“West Point Turned My Life Around”: A Lifetime Of Service In The Army And Army Reserve

Paul Vallely


Paul Vallely grew up in a working-class family in Dubois, Pennsylvania, and became interested in West Point after a neighbor joined the Class of 1957. Figuring the Military Academy offered the best chance to attend college at no cost, he took the entrance exam and pursued a nomination. He recalls having no trouble with the physical aspects of Beast Barracks but got plenty of attention from the cadre for laughing or smirking too often. He also had to catch up academically to many classmates who had attended better schools or had college experience. His favorite class was an elective in space engineering (’61 was the first class to have the chance to take an elective in their Firstie year), taught by then-Captain Frank Borman. Although he never played any varsity sports while a cadet, he considered himself an “intramural superstar.” After an initial tour in Germany with an airborne infantry battalion, he went to Fort Riley, Kansas, followed soon thereafter by a tour in Vietnam. After a short stint stateside, he returned to Vietnam as an advisor. Paul transitioned to the Reserve Component in 1971, serving for another twenty years in a variety of psychological operations and civil affairs positions before finishing his career as the Deputy Commander for Reserve Affairs at US Army Pacific from 1988 to 1991. Since retiring from the Army, he has remained active as an author and as a media consultant on defense matters. In this interview Paul talks mostly about experiences early in his life, his time at West Point, and his junior officer assignments, including both tours in Vietnam. The interview concludes with his reflections about all the things that West Point ingrained in him.


name Paul Vallely
institution USMA
graduation year 1961
service Infantry
unit 509th PIR; I Field Force; 101st Airborne Division; 1st Infantry Division; MACV; 6th Armored Division; Army Reserve; 14th Psychological Operations Battalion; 7th Psychological Operations Group; 351 Civil Affairs Command
specialty Military Analysist
service dates 1961 1991