant icon of commemorative architecture, but at the time the “black gash of shame” was bitterly controversial, and Jack Wheeler was in the middle of the controversy — raising money, getting approvals, collecting allies and placating critics until the wall was built. A few days before it opened he called to invite me to be one of the readers who would, over a long stretch of hours, take turns saying aloud the names of every person recorded on the wall.

He was a complicated man of very intense (and sometimes changeable) friendships, passions, and causes. His most recent crusade was to bring ROTC back to elite campuses, as noted here. That is what I was corresponding with him about  in recent months. To be within email range of Jack was to look forward to frequent, lengthy, often urgent-sounding and often overwrought dispatches on the state of the struggle.

The Wheeler family has a long line of distinguished military men, including Colonel John Parsons Wheeler, Jr., who made a name for himself at a little place called Ramagen.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fritz Teich says:

    That likke place Ramagen is probably Remagen? Near Bonn at the river Rhein? At least there was some little battle

  2. Fritz Teich says:

    That little place Ramagen is probably Remagen? Near Bonn at the river Rhein? At least there was some minor battle in WWII.

  3. vietnam veteran says:

    This guy appears to have done alot, BUT…..I have been researching his bio all night long and have found some troubling information. First, he appears to be highly skilled at self promotion. That really doesn’t bother me, BUT…..the media is putting out quite a few things that don’t jive with my experience in Vietnam in 67-68, the saqme time this guy was there. First he gets assigned to NHike base in the states after west point , which is a way to avoid vietnam. No nike bases in vietnam if that was his branch. No problem again if you are smart enough to game the system. Then he obviously has a sponsor who gets this lieutenant a cush saigon job at Camp LBJ as a staff officer. Again …bravo for avoiding combat. But over and over again I keep reading how he was a “highly decorated” vietnam veteran. I call Bullshit! It may or may not be his fault for giving this info on his bio, but it doesn’t sit well with me to allow it to go uncorrected. Also, I read over and over how this “indiana jones” guy was in Saigon starting a company to sell cinamon at the age of 19. How does that happen when he is a sophomore at west point at the age of 19? Once again another case of poor journalism or tall tales by this guy. In any event, it seems he allowed all these myths to go uncorrected. After serving as a staff officer in vietnam, he is assigned to the pentagon….again, he must have had a sponsor to get that assignment. Makes me wonder if all the other crap in his bio has any basis in truth. About the only thing I agree with him on is his opinion of McCain…a non hero who mjore than likely gave up info for better treatment. Maybe I would have as well…who knows, bu7t hero? I think not. How about you jounalists do some homework on this guy and find the tr5uth before we raise him to the level of audie murphy. More likely, he was a gungho political type who served his country as required…no need for embellishment. It pisses off the combat vets and the memory of those on the wall. Just tell it like it is. I can see this guy chunking a smoke grenade into his neighbors house 🙂 The big question??? Who dunnit? It could be a variety of people including every liberal in america, mccain agents, or the cia. I am not aq conspiracy theorist…I bet it was the neighbor or someone who was a friend or relation of them.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @VV: I’m not claiming he was some sort of Audie Murphy, merely that he lived a life of service to the nation. The press don’t understand military culture, so they call anyone with a Bronze Star “highly decorated.” Being in possession of one of those myself, I cringe at the characterization.

  5. Gary Lillie says:

    We sometimes are too quick to judge. I am one of those people. However I had a book I had on tape many years ago titled The Class of ’66. The book followed the 1966 graduating class of West Point, which had the highest casualty rate during the Vietnam War than any other class.
    I remember the guy who worked hard and overcame a lot of obstacles to get The Wall built. While I wouldn’t have remembered the name it was Jack Wheeler. Here is a 1989 article on the web that talks about him a bit, including the fact he volunteered for Vietnam.
    This comes from another web site:
    Wheeler was a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point. His
    military career included serving as a staff officer in Vietnam, with the
    Office of the Secretary of Defense and with the Joint Staff. He was
    awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and retired in 1971. He was
    working as a defense consultant when he died.
    This web site gives a bio including Awards and Honors. He was not “highly decorated.”