Retired Army General John Shalikashvili, an immigrant who rose to the top job in the Pentagon where he advised former US president Bill Clinton over military involvement around the world, has died at age 75, the army said in a statement.
Shalikashvili, the first -foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died on Saturday morning at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington State following complications from a stroke suffered in August 2004 that paralyzed his left side.
The country has lost a “genuine soldier-statesman,” US President Barack Obama said.
His “extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it,” Obama said.
The native of Poland held the top military job at the Pentagon in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997, when the general retired from the army. He spent his later years living near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and worked as a visiting professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
“He represented America at its best,” Clinton and his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, said in a statement. “An immigrant who entered the Army as a draftee, he rose to become an exceptional Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who oversaw more than forty operations, including the liberation of Haiti from a brutal dictatorship and NATO’s first use of force outside its member countries in Bosnia.”
Shalikashvili was born on June 27, 1936, in Warsaw. He lived through the German occupation of Poland during World War II and immigrated with his family in 1952, settling in Peoria, Illinois.
He learned English from watching John Wayne movies, according to his official Pentagon biography, and he retained a distinctive Eastern European accent.
He became a US citizen in 1958 and was drafted months later. In addition to being the first foreign-born Joint Chiefs chairman, he was the first draftee to rise to the top military job at the Pentagon, the US Department of Defense said.
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