John Honeycut Hinrichs was born at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, New Jersey, on 10 July 1904, where his father, Captain Frederic W. Hinrichs, Class of 1902, USMA, was then stationed. His grandfather, John T. Honeycutt, Class of 1873, USMA, was for some years a professor at the Military Academy and elsewhere. Following graduation from high school and a year of study at Pomona College in Claremont, California, Hinrichs entered the Military Academy, graduating 101st in a class of 261 in 1928. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the field artillery, he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, with the Tenth Field Artillery until 1931.
Entering the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 1931, Hinrichs graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1932. He was then assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground as a student, completing the course there in 1933. He remained at Aberdeen for three years as a proof officer on tank-automotive, artillery, and bomb-section projects. He was promoted first lieutenant in May 1934 and formally transferred to Ordnance in March 1935. Hinrichs graduated from the Army Industrial College in June 1937. He was then assigned to Frankfort Arsenal, Philadelphia, primarily as an engineering and production officer in the Small Arms Branch. By January 1941, he was a lieutenant colonel. He spent some time designing small arms ammunition plants of the type constructed just before and during World War II.
Largely because of this experience, Hinrichs was named the first commanding officer of the newly built Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Following a year in that post, he was made commanding officer of the Ordnance Maintenance Branch and Division Ordnance Officer, 14th Armored Division, at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. After six months in that assignment, he was called to Washington in February 1943, as Executive Officer of the Maintenance Branch, Field Service Division, Office chief of Ordnance.
Promoted to colonel in June 1943, Hinrichs remained there until April l945, when he was transferred to the Pacific, first as Deputy Ordnance Officer, Headquarters, US Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, Mid Pacific Command, with headquarters in Hawaii. In November 1945, he became Ordnance Officer for the Mid Pacific Command, and in January 1946, Deputy Ordnance Officer for the same headquarters while simultaneously assuming command of the 84th Base Depot until June 1947. He returned to Washington and com pleted the course at the National War College in 1948. He then became a member of the Joint Logistics Plan Group of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon for two years.
In June 950, Colonel Hinrichs became a member of the faculty of the National War College for eighteen months. For two months beginning in December 1951, he held the position of Deputy Chief, Field Service Division, Office, Chief of Ordnance in Washington. In January 1952, he was named Chief of the Field Services Division and Assistant Chief of Ordnance. In this capacity, he was responsible for the worldÂwide storage, issue, and maintenance of all ordnance materiel, from guns to trucks, tanks, and guided missiles. Thirty ordnance installations and some sixty thousand military and civilian personnel were under his supervision. Promoted brigadier general in March 1952 and major general in August 1954 (the first to achieve that rank without being named Chief of Ordnance), he contmued with these responsibilities until September 1955, when he was named Deputy Chief of Ordnance.
On 2 April 1958, General Hinrichs was designated Chief of Ordnance, and in September 1959, was promoted to lieutenant general. He assumed office at a time when the Army was being asked to make great scientific progress and change its weaponry while receiving the smallest annual appropriation of the three military services. General Hinrichs established the Office of Executive Management for the study and resolution of broad management problems within the department. Under General Hinrichs' direction, the Ordnance Corps developed the Army-wide mechanization of data transmission later adopted by all of the other technical services. Realizing the need for a closer working headquarters relationship with all commands and arsenals, General Hinrichs established in 1959 a special assistant for commands and arsenals.
Projects undertaken by this new office included an extensive review of the Army 's ordnance special weapons program and the transfer of the Naval Rocket Testing Station to Picatinny Arsenal. During 1959, the Ordnance Corps faced the dual problem of moving as rapidly as possible in the race for new types of atomic weapons while at the same time maintaining the supply of conventional weapons for use in limited warfare. Until this time, roughly 70 percent of the Ordnance Corps budget was devoted to guided missiles. Hinrichs took positive action to create a better division of funds and efforts between atomic and conventional weapons and between support of general and limited wars. He also developed the concept that one technical service should have responsibility for complex weapons systems from the "cradle to the grave."
During the latter half of 1960, General Hinrichs in stituted a wide-ranging reorganization of the Office, Chief of Ordnance which entailed the establish ment of a plans and programs division and a resources division which was designed to keep planning program and budget functions in step with changing concepts and needs. As a result of this reorganization, approximately 15 percent of the 123 Ordnance activities were reduced in scope. At this same time, the Ordnance Special Weapons and Ammunition Command became operational. Its mission was to provide tactical forces with automatic munitions and with items of conventional ammunition. Among the other accomplishments of the Ordnance Corps in General Hinrichs' tour as Chief were a reduction in the lead time required for research and development, resulting in great fiscal savings. This in turn made possible prescheduling of weapons, ammunition, and missiles. The Moon rocket project went forward and the 40mm grenade launcher, REDEYE and HAWK missiles underwent development or production. In addition, the NATO cartridge was adopted for infantry weapons.
The latter stage of General Hinrich's tour was overshadowed by studies and plans designed to reorganize the Army along functional lines. This entailed among other things termination of the offices and functions of the technical services chiefs, about which they were not consulted.General Hinrichs opposed this proposal, which was to result in most ordnance functions being placed within the newly formed Army Materiel Command. When he stepped down as Chief of Ordnance on 31 May 1962, General Hinrichs was slated to become the new supply and maintenance commander, with responsibilities going beyond ordnance, but he elected to retire rather than serve under a more junior officer and see several of the major functions for which he had held respon sibility, notably research, development, procurement, and specialized training, be parcelled out among several new agencies. When he left the Army, he had under his jurisdiction 80 separate commands, with 45,000 military personnel and 90,000 civilians. Following retirement, General Hinrichs went into ranching near Monterey. California, where he died on 13 February 1990 at the age of 85.