Obituary: Richard Milburn Jennings

Richard Milburn Jennings November 7, 1927 ~ June 9, 2020

Dick passed away surrounded by his daughters Lynn Urban and Jan Jennings at his home in Indian Wells on June 9, 2020. He had survived for over two years with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia and finally surrendered to the one battle he could not win.

Dick was born November 7, 1927 in Washington, D.C., the son of a US Army officer. Until age 14, he lived at various Army postings with his parents. He witnessed the battle of Pearl Harbor in 1941 as a 14-year-old “Army brat” at Hickam Field, the bomber base next to Pearl. After the attack, he was evacuated to California with his mother and sister on the first naval convoy. They settled in Palo Alto to await the return of his father from the Pacific war. At age 16, he attended Stanford University but, in the middle of his sophomore year, in June 1945, he enlisted in the Army Specialized Training Program, remaining as a cadet at Stanford for two more quarters. In January 1946, he went on to various postings with the Army at Fort Lewis, WA and Fort Benning, GA. He was slated to be an infantry combat platoon leader but noted that field artillery lieutenants, rather than walking, rode in jeeps and had a good song, and he was able to become a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery in June 1947. He volunteered for overseas duty, and in late 1947, he sailed to Europe and joined the First Infantry Division in the army of occupation of Germany. He served in an artillery unit for the next two and a half years as a platoon leader, often on maneuvers near the German/Czech border during the crises in Berlin. After various postings in Europe, he joined the Korean War. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star medal, once because his battery was judged the fastest shooting in the division. In the final months of the war, he was chosen as American Aide to the Chief of Staff, Republic of Korea Army General Paik and traveled with him throughout South Korea. After the war ended in 1953, he returned to Phoenix where he completed a BA Degree in Political Science at Arizona State University and then left again for Germany in 1956. In this second tour in Germany, he served in Augsburg, Wurzburg, and Stuttgart where he made up the nuclear fire plan for the VII Corps sector in Southern Germany. Afterwards, he was sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma as an instructor of nuclear weapons’ employment and artillery tactics. Then, he was sent to the German Army General Staff College in Hamburg for its two-year General Staff course, one of only two Americans to be selected. During this course, he met and married Nini Bjonness of Oslo, Norway and had his first child, Lynn. Then he commanded the 9th Artillery in Kitzingen, Germany with a bunker full of live nuclear weapons. After this, he moved the family to Arlington, VA and served in the Pentagon on the US Army General Staff in Europe, Middle East, and Africa operations. He simultaneously completed an MA in Government at Georgetown, University. A second daughter, Stephanie, was born. Volunteering for Vietnam in 1968, he led a battalion and was awarded two more Bronze Stars, eight Air Medals, and the Legion of Merit. On a second tour in Vietnam, he led a brigade of 2,700 artillerymen, including a battalion floating on rafts in the Mekong River. After his five campaigns in Vietnam and a short Hawaii experience, he was named Assistant for NATO/Warsaw Pact Affairs to the US Secretary of Defense. He was sent to the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, where a third daughter (Jan) was born. Finishing this course and a Doctorate in Government at Georgetown, he became Professor of International Relations at the National War College (NWC). At the NWC from 1972-75, he was the most published author of the faculty and was awarded his second Legion of Merit decoration. However, he incurred the displeasure of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by publishing articles showing that Soviet forces were not as strong as heralded, over ten years before the establishment accepted this, and was given an early retirement. He retired on September 1, 1975 and moved to Aspen, CO. In Aspen, after several years as a ski instructor, he went into real estate development and became VP of Preferred Resorts International and then President of Western Resorts International, supervising development projects in Colorado and hotel projects in Arizona. He was an early developer of Dotsero and a partner of the development of Aspen Mountain View on Missouri Heights. On the civic side, he was President of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and a National Council member for the Aspen Community Theater. He is remembered by his keen sense of humor and athleticism in particular, enjoying many charity events in Aspen. Retiring in 1999 in Indian Wells, he enjoyed his garden and tennis, and served, successively, as President of the local World Affairs Council, the Stanford Club, and the Military Officers Association. Dick is survived by the mother of his children Nini Bjonness of Oslo, Norway and his three daughters Lynn Urban (Mark Pfahl), Dakota Faith, and Jan Jennings (Michael Mount); grandson Christian Urban and granddaughter Sophia Jennings; his sister Nancy Walton, three nephews including Michael Walton, Rick Walton, and Steve Walton, and one niece, Ginny Smith; and his very dear companion Dawn Nordblum of Palm Desert. A Celebration of Life for Colonel Richard M. Jennings will be held at the Indian Wells Golf Club in the future, along with a burial in Aspen, Colorado at the Red Butte Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made either to the World Affairs Council of the Desert in Palm Desert or Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, Colorado.