Haseman fosters friendships throughout illustrious career in Southeast Asia
Haseman was also inducted into the Defense Attaché System Hall of Fame.
Nov. 11, 2014
When Col. John Haseman left active duty after his first assignment in Vietnam in 1968, he had no intention of ever going back into the Army.
Instead, he felt the senior leadership he had experienced could use improvement, so he pursued a Master’s of Public Administration at the University of Kansas.
However, Haseman found that he was not completely enamored with the profession.
“When I came home (from my first deployment), I was very disillusioned,” Haseman said. “I just didn’t understand how it could be so lousy, and I didn’t want to be any part of it. I was going to be a city manager, but I didn’t find it as exciting and as fulfilling as being in the military service.”
Since the war was still raging on, Haseman decided to return to the military and served nearly 30 years in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma.
After serving in the 9th Infantry Division and as a district-level advisor in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War, Haseman also served as the U.S. Defense and Army Attaché in Burma.
“Although I was not planning to be a career military officer, that evolved, and I made that decision very early on in my career,” Haseman said. “I was enjoying my service. I felt that I was getting a lot out of it, and I thought I was making a good contribution. It was a good lifestyle and I enjoyed all of that.”
When Haseman attended MU in 1959-1963, all male students were required to take two years of ROTC.
In order to enter the service as an officer instead of a draftee, Haseman joined the four-year program. On Nov. 1, Haseman and eight other program graduates were inducted into the MU Army ROTC Hall of Fame.
As well as working in the Frank Lee Martin Journalism Library for nearly all of his college career, Haseman also assisted political science professors with grading and worked as a governor for his residence hall.
Haseman’s family were no strangers to the military lifestyle.
His father, who worked as a career army engineer, was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York after graduating from MU in 1936. His father later served in World War II under General Douglas MacArthur in Australia and New Guinea. His father also worked on General Patton’s staff in Europe.
Two of Haseman’s younger brothers were also West Point graduates. They both finished their military career in the army reserves and later retired as Lieutenant Colonels.
Before he retired from the military in January 1995, Haseman worked nearly 20 years in the Foreign Area Officer program in Southeast Asia. In addition to being a board member of the association, Haseman also edits the content of a journal the program publishes three times a year.
Since then, Haseman has written over 250 articles, mainly on Indonesia, to be published in journals and magazines or to be contributed as chapters in someone else’s books. He has also authored or co-authored four books.
Don McFetridge met Haseman in 1982 when he was an American student at the Indonesian Army Command and Staff College in London and Haseman was serving as the Assistant Army Attaché.
“It helped that he was an experienced attaché who knew a lot of the enemy’s funks, and that’s a very difficult assignment for people who are not particularly familiar with the demands of the job,” McFetridge said.
McFetridge also said he admired Haseman for several roles he played while serving in Burma.
“He was there when the democracy movement had its first flourishing and then was so brutally suppressed by (the) Burmese army,” McFetridge said. “At one point, he was putting wounded students in his car and driving them through the army lines to get them to medical care and attention. A pretty gutsy thing to do, but I’d say he definitely probably saved some lives there.”
Along with the MU ROTC Hall of Fame, Haseman was also inducted into the Defense Attaché System Hall of Fame in 2011. He was cited for his courageous duties in Burma and Indonesia, as well as his personal ties to senior Indonesian military officials.
“During all those years in Indonesia, I got to meet a whole lot of Indonesians when they were junior officers like I was,” Haseman said. “By the time I returned there as a defense attaché, my friends were the most senior Indonesian armed forces figures. Even today, 20 years after I retired almost, I can still pick up the phone and speak with the minister of defense.”
Although his days of service are over, Haseman still stays in contact with and frequently visits the friends he made overseas.
“Being in the area, the lifestyle, the food, my friends that are there, I just love all of that,” Haseman said. “I’ve been back to Vietnam almost once or sometimes even twice every year since we established diplomatic relations. I’m done with all the tourist stuff and I’m there to see my friends and reminisce with them.”
Haseman said it is the experiences they share together that keep them so close.
“I think that when you are in a situation where there is either danger, as in combat, or you are working in a high-level government within your own embassy in a foreign country, the friends you make in those difficult times are going to be the ones you keep for life,” Haseman said. “The people we’re closest to and feel the most comfort talking about some pretty nasty times with are the ones that experienced them with you.”
Haseman said it is the camaraderie found in military service that is also responsible for the close connections he keeps with his friends.
“It’s is unequal to anything else,” Haseman said. “There’s no better way to describe it. It’s a way of life.”
Tim Werling, who was assigned to the same advisory team as Haseman in Vietnam, said that Haseman’s ability to get along with the Vietnamese army is what made him such “a valuable asset to the mission and the army itself.”
“He respected his counterparts in the Vietnamese army, so then they returned that respect to him,” Werling said. “He was always very approachable and very friendly to everyone and because of that. I think a lot of the people that he met during that time period and afterwards in other foreign countries had come away with not only a very good opinion of John, but also a very good opinion of Americans in general.”
Haseman said that though it was easy to become frightened in time of combat, his response to events was automatic. He said that many times, he felt safer because of the loyalty expressed by the troops surrounding him.
“I think a lot of advisers’ biggest worry was that the Vietnamese troops they were with would suddenly disappear and retreat or run away, and they would be there by themselves and get captured, but I didn’t have that worry about that,” Haseman said. “You knew who was on your left and who was on your right at all times. Sometimes if you had to drop down suddenly and cover, you couldn’t always see them, but you knew that they were there.”
However, Haseman said that although he was experienced enough to handle those type of situations, fear was still a primary emotion during his years of service.
“I think that if you ask anybody who has ever been in combat, whether that be in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan, they’ll tell you that if you’re not scared, you’re crazy,” he said.