Born in Kentucky, John Clagett graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1940. During World War II, he served on aircraft carriers and cruisers and was skipper of a PT 111, which was sunk at Guadalcanal. In 1946 Clagett retired from the Navy due to wounds and, after receiving his Ph.D. from Yale, served as third secretary in the U.S. Embassy to Norway. Middlebury College has named him Professor Emeritus, English. Clagett is the author of 19 trade books.