General John R. Galvin Fighting the Cold War

General John R. Galvin, 1929–2015

We were saddened to learn this week that General John R. Galvin, USA (Ret.), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and winner of the Legion of Merit and Army Distinguished Service Medals, passed away at his home in Jonesboro, Georgia.

General Galvin’s recently released memoir, Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir, is a record of not only his uncommon leadership on the battlefield and in affairs of state, but also his service as an historian, mentor, and teacher.

As the Washington Post noted in an obituary posted today, “his leadership ability and scholarship earned him friends in high places, which aided in his rise. He contributed to writing the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret multi-volume history of the Vietnam War, and played roles in reshaping the Army after the post-Vietnam era.

“Thinking beyond large-scale, conventional warfare with the Soviet Union and other nation-states, he wrote influential reports and articles on counterinsurgency strategy and guerrilla warfare that would define conflicts in the Middle East after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.”

The New York Times also praised his contributions to US military historiography and the major role he played in bringing about the end of the Cold War as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe.

In Fighting the Cold War, General Galvin recounts fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes about his interactions with world leaders, describing encounters such as his experience of watching President José Napoleón Duarte argue eloquently against US intervention in El Salvador; a private conversation with Pope John Paul II in which the pontiff spoke to him about what it means to be a man of peace; and his discussion with General William Westmoreland about soldiers’ conduct in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. He also recalls his complex negotiations with a number of often difficult foreign heads of state, including Manuel Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ratko Mladić.

General Galvin was also the author of The Minute Men: The First Fight: Myths and Realities of the American RevolutionAir Assault: The Development of Airmobile Warfare, and Three Men of Boston: Leadership and Conflict at the Start of the American Revolution.

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