Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson

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Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson

(b. 12 February 1915 in Granite City, Illinois; d. 16 May 2005 in Washington, D.C.), soldier-scholar, presidential adviser, and commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation who was recalled from retirement in 1977 to head the U.S. Military Academy after a cheating scandal.

Goodpaster was the second of three children of Andrew Jackson and Teresa (Mrovka) Goodpaster. His father was an occasional farmer, though his primary career was as a conductor, and later superintendent, on the East St. Louis Suburban Railway. His mother supplemented the family income as a dressmaker. After graduating from Granite City High School in 1931, Goodpaster enrolled at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois, but in 1933 the effects of the Depression ultimately derailed his plan of teaching mathematics. For two years Goodpaster instead worked odd jobs, and in 1935 he won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point over fifty other applicants.

At the academy, the six-foot, two-inch cadet played football on the plebe team, participated in interscholastic debate, sailed on the 1937 Naval Academy Midshipmens’ Cooperation cruise, and served as a cadet captain and regimental adjutant of the corps of cadets his final year. After graduating second academically in June 1939 with a BS, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. On 28 August 1939 he married Dorothy Anderson, the daughter of the academy’s executive officer. The couple had two daughters.

Goodpaster initially was assigned to the Eleventh Engineers in Panama. In mid-1942 he returned to the United States as the executive officer of an engineer regiment at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. After completing an accelerated command and general staff course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in early 1943, he commanded the Forty-eighth Engineers Combat Battalion in the Italian campaign from October 1943 to February 1944. On 8 January 1944, near Mount Porchia, he led his men through artillery fire on a reconnaissance of a German minefield, earning the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest decoration for valor, and a Purple Heart for a wound sustained in the action. Less than a month later, Goodpaster was injured more seriously from shell fragments and sent to the United States to recuperate with a second Purple Heart and a Silver Star. After his recovery, General George C. Marshall, chief of the general staff, brought him to the operations division of the War Department in Washington, D.C., where he demonstrated extraordinary ability in plotting the end of World War II and the Marshall Plan.

Goodpaster left the Pentagon in 1947 for Princeton University in New Jersey, where in three years he earned an MSE, MA, and PhD in international relations. In 1950 he returned to Washington and was assigned as a special assistant to the chief of staff of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Paris from 1951 to 1954. His reserve, efficiency, and insight impressed General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who then brought Goodpaster to the White House to serve as his staff secretary and defense liaison officer. In December 1956 Goodpaster was promoted to brigadier general. He worked behind the scenes at the White House, playing a major role in the formulation of policy during the last six years of Eisenhower’s administration. Two days before he left office, Eisenhower awarded Goodpaster the Distinguished Service Medal.

After remaining in the White House for the first two months of John F. Kennedy’s term to facilitate the transition of administrations, Goodpaster was transferred to Germany in April 1961 as the assistant commander of the Third Infantry Division. In October he was promoted to major general and then assumed command of the Eighth Infantry Division in October. Since two battle groups of his division were airborne, the forty-seven-year-old scholar-general earned jump wings in training that taxed the stamina of men twenty-five years his junior.

In October 1962 Maxwell D. Taylor, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a critic of Eisenhower’s defense policy, recalled Goodpaster from Germany and made him his special assistant. Commenting on the assignment, the New York Times noted policy differences between Taylor and Eisenhower and observed, “That he [Goodpaster] has been able to retain the respect of both, despite their disagreement, is regarded as a tribute to his capabilities.” As Taylor’s deputy and adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson, he contributed to the formulation of national policy. While Goodpaster was serving as the commandant of the National War College in Washington, D.C., President Johnson appointed him as an adviser to the United Nations delegation in 1967 and sent him to Paris to participate in negotiations to end the war in Vietnam the following year.

Nominated for his fourth star by President Johnson and appointed as the deputy commander of American forces in South Vietnam in 1968, Goodpaster was recalled to Washington by president-elect Richard M. Nixon to advise him on military matters during the transition between administrations. In March 1969 Nixon appointed Goodpaster as the supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). During his five-year tenure, Goodpaster struggled successfully to maintain NATO as a creditable deterrent against increased Soviet military activity. When President Gerald Ford appointed Alexander Haig to replace Goodpaster in 1974, forcing the fifty-nine-year-old general into retirement, press reports indicated the outgoing commander preferred to remain on active duty and harbored reservations about his replacement. Although Goodpaster downplayed the reports, their circulation was uncharacteristic of a man who almost always avoided publicity.

In retirement Goodpaster was a senior fellow at the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller on the Commission of the Organization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy. In 1976 he accepted an endowed chair as the John C. West Professor of Government and International Relations at the Citadel, a Charleston, South Carolina, military academy. The following year his book, For the Common Defense, was published.

In 1977 Goodpaster returned to active duty at the rank of lieutenant general to restore the reputation of West Point, reeling from a cheating scandal involving most of the second class. Selected because of his “extraordinary reputation,” the sixty-two-year-old officer demonstrated his understated leadership in resolving the scandal, restructuring the academy’s curriculum to emphasize the humanities, limiting the hazing of plebes, and facilitating the integration of women by threatening the removal of anyone who failed to make female cadets welcome.

Goodpaster’s second retirement in June 1981 did not mark the end of his public service. A day following his retirement announcement, the secretary of defense appointed him to a commission studying the deployment of the MX missile. Returning to suburban Washington, he served as the president of the Institute of Defense Analysis and chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and the George C. Marshall Foundation. In recognition of his outstanding public service, President Ronald Reagan presented the retired general with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 1984. In later years Goodpaster became an advocate for nuclear disarmament, testifying before Congress and urging the total abolition of nuclear weapons. He continued to write and speak on matters of military and foreign policy until his death at age ninety from prostate cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Goodpaster is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Goodpaster was a highly respected military strategist of his era. His contributions lay more in the formulation of global policy than in leading troops in battle, and the nation’s leaders found him, like George C. Marshall, more valuable as an adviser than a combat commander.

No thorough biography of Goodpaster has been published, but at the time of his death the general was recording some of his reminiscences and James H. McCall, executive director of the Eisenhower Institute, was working on his biography. The National Defense University Library in Washington, D.C., houses forty linear feet of Goodpaster’s papers covering his career from 1968 to 1974; additional papers are held at the Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia. Aaron L. Haberman, Andrew J. Goodpaster Papers, 1930–1997: A Guide (2000), provides a more comprehensive finding aid to his writings. The most readily available source of information documenting his career from his plebe year at West Point until his death is the New York Times archives. Obituaries are in the New York Times and Washington Post (both 17 May 2005).

Brad Agnew

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Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson

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