Colonel John E. Harbert was born in Independence, Kansas on January 15, 1916. He entered active duty in 1940 as an Ordnance noncommissioned officer and was later given a direct commission to Ordnance lieutenant, due to his background.
In 1942, with the 32d Infantry Division, he participated in the first large airborne operation of U.S. forces in World War II. This operation culminated in the first U.S. ground victory at Buna, New Guinea, where he won the Silver Star for gallantry.
At the outset of the Korean Conflict, he was again in combat with the Advance Staff of the 1st U.S. Army Corps, where he and several enlisted men of the 98th Ammunition Supply Point issued vital ammunition to frontline units. He then avoided capture with his men by escaping 100 miles south through enemy lines in the I Corps sector.
Later in 1966, working under the direction of the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Colonel Harbert organized a fact-finding team which proceeded to Vietnam. As a result of their findings, adjustments were made within the Logistical System in Vietnam to enhance combat operations. Colonel Harbert retired in 1968.