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John V. Brennan papers

Biographical note

John "Jack" Vincent Brennan was born on August 16, 1937 in Fall River, Massachusetts to John and Olympia (Malgieri) Brennan. The grandson of Irish (paternal) and Italian (maternal) immigrants, Brennan attended what was then Coyle High School in Taunton, Massachusetts. Upon entering college in 1955 at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island Brennan majored in economics. He also enlisted in the United States Marine Corps reserve at Newport, R.I. in February of 1956.

After graduating from Providence College in 1959, Brennan was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and entered Officer's Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. In 1960 Brennan was stationed at Twenty Nine Palms in California and subsequently was promoted to First Lieutenant in December of that year. He was then transferred to the island of Okinawa, Japan and there served for thirteen months.

In 1962, Brennan found himself in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for 6 months during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Brennan's next assignment was as a gunnery instructor at the US Army Artillery and Missile School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His assignment to Vietnam in 1966 allowed him to display his artillery skills as the Operations Officer of the 3rd Battalion of the 10th Marines.

Later assigned command (now a Captain) of an artillery unit that was stationed outside Danang, the unit was moved en mass to provide fire support to the Marine infantry units who were engaged in fierce battle at Khe Sahn. His reinforced battery came under attack in June of 1967. In the opening engagement Brennan was wounded by shrapnel in the right arm, left hand, and left arm, for which he received the Purple Heart. In addition, Brennan was awarded the Bronze Star for his role in that day's action. While wounded, Brennan remained with his unit, encouraging his men and directing return fire, which completely destroyed the opposing forces. He then ensured that his fellow wounded soldiers received medical attention before allowing himself to be treated. After completing his one year tour in Vietnam, Brennan was selected for Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia, which he attended and was subsequently promoted to Major in November of 1967.

In 1968, Richard M. Nixon was elected President of the United Stares. John Brennan was nominated by the Marine Corps and selected for the position of Marine Corps Aide to the President. Becoming the first Marine to hold that title, he began his work during the transition period from President Johnson to President Nixon.

As the Military Marine Corps Aide to President Nixon, Brennan answered to the Military Assistant to the President and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Among his duties, one was "carrying the football" or nuclear codes to initiate the launch of nuclear missiles in the event of a war. Other duties included being responsible for the Presidential Helicopter fleet, the management of the Western White House at San Clemente, CA and all ceremonies. Additional, duties included taking advance trips to arrange for domestic or foreign Presidential visits.

Most notably, Brennan accompanied the President on visits to Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, China, and more than 60 countries. He also accompanied the First Lady on all of her trips abroad, including trips to Ghana, Liberia, Brazil, and Peru.

Brennan was responsible for coordinating the emergency evacuation plan for the President and those who were in the line of succession, and he was a liaison with the Department of Defense regarding decisions not related to policy. As a result of his excellent service in this position, Nixon promoted Brennan to Lieutenant Colonel in September of 1973.

Later when President Nixon left the office of the President in August of 1974, Brennan accompanied the President on the helicopter and airplane that flew the Nixon family to California. Brennan continued to act as Nixon's aide and in July of 1975 Brennan resigned from active duty in the United States Marine Corps to become the former President's Chief of Staff.

As Chief of Staff, Brennan oversaw the everyday activities of the Office of Richard Nixon in San Clemente. He planned the two trips to China in 1976 and 1979 as well as helped plan Nixon's trips to France, England, Spain, and the Ivory Coast. He also negotiated the terms for the interviews that President Nixon did with Sir David Frost in the late 1970s.

On August 1, 1979 Brennan received his final promotion to Colonel in the USMC Reserves. The following year in 1980, Brennan resigned from his position as Nixon's Chief of Staff and moved to Washington, D.C. to start his own consulting business with the former Attorney General, John Mitchell.

Remaining active at a national level, Brennan, under President Reagan, served on the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He was also an Honorary Delegate from California at the 1988 Republican National Convention, and was on the Bush/Quayle Campaign staff. Colonel Brennan culminated his career of government service by serving in the civilian capacity as Director of Administrative Operations Division of the Executive Office of the President in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton.

He has also served as commissioner of the California Veteran Memorial Commission, was a member of the advisory board of the California Angels baseball Team from 1977 to 1993 under owner Gene Autry, and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Elks and Rotary Clubs. Colonel "Jack" Brennan is now retired from both the Marine Corps and The White House staff. He divides his time between his homes in Rhode Island and California. An avid Friar sports fan he lists Friars Athletics and the Wounded Warrior Program as his favorite charities.