John Shalikashvili

John Shalikashvili
Shalikashvili in August 1993
Nickname(s) "General Shali"
Born (1936-06-27)June 27, 1936
Warsaw, Poland
Died July 23, 2011(2011-07-23) (aged 75)
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, U.S.
Buried Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1958–1997
Rank General
Commands held Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Operation Provide Comfort
9th Infantry Division
1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (3)
Bronze Star Medal (V)
Meritorious Service Medal (4)
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Relations Joan (Zimpelman) Shalikashvili (wife)
Brant Shalikashvili (son)
Gunhild Bartsch (wife, died 1965)
Other work Visiting professor, Stanford University
Director, Frank Russell Trust Company
Director, L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.
Director, Plug Power Inc.
Director, United Defense Industries, Inc.

John Malchase David Shalikashvili (Georgian: ჯონ მალხაზ დავით შალიკაშვილი, IPA: [ʃalikʼaʃvili]; June 27, 1936 – July 23, 2011) was a United States Army general who served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe from 1992 to 1993 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, in the family of émigré Georgian officer Dimitri Shalikashvili and his Polish wife Maria Rüdiger-Belyaeva. In 1996, he was the first recipient of the Naval War College Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award.[1]

Shalikashvili was the first foreign-born man to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served in every level of unit command from platoon to division.[2] Shalikashvili died of a stroke in 2011 at the age of 75.[3]

Early life and education

Shalikashvili was a scion of the medieval Georgian noble house of Shalikashvili. His father, Prince Dimitri Shalikashvili (1896–1978), born in Gurjaani,[4] served in the army of Imperial Russia; Dimitri was a grandson of Russian general Dmitry Staroselsky. Shalikashvili's mother was Countess Maria Rüdiger-Beliaev.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Dimitri became a lieutenant colonel in the army of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. When the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Georgia in 1921, Dimitri was on diplomatic service in Turkey. Dimitri then joined other Georgian exiles in Poland, where he met and married John's mother, Maria; she was Polish and of part German ancestry,[5] and the daughter of Count Rudiger-Bielajew, a former Tsarist general. They had three children: Othar, John and Gale. Dimitri served in the Polish Army (along with other Georgian exiles) as a contract officer.

In 1939, Shalikashvili senior fought against the German invasion of Poland. After the Polish defeat, Dimitri was demobilized. In 1941, he enlisted in the Georgian Legion, a force of ethnic Georgians recruited by Germany to fight against the Soviet Union.[6] The unit was later incorporated into the SS-Waffengruppe Georgien[7] and transferred to Normandy. Dimitri surrendered to British forces and was a prisoner of war until after the war. A collection of Dimitri Shalikashvili's writings are on deposit at the Hoover Institution. Meanwhile, Maria, John and his two brothers lived through the destruction of Warsaw. As the Red Army approached Warsaw in 1944, the family fled to Pappenheim, Germany, being reunited with Dimitri along the way.[8] It was in Pappenheim in the closing days of World War II that John first laid eyes on American soldiers.[9] His family stayed with relatives there in Pappenheim for eight years.

In 1952, when Shalikashvili was 16, the family emigrated to Peoria, Illinois. They were sponsored by Winifred Luthy, the wife of a local banker, who was previously married to Dimitri's cousin. The Luthys and the Episcopal Church helped the Shalikashvili family get started, finding jobs and a home for them. Dimitri worked for Ameren, and Maria was a file clerk at Commercial National Bank. When Shalikashvili arrived in Peoria he spoke little English:

I spoke a little bit [of English]. But not much beyond yes and no and what time is it. And the stories that subsequently have been told that I learned English by watching John Wayne movies is only a little bit of a stretch... As school was over [at Peoria High School], I would run to the local movie theater. There I would sit through movies in order to learn English. In those days movies didn't start at a specific time and end at a specific time, but they would roll continuously... The first time through it wouldn't make much sense to me. But the second time through, it would begin to make a little more sense. Now in my memory, that is probably very faulty, a lot of those movies were John Wayne movies or at least were Wild West movies.

Shalikashvili went to Peoria High School, where he was a long-distance runner. He attended Bradley University in Peoria and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1958. He was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. In 1970, Shalikashvili received a master's degree in international affairs from the George Washington University's School of International Affairs.

In May 1958, Shalikashvili and his family became American citizens. It was the first nationality he ever held. He had previously been classified as stateless because he had been born to parents who had been refugees.

Military career

After graduation Shalikashvili had planned to work for Hyster Lift Truck, but received a draft notice in July 1958. He entered the United States Army as a private, enjoyed it, and applied to Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1959.

Shalikashvili served in various Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery positions as a platoon leader, forward observer, instructor, and student, in various staff positions, and as a battery commander. He served in the Vietnam War in Quang Tri Province with Advisory Team 4 (redesignated Team 19 in September, 1968), Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), as a senior district advisor from 1968 to 1969. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with "V" for heroism during his Vietnam tour. Immediately after his Vietnam service, he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 1970, Shalikashvili became executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery at Fort Lewis, Washington. Later in 1975, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. In 1977, he attended the U.S. Army War College and served as the Commander of Division Artillery (DIVARTY) for the 1st Armored Division in Germany. He later became the assistant division commander. In 1987, Shalikashvili commanded the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. There he oversaw a "high technology test bed" tasked to integrate three brigades—one heavy armor, one light infantry, and one "experimental mechanized"—into a new type of fighting force.[10]

Shalikashvili achieved real distinction with his considerable success as the commander of Operation Provide Comfort, the peacekeeping and humanitarian activity in northern Iraq after the Gulf War. This assignment involved intense and complex negotiations with the Turkish government, and tough face-to-face meetings with the Iraqi military.[11] Another important achievement was the establishment of the Joint Vision 2010 program, which would transfer the United States military into one great and effective digitalized military force.

Shalikashvili was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, effective October 25. He retired from the Army in September 1997, after serving for 38 years.

Later life and death

Shalikashvili was an advisor to John Kerry's 2004 Presidential campaign. He was a visiting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He served as a director of Russell Investments, L-3 Communications, Inc., Plug Power Inc., United Defense, Inc., the Initiative for Global Development,[12] and the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Shalikashvili was married to Joan and had one son, Brant, a graduate of Washington State University, and a daughter, Debra.

Shalikashvili suffered a severe stroke on August 7, 2004 that paralyzed his left side.[13]

In 2006 the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) launched the John M. Shalikashvili Chair in National Security Studies to recognize Shalikashvili for his years of military service and for his leadership on NBR's Board of Directors.[14]

In 2007, Shalikashvili penned an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a reversal of Don't ask, don't tell.[15] A similar op-ed by him appeared in the June 19, 2009, issue of the Washington Post.[16] The policy was reversed July 22, 2011, the day before his death.

Shalikashvili died at the age of 75 on July 23, 2011, at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from a stroke.[17] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.[18]

Personal life

Awards and decorations

Badge Combat Infantryman Badge
1st row Defense Distinguished Service Medal Distinguished Service Medal
2nd row Legion of Merit Bronze Star Medal Meritorious Service Medal
3rd row Air Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal Army Commendation Medal
4th row Presidential Medal of Freedom National Defense Service Medal Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
5th row Vietnam Service Medal Southwest Asia Service Medal Humanitarian Service Medal
6th row Army Service Ribbon Army Overseas Service Ribbon Inter-American Defense Board Medal
7th row Vietnam Gallantry Cross with two silver and one bronze star Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal Brazilian Order of Military Merit, Knight
8th row Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland Meritorious Service Medal of Canada Vietnam Campaign Medal
Badge Parachutist Badge
Badges Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge United States Army Staff Identification Badge
Badge 9th Infantry Division Combat Service Identification Badge


  1. USNWC official website Archived 2011-11-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Luttwak (August 22, 1993). "Why Clinton Called Upon Shalikashvili". Sacramento Bee.
  3. Dewan, Shaila (July 23, 2011). "Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, Military Chief in 1990s, Dies at 75". The New York Times.
  4. "Shalikashvili seeks to have Nazi dad reburied in Georgia" The Seattle Times.
  5. "War in a Time of Peace". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  6. "General's Father Fought for Nazi Unit", New York Times.
  7. Shalikashvili, Dimitri. Memoirs. Hoover Institution.
  8. Marble, Andrew. "A Biography Project on Gen. John Shalikashvili". Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  9. Marble, Andrew (January 2012). "How Are Great Leaders Made? Lessons from the Career of General John Shalikashvili" (PDF-20.75 Mb). Joint Force Quarterly (64): 137–138. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  10. Goldstein, Lyle J. (Spring 2000) General John Shalikashvili and the Civil-Military Relations of Peacekeeping. Armed Forces & Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 26, p. 387.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  12. "Former Head Of Chiefs Of Staff Is Ill". The New York Times. August 10, 2004. Retrieved October 28, 2010.
  13. "In Honor of General John M. Shalikashvili (June 27, 1936 – July 23, 2011)". The National Bureau of Asian Research. August 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  14. Shalikashvili, John M. (January 2, 2007). "Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  15. Shalikashvili, John M. (June 19, 2009). "Data Must Rule the Debate on Gays in the Military". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  16. CNN Wire Staff (July 23, 2011). "John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dies". CNN. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
  17. John Shalikashvili at Find a Grave
Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. John Galvin
Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Succeeded by
Gen. George Joulwan
Preceded by
Adm. David E. Jeremiah (acting Chairman)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Gen. Hugh Shelton
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