Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Paul D. Harkins
The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
PAUL D. HARKINS
Interviewed by: Ted Gittinger
Initial interview date: November 10, 1981
Q: General Harkins, will you begin by giving us a brief sketch of your military career before your assignment to Vietnam in 1962?
HARKINS: Oh, my goodness, that starts back in 1922 when I joined the Boston National Guard just to learn how to ride a horse because I figured only soldiers and millionaires could ride horses on the weekends. And I ended up forty-two years later in Vietnam without a horse, but I went to West Point from the National Guard. Then I joined the horse cavalry at Fort Bliss and then went to the cavalry school in 1933. I stayed there for six years; I was an instructor after two years in courses there.
Q: Was that at Leavenworth?
HARKINS: No, this was at the cavalry school at Fort Riley.
Q: All right.
HARKINS: And I took the advanced equitation course. Then I stayed on there as an instructor in riding for four years. Then I went to Fort Myer. While at Riley, I served with General [George] Patton for a while; he was the director of instruction for a short term. And I went to Fort Myer and he was the commanding officer of the regiment at Myer, the Third Cavalry, and I had F Troop with the Third Cavalry. From there I was on maneuvers with the Second Armored. I joined the Armored Division because that was the thing to do for horse cavalrymen in those days. I was on maneuvers in Louisiana and got a telephone call. General Gay had called, Colonel Gay at that time. He was with General Patton. He asked me if I wanted to go with them, and I said, “Where are you going?” And he said, “I can't tell you.” And I said, “Sure.” (Laughter) So I went as deputy chief of staff for the Western Task Force, and we landed in Africa just about thirty-nine years ago yesterday, as a matter of fact, the eighth..
Q: Operation Torch.