John Dean Caldwell

Date of Birth

November 14, 1940

Date of Death

July 31, 2019

John Dean Caldwell, respected defense analyst and noted national security expert, died unexpectedly following complications from an ulcer surgery on July 31, 2019. John was born in Pittsburgh, PA on November 14, 1940 to Dr. David Caldwell, a thoracic surgeon and his wife Jean Baldinger Caldwell. The family relocated to Santa Barbara in 1945. John was a graduate of Cate School. He made and maintained many life-long friendships from Cate, and he had enduring loyalty to the school. He proudly served as trustee for many years and held leadership roles in several advancement campaigns. Following high school, John attended and graduated from Amherst College with honors in 1963, and later earned his M.A. and PhD in political science from UC Santa Barbara.

In 1967, John began a career while still in graduate school that would ultimately span five decades in research and consulting. From 1968 through 1970, he worked on counterinsurgency and civil development projects in Thailand and Vietnam under contract to the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) with the Department of Defense. Through much of the 1970s, John’s professional focus shifted to domestic issues related to the criminal justice system. One of his projects helped design a modern county-wide justice center for Ventura County, CA, which was funded by the federal government as a demonstration project. In the 1980s, John returned to his earlier interest in national security. He relocated to Los Angeles to work on classified research for TRW and Northrop Grumman for twenty-five years, officially retiring in 2007, but returning as an independent contractor and mentor, roles he continued until his death.

Over the course of his career, John worked on projects related to fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, space missions, and strategic nuclear deterrence. His passion for research and writing is especially evident in one of his final accomplishments: In 2019, he published Anatomy of Victory: Why the United States Triumphed in World War II, Fought to a Stalemate in Korea, Lost in Vietnam and Failed in Iraq. This 500 page book has been widely praised, including former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster remarking that it was “Excellent!” and “Fills an important void in our understanding about policy, strategy, and operations.”

Throughout his adult life, John remained a serious intellectual and committed political conservative. Calm, articulate, witty and with a razor-sharp mind, John made and retained a wide circle of friends throughout his lifetime. Dr. Caldwell is survived by wife Karen Sketch, sister Jan Thorpe (Larry), and their sons, Trevor (Gabrielle), and Jason of Kensington, California.

A Memorial will be held on September 27, 2019 at 3:30p at Katharine Thayer Cate Chapel at Cate School in Carpinteria. Reception to follow.


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