Eagle Profile

General Sir John W. Hackett is a highly successful scholar, soldier, educator, and author. Born in Perth, Australia, in 1910, he began his military career in 1931 when he was commissioned to the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars. From 1936 – 1941, Hackett served in the Middle East, first in Palestine, then with the Transjordan Frontier Force, and finally in Syria and Lebanon. In 1942, as Axis forces threatened Egypt, he transferred to the staff of the British 9th Army in the Western Desert. At the age of 33, twice decorated for bravery, he took command of the 4th Parachute Brigade. After landing in Italy in 1943, he next led this Brigade during the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden in the Netherlands.

On the second day, 18 September 1944, of the greatest airborne assault in history, Hackett and his men parachuted a few miles west of Arnhem’s strategic bridges across the Rhine. British airborne troops who had landed the day before mounted a vigorous bayonet charge against German troops who were firing at the planes and Hackett’s men. With characteristic precision, Brigadier Hackett landed just 300 yards from the spot chosen for his headquarters. Despite the enemy fire, he first searched for his walking stick, which was lost on the jump. Encountering German soldiers eager to surrender to him, he brusquely told them, in fluent German, to wait. He recovered his walking stick and then marched his prisoners away.

Following the war, Hackett held many notable commands including the Transjordan Frontier Force, Twentieth Armored Brigade, and Seventh Armored Division. He also served as Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Ireland Command and Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff. His final assignment in an illustrious military career was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine and Commander of NATO’s Northern Army Group. In 1968, he began a new career as Principal of King’s College, University of London.

Since 1975, he has devoted full time to lecturing and writing. A bestselling author, his books include The Third World War: A Future History, A Profession of Arms, and I Was a Stranger. General Hackett has been described as “an academic who in a prolonged fit of absence of mind became a four-star general.” For his conspicuous contributions to the realm, Queen Elizabeth knighted this amazing man in 1962.

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1989 Lithograph

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In the fall of 1944, following the Allied liberation of France, British and American forces made an unexpectedly rapid advance through Belgium to the southern border of the Netherlands. General Montgomery conceived a bold plan to rapidly push into Germany's heartland. A joint force of British, American, and Polish airborne troops would conduct simultaneous assaults to capture bridges along a single road leading to a key bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem. On 18 September, Brigadier "Shan" Hackett and his 4th Parachute Brigade jumped from a USAAF 315th Troop Carrier Group C-47 Skytrain into a "witches' cauldron" of fighting. Despite courageous efforts by all involved, the plan failed ... Arnhem was just a bridge too far!