Lieutenant Colonel John D. Hanlon was born in 1917 in Winchester, MA. As a college student at the University of New Hampshire, he was active in student council and played football, hockey, and lacrosse. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1940, with a Bachelor's Degree, earning an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
After graduation, Lieutenant Colonel Hanlon was assigned to active duty as a paratrooper in the United States Army. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he fought for our country in the D-Day invasion of World War II. John Hanlon jumped into Germany-occupied France ahead of the main invasion force in order to secure roads and bridgeheads for the advancing Allies. Lieutenant Colonel Hanlon also served in the European Theater and commanded the First Battalion of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. He later jumped into Holland and was among the Screaming Eagles trapped in Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. A natural leader, his unit played a key role in the defense of that famous Belgian town.
Lieutenant Colonel Hanlon was an extraordinary soldier and commander who served our country in the United States Army from 1940-1946. He was a hero whose decorations included the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. The men who fought with him remember a skillful and courageous officer. When the war ended, this decorated soldier decided to pursue a career in journalism.
John Hanlon loved to write and he loved writing columns. Since he had been a child, all he ever wanted to be was a newspaperman. After leaving the Army, he became a stringer for the Boston Globe in Europe and later joined the Providence Journal-Bulletin. He worked as a reporter and columnist at the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin from 1949-1982, and John Hanlon prided himself on his title of "newspaperman." The majority of that time, he captured life in Rhode Island as a sports and general columnist. After his retirement, a selection of columns, magazine articles and Sunday features was published in a book, "Is That All You Write...One Story a Day?"
John Hanlon's byline was a welcome signal to Journal-Bulletin readers for more than three decades. It was a signal that always held the promise of a clear, crisp, authoritative writing style. It was a guarantee of honesty, wit, and respect for the human cause that marked John Hanlon's work throughout his journalistic career.
One year he lived in England, where he wrote for Sports Illustrated and contributed to the British media. Subsequently, he returned to the US in 1962, settling in Rumford, RI. There, he and his wife Joan raised their two children, who later attended and graduated from the University of New Hampshire.
In 1991, he was inducted into the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame. At that occasion, John Hanlon was presented with a plaque bearing an inscription from the Journal Bulletin executive editor, who wrote "Mr. Hanlon was probably more in touch with readers than any reporter. He had an uncanny way of winning people's confidence and trust, and then proceeded not to let them down."
In later years after his retirement, Lieutenant Colonel Hanlon worked on a history of Brown University football and a history of Providence College sports. He was commissioned by the President of UNH as part of teh Centennial Year Celebration to write a sports history of the University of New Hampshire. During the next several years, John Hanlon visited the Durham campus frequently to conduct research. He produced a chronological history from 1893-1975, a 600 page narrative of all UNH sports, which included scores of games and names of athletes. A copy of his original manuscript rests in the University archives.