General John Shalikashvili: Top 12 Cool Facts

In today’s post, I want to educate people about General John Shalikashvili, a former General Officer and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

How familiar are you with this Army leader? He was a top military leader not so many years ago. General John Shalikashvili has an interesting background and story. He came from humble beginnings, but had an exceptional life.

General John Shalikashvili

In the paragraphs below, I will share 12 cool facts about General John Shalikashvili. 

#1: Birth

John was born on June 27th, 1936 in Warsaw, Poland to Dimitri Shalikashvili and Maria Rüdiger-Belyaeva.

#2: Lived Through Nazi Occupation

Notice I mentioned his birth in Warsaw, Poland… John survived the Nazi occupation of Poland and the 1944 uprising where John and his family had to flee to Germany.

#3: He Was A First

General John Shalikashvili was the first foreign born Army officer to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

#4: Rose From The Bottom

This is an area where I bow my head in great respect for General John Shalikashvili… He was drafted in 1958. He entered the United States Army as a private and attended Officer Candidate School and rose to one of the highest levels starting at the bottom.

#5: Came From A Family Of Military Leaders

The General came from a family of military leaders. John’s Grandfather was a General in the Tsarist Russian Army and his Father was an Officer in the Army of the Democratic Republic of Georgia and when Russia invaded Georgia, the Shalikashvili family exiled to Poland where he served in the Polish Army.

When the Soviet Union invaded Poland, as a Georgian, he was recruited to fight for the Germans and he was taken prisoner by the British.

He was released and reunited with the family. They stayed in Papenheim, Germany with relatives for several years.

#6: Peoria

When John was 16 years old, the whole family emigrated to Peoria, Illinois and were sponsored by Winifred Luthy who had been married to a cousin of the family years earlier.

#7: How John Learned English

Here is another area I give John great respect… At 16 years old and now living in Peoria, Illinois, he knew very little English.

So how did he learn?

Movies… Especially John Wayne movies. John spent many hours sitting in the theater watching the same movie play over and over.

#8: Vietnam

John served in Vietnam in Field Artillery and Air Defense positions. He earned a Bronze Star with a “V” while serving there.

#9: Commands He Held

Throughout his years in the United States Army, John held many command positions. They included:

  • 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery
  • 9th Infantry Division
  • Supreme Allied Commander Europe
  • and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

#10: Awards

General John Shalikashvili served in the Army from 1958 to 1997. During that service, he attained these awards:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters
  • Army Distinguished Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit with 2 oak leaf clusters
  • Bronze Star Medal with a V device
  • Meritorious Service Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters
  • Air Medal
  • Joint Service Commendation Medal
  • Army Commendation Medal
  • and the Presidential Medal of Freedom

#11: After The Army

John served in the Army faithfully for 38 years. After retiring, he also:

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

#12: Death

General John 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.

Final Thoughts

I have heard some people concerned about having foreign born people as leaders in the U.S. military. One of the first people I will point them to is General John Shalikashvili.

He was a great Army leader who gave 110%. Kalikashvili was instrumental in the removal of the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doctrine.

Many leaders would do great if studying this Army leader’s ways.

Let’s hear your thoughts… You can post them below. Thank you!

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
  1. Top 10 Famous Army OCS Graduates of All Time
  2. Top 17 Army Chiefs Of Staff Of All Time
  3. Army Staff Identification Badge: An Overview
  4. Military Graduate Schools In The United States
  5. Top 10 African American Army Generals of All Time
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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