Not Necessarily the Approved Solution: Having the Instincts to Get the Job Done

Joseph Charles Zengerle III


Joseph Zengerle came to West Point at the “hinge of history,” defined by the Kennedy Administration and MacArthur’s speech to the Corps of Cadets. As a plebe, he marched in the Presidential Inauguration and felt that Kennedy was ushering in the future. Kennedy’s Assassination disrupted that future, and MacArthur’s speech signified the past. He felt that West Point afforded an opportunity for self-definition. While he sometimes ran against the grain of the administration, eventually becoming a Century Man, he felt he always had certain instincts to get the job done. He met his future wife, Lynda, in the Senate cafeteria before shipping off to Germany, where he served in Infantry and Military Intelligence assignments. When he deployed to Vietnam, Lynda remained in Washington D.C., working for the State Department. In Vietnam, Joe worked for General Westmoreland, interacting closely with both him and with General Abrams. Upon returning from Vietnam, he left the military, and both he and his wife attended the University of Michigan Law School. In this interview, Mr. Zengerle discusses his motivation to attend West Point and the lessons he learned as a Cadet. He describes his tour of duty in Germany during the height of the Cold War and his experiences in Vietnam, including the Tet Offensive and the aftermath of the My Lai massacre. He talks about his decision to go to Law School and his early efforts supporting Vietnam Veterans. Finally, he explains his reasons for endowing a lecture series at West Point, and his support of gender equality at the Academy.


conflicts Cold War Vietnam War
topics Ethics Life After Military My Lai Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 26 March 2016


name Joseph Charles Zengerle III
institution USMA
graduation year 1964
service Infantry / Military Intelligence
unit 2/34 Infantry; MACV HQ
service dates 1964 1969