Military historian to serve Joint Chiefs of Staff

John Hall will record counter-terrorism history as it happens within the Pentagon.

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Ambrose-Hesseltine Associate Professor of U.S. Military History John Hall. (photos by Sarah Morton)
Hall spent 15 years on active duty as an infantry officer and strategic planner for the U.S. Army before joining the UW-Madison faculty.

A dedication to both scholarship and service has defined the career of John Hall, the Ambrose-Hesseltine Associate Professor of U.S. Military History in the UW-Madison Department of History. A new appointment as a historian for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Department of Defense will allow him to continue the dual pursuits.

Hall will begin working in the History Office of the Joint Staff, which serves the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon, later this month. His role will involve following the development of counter-terrorism plans and strategy at the highest levels of the U.S. government and writing the official history of these efforts.

While counter-terrorism may be a relatively new area to document, the armed forces have been recording military happenings in real time since World War II, says Hall, who spent 15 years on active duty as an infantry officer and strategic planner for the U.S. Army before joining the UW-Madison faculty in 2009. 

“The U.S. military has been very good for a very long time in recognizing the importance of faithfully capturing details of what transpired, as it transpired, so there’s an accurate historical record,” he says.

The highly specified job requirements of the historian position — among them, a Ph.D. in history, top security clearance and an Army reservist rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel — fit Hall’s background. 

After growing up in southeastern Wisconsin, Hall left the state to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In the second half of his military career, he embarked on what he calls “the military version of academia,” earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. in history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before returning to West Point to teach.

At UW-Madison, Hall has taught a variety of classes on military history, including advanced courses on the American military experience since the early 20th century and Native American and early American history. He has also earned several distinguished teaching and writing awards.

I’m most looking forward to being in the room with the principal decision-makers as they set priorities, respond to new intelligence and navigate a multiplicity of factors that bear on crafting these kinds of strategies.

Hall is particularly interested in the intersection of war and society. With Professor Mary Lou Roberts, he is co-chairing a new program on the topic and will continue to help direct it from afar.

Hall’s work at the Pentagon over the next several years will be highly classified, but he plans to bring his experience to the classroom upon his return to UW-Madison. “The longer view combined with this new knowledge will add salience to my teaching,” he says.

Hall says he is eager for the opportunity to serve and for a front-row seat on history being made.

“I’m most looking forward to being in the room with the principal decision-makers as they set priorities, respond to new intelligence and navigate a multiplicity of factors that bear on crafting these kinds of strategies,” he says. 

Tag: History