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The 14 Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 1999 – Army Gen. Omar N. Bradley

Aug. 16, 1949, to Aug. 14, 1953

Bradley was known as the "GI's General" during World War II because of his concern for the ordinary soldier.

Bradley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1915 and served in numerous command positions in Europe during World War II, culminating in command of the Twelfth Army Group in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany -- the largest combat command in U.S. history.

In 1949, Bradley was named the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his tenure, U.S. military attention focused on rebuilding the nation's defense posture as part of a strong allied "collective security" strategy during the Cold War. Following the 1949 signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, Bradley had a key role in the military's initial steps to implement it. During the same period, the peace treaty with Japan restored sovereignty to that country, and the United States signed mutual security pacts with Japan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1950, the U.S. military mobilized to fight in the Korean conflict, and Bradley provided key military advice during the conflict.

Adm. Arthur W. Radford

Aug. 14, 1953, to Aug. 15, 1957

A 1916 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Radford served in World War I and World War II in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. He became the second chairman after serving as commander in chief Pacific and U.S. Pacific Fleet during the Korean conflict.

During his tenure, the Joint Chiefs of Staff engaged in carrying out the "New Look" defense program of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration. This program involved a broad reconsideration of U.S. security policy, with increased reliance on modern weapons coupled with a reduction in military manpower. Under Radford's direction, implications of "New Look" were worked out in terms of strategy, force levels, nuclear weapons development and military assistance to allies.

Major U.S. military crisis operations during the period included the 1954 evacuation of more than 30,000 refugees from North and South Vietnam, the 1955 evacuation by the Chinese Nationalists of the Tachen Islands near Formosa and the 1956 evacuation of U.S. citizens from Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria during the Suez Crisis.

At the same time, the United States was instrumental in establishing the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, a collective defense system to prevent communist expansion into Southeast Asia. Plans drawn up by the Joint Chiefs of Staff resulted in the new unified Continental Air Defense Command in 1954, and planning was completed for the North American Air Defense Command in 1957.

Air Force Gen. Nathan F. Twining

Aug. 15, 1957, to Sept. 30, 1960

A 1918 U.S. Military Academy graduate, Twining served in both the Pacific and European theaters during World War II. His command of Aircraft, Solomon Islands was one of the first Combined Air Commands in U.S history to have tactical control of all Allied and U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine air forces in the area. A few days after he assumed command of the 20th Air Force in 1945, 20th Air Force aircraft dropped the first atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Following the war he served as Chief of Staff of the Air Force prior to becoming the third chairman.

During his tenure, the "New Look" defense program of the Eisenhower Administration continued. In 1958, after White House consultation in which Twining participated, President Eisenhower ordered U.S. forces into Lebanon. During the 1958 Taiwan Crisis, the U.S supported the Nationalist Chinese as they resupplied the islands of Quemoy and Matsu under bombardment by the Communist Chinese.

In the same year, major changes were made in the organization of the U.S. military, including the operational chain of command, following enactment of the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1958. Twining took a leading role in explaining the proposed changes to Congress and in the final implementation of the reorganization.

Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer

Oct. 1, 1960, to Sept. 30, 1962

During his career, Lemnitzer earned a reputation as an able negotiator and military diplomat, and as a skilled planner.

A 1920 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served in the North African and European theaters during World War II. Following the war, he served as the senior Army member of the Joint Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as head of the U.S. Military Committee Delegation in London, which planned for the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He served during the Korean conflict as the commander of the 7th Infantry Division and later served as commander in chief of the United Nations Command. He was Army chief of staff prior to becoming the fourth chairman. Following a two-year tour as CJCS, Lemnitzer became supreme allied commander, Europe.

During his tenure, Lemnitzer led the effort to improved Joint Staff capabilities for study and analysis support required by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. His tenure spanned an intensive effort to design facilities enhancing the National Command Authorities' command and control of U.S. military forces.

The U.S. forces and alliances in Europe were strengthened after the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall in 1961. Also, U.S. leaders became increasingly concerned with problems in Southeast Asia. In 1961, U.S. Strike Command was created and combined the combat ready forces of the U.S. Strategic Army Corps and the Air Force Tactical Air Command under a unified command.

Army Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor

Oct. 1, 1962, to July 2, 1964

A 1922 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Taylor assisted in the development of the first U.S. Army airborne divisions during World War II. He served in several command positions in the European Theater during the war.

After serving in the Korean conflict, he was Army chief of staff from 1955 until his retirement from active duty in 1959. In 1961, Taylor was recalled to active duty by President Kennedy to serve as military representative to the president. He then became the fifth chairman. While Taylor served as chairman, President Lyndon B. Johnson selected him to be U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam. Taylor retired and assumed the post in 1964.

During Taylor's tenure, basic U.S. military strategy shifted from modern nuclear weapons as the major war deterrent, sometimes referred to as "Massive Retaliation," to one of "Flexible Response."

This change was a reaction to the growing threat of conventional and limited communist "wars of national liberation," and Taylor was one of the principal architects of the doctrine. During this period, U.S. military attention focused on discussions of NATO strategy, communist insurgency in Southeast Asia (South Vietnam in particular) and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Taylor had been chairman less than two weeks when U.S. authorities obtained the first definite evidence that the Soviet Union was secretly establishing missile sites and developing an offensive nuclear weapon capability in Cuba. Representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Taylor was a member of a small group of officials that the president summoned daily to advise him during the crisis.

Army Gen. Earle G. Wheeler

July 2, 1964, to July 1, 1970

During his tour of duty as chairman, Wheeler was drawn more extensively into consultation with the president in a system established by Presidents Johnson and Nixon.

A 1932 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Wheeler served in the European Theater of World War II. Following the war, he served in various assignments in Europe and the United States. In 1962 he became the Army chief of staff prior to becoming the sixth chairman.

Wheeler was chairman for six years, longer than any other chairman. Statutory provisions set the term at two years with one reappointment. However, President Johnson asked him to accept reappointment in 1968 for an additional year and President Nixon took the same action in 1969.

During Wheeler's tenure, the Vietnam War was the primary concern from 1964 until 1970, when gradual troop withdrawals began. Other crises included the Dominican Republic in 1965, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo in 1968.

In 1968, Wheeler established the office of the assistant to the chairman for strategic arms negotiations, and that office became the focal point for military assistance in the U.S. delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks.

Adm. Thomas H. Moorer

July 1, 1970 to July 1, 1974

Starting with the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he was stationed, Moorer held various dangerous commands and assignments as a naval aviator during World War II.

After the war, he served in various staff and fleet assignments. In 1962, he became the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet and, subsequently, the first naval officer to command both the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific fleets. He also served as NATO's supreme allied commander Atlantic and commander in chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command. He became chief of naval operations in 1967 and from that position was nominated as the seventh chairman.

His term as chairman encompassed the final stages of U.S. participation in the Vietnam and the eventual U.S. withdrawal. U.S. forces had been reduced by over 20 percent under the Vietnamization program when Moorer took office; nevertheless, some of the conflict's most intensive U.S. air operations and naval gunfire missions of the conflict occurred during his tenure. The Paris Peace Talks finally led to the war's end in 1973.

Middle East tensions from 1970 to 1973 frequently involved Moorer in National Security Council meetings of the crisis- monitoring group called the Washington Special Actions Group.

Air Force Gen. George S. Brown

July 1, 1974, to June 20, 1978

Gen. George S. Brown flew B-24s in World War II's European Theater and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the famous low-level bombing raid at Ploesti, Romania. During the Korean War, he served as Fifth Air Force director for operations in Seoul.

He was promoted to general during the Vietnam conflict, held several command positions and then headed the Air Force Systems Command. In 1973, he became Air Force chief of staff and from that the eighth chairman.

Brown, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and the National War College, had previously served on the Joint Staff as commander, Joint Task Force II, a weapons testing unit, and as an assistant to the chairman.

As chairman, Brown strove for increased efficiency and combat readiness despite a constrained U.S. military force structure under the unified and specified commands, and worked to improve crisis management and command and control of those forces.

Military operations while Brown was chairman included the 1975 evacuation of U.S. and foreign nationals from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, South Vietnam, just prior to their fall to communist forces; the 1975 recovery of the merchant ship SS Mayaguez from hostile Cambodian forces; the 1976 evacuation of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals from Beirut, Lebanon; and the increased military alert of U.S. forces in South Korea following the murder of two U.S. Army officers.

Air Force Gen. David C. Jones

June 21, 1978, to June 18, 1982

Volunteering for the Army Air Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor, Jones received his commission and pilot wings in early 1943. During the Korean War, he flew more than 300 hours on combat missions against North Korea. In 1968 he served in South Vietnam as deputy commander for operations and later as vice commander of the Seventh Air Force.

As chairman during the turbulent post-Vietnam years, he advocated increased emphasis on the combined capabilities of U.S. combat forces. In his last year, Jones extensively examined the joint organization and proposed changes to the National Security Act to strengthen the quality and timeliness of military advice and improve the readiness and effectiveness of combat forces. This prompted the most active debate on U.S. military organizational issues since the 1950s, when Eisenhower proposed to strengthen the joint system.

When Jones retired, his eight-year tenure on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, four as Air Force chief of staff and four as chairman, was the longest in history and included service to four presidents and defense secretaries.

Army Gen. John W. Vessey Jr.

June 18, 1982, to Sept. 30, 1985

Vessey received a battlefield commission at Anzio Beachhead in Italy in May 1944 after fighting in the North African campaigns with the 34th Infantry Division and rising through the enlisted ranks to first sergeant. His experience in troop units, combat leadership and career- long concern for the well-being of troops earned him the nickname "A Soldier's Soldier."

He was promoted to general in 1976 to command the U.N. Command and U.S. Forces Korea. In 1978 he became the first commander of the Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command. From his next post as vice chief of staff of the Army, Vessey was appointed the 10th chairman by President Ronald W. Reagan.

Vessey served as chairman when the United States was strengthening its forces and alliances to answer a continuing Soviet military build-up. It was also a time of wars and instability in the Third World and growth in state-sponsored terrorism worldwide. Under his leadership, the Joint Chiefs of Staff helped the president and defense secretary strengthen every facet of the U.S. armed forces.

New unified commands were established for Southwest Asia and for space. The Strategic Defense Initiative was started. Modern, long-range theater nuclear systems were deployed to NATO to answer the Soviet SS-20 deployment. Amid controversy, U.S. forces were used to pursue security interests in Central America, Lebanon and Grenada. Fundamental improvements were made in war planning, in the functioning of the Joint Staff and in the use of the unified and specified commanders in force planning and budgeting.

Adm. William J. Crowe Jr.

Oct. 1, 1985, to Sept. 30, 1989

A son of the American prairie whose grandfather made the 1889 "run" into the Oklahoma Territory, Crowe graduated from the Naval Academy in 1946 with the war-shortened Class of 1947. He entered the submarine service, eventually commanding the submarine USS Trout.

Gaining a reputation as a political-military specialist, Crowe held a variety of policy jobs in the Pentagon, as well as commanding the U.S. Middle East Force in the Persian Gulf. He became the NATO commander in Southern Europe in 1980 and then took over as commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command, in 1983.

In 1985, President Reagan nominated Crowe the 11th chairman. He had no sooner assumed the position than Libyan state-sponsored terrorism challenged American interests around the world. At the same time at home, Crowe was coping with a far-ranging reorganization of DoD, one that greatly strengthened the role of the chairman as the principal adviser to the president, defense secretary and National Security Council. The underlying legislation also mandated closer coordination between the individual services, a goal of Crowe's for many years.

However, it was in U.S.-Soviet relations that Crowe made his most lasting contribution to the search for peace. He and his Soviet counterpart, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, were architects of the 1989 Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities Agreement, designed to lessen tension and the prospects of conflict between the militaries and superpowers. Crowe and Akhromeyev exchanged historic visits to each other's countries, and the threat of the Cold War declined.

Army Gen. Colin L. Powell

Oct. 1, 1989, to Sept. 30, 1993

Powell was the 12th chairman. He was the first ROTC graduate, first African American and youngest officer to assume the position. He also was the first chairman to serve an entire tour under the sweeping terms of the Goldwater-Nichols DoD Reorganization Act of 1986.

An Army Ranger, veteran of two tours in Vietnam, former White House Fellow, military assistant to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, commander of U.S. Army V Corps in Europe, former national security adviser to President Reagan, and commander in chief of Forces Command, Powell brought extraordinary credentials to the chairman's position.

During his tenure, U.S. forces deployed more than two dozen times. Among these were Operation Just Cause in Panama, where U.S. forces captured dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him to justice; operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Southwest Asia; and Operation Sea Angel, where U.S. forces delivered humanitarian relief to a flood- ravaged Bangladesh.

At the same time that U.S. service members were responding to multiple crises spawned in the Cold War's wake, the military underwent the most significant restructuring in almost half a century. To drive this massive reshaping, Powell devised a National Military Strategy, helped manage a reduction in the size of DoD and redirected American security policy from a Cold War focus to an emphasis on regional and humanitarian crises. His tenure saw more change in the world than that of any other chairman.

Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili

Oct. 25, 1993, to Sept 30, 1997

Shalikashvili was the 13th chairman and served during a time when a lean, ready and superbly trained military performed at an unparalleled level of peacetime activity.

He served 39 years in key command and staff positions, including commanding general, 9th Infantry Division (Mechanized); deputy commander in chief, U.S. Army, Europe; commander, Operation Provide Comfort; assistant to the chairman; and commander, U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander, Europe. Shalikashvili was the first naturalized American, first draftee and first Officer Candidate School graduate to become chairman.

His tenure was marked by the use of U.S. forces in 40 joint military operations. These included nontraditional peacekeeping and humanitarian missions such as participation in NATO peace efforts in Bosnia-Herzegovina; restoration of democracy in Haiti; the enforcement of U.N.- mandated sanctions against Iraq; and various humanitarian efforts.

Intent on providing for American security well into the 21st century, he established Joint Vision 2010, a framework to exploit technology for effective joint warfighting. Shalikashvili's relationship with European leaders enabled him to forge close ties with countries in Central Europe and the former Soviet Union through the Partnership for Peace Program and to lay the foundation for the incremental enlargement of NATO. He reopened dialogue with China and provided innovative direction for U.S. military modernization.

Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton

Oct. 1, 1997, to present

Shelton is the 14th chairman. Born in Tarboro, N.C., in January 1942, he earned a bachelor's degree from North Carolina State University and a master's from Auburn University. His military education includes the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College.

Commissioned an infantry second lieutenant in 1963 through ROTC, Shelton spent the next 24 years in a variety of command and staff positions in the continental United States, Hawaii and Vietnam. He served two tours in Vietnam and commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps. In 1994, while corps commander, Shelton led the joint task force that conducted Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. In March 1996, he was promoted to general and became commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Shelton accepted a second term from President Bill Clinton in July 1999.

[These biographies were prepared by the Joint History Office.]

Contact Author

Related Sites:
Remarks by the President on the 50th Anniversary of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Aug. 9, 1999
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at the 50th Anniversary of the Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 9, 1999
Clinton, DoD Commemorate 50 Years of Chairmen (AFPS)
50 Years of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (AFPS)


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