While at WES, John applied his knowledge and judgment to the design of levees, locks, and other structures being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers along the Mississippi River system, including the Morganza Floodway. John met Edith Rials at a square dance in Vicksburg, and they married on August 8, 1950, just prior to John’s return to active duty at the outbreak of the Korean War. John served in the 434th Engineering Battalion as a captain and company commander, where his company was responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.
After John was honorably discharged from the Army in 1953, he moved to Houston and joined Greer and McClelland, which became McClelland Engineers. He was a member of a three- or four-man leadership team that was responsible for McClelland’s growth from a small Houston group of about 20 to a multinational organization of more than 800 employees offering a wide range of geotechnical services to industry and government. He was an internationally renowned consulting engineer, having consulted and lectured around the world.
Throughout his career John contributed widely to many different aspects of pile foundation design. When development of offshore structures began to rapidly expand in the 1950s, he led development of the first satisfactory design analysis for nonlinear soil-pile interaction under storm loading and the first useful correlation of soil test data with such soil behavior. His contributions acquired special significance when design load requirements of such structures rapidly outstripped the practical applicability of pile load tests. Other aspects of pile design for which John developed techniques that continue to be used in today’s practice include laterally loaded pile groups and tension-loaded piles in sand.
Focht was closely involved with the development and application of state-of-the-art techniques required in the design and construction of heavily loaded mats resting on deep soil foundations. He applied the observational approach of soil mechanics to solutions of many related design problems, such as deep excavation bracing, construction dewatering, prediction of excavation heave, permanent basement dewatering, and control of long-term settlement.