Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, Presidential Adviser, Dies

Army Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster was commander of NATO forces and the 51st commandant of West Point, his alma mater.
Army Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster was commander of NATO forces and the 51st commandant of West Point, his alma mater. (By Ron Edmonds -- Associated Press)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Army Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, 90, the self-effacing presidential adviser and commander of NATO who was summoned from retirement to lead the scandal-tainted U.S. Military Academy at West Point, died May 16 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He had prostate cancer.

Gen. Goodpaster spent more than four decades as a soldier and statesman, in which time he saw combat in World War II, was deputy commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam and served four presidents. Having retired as commander of NATO forces in 1974, he returned to active service three years later to become the 51st commandant of West Point, his alma mater.

The school had been pummeled by a cheating scandal in which 152 cadets were dismissed, and it also had admitted its first class of women to some controversy.

With his avuncular looks and measured manner, he was said to have helped rebuild the academy's reputation by his mere presence after the cheating episode. He also eased the women's transition to the school, telling staff members he would "escort them to the door with a handshake" should they fail to make the women feel welcome.

He stepped down in 1981 and three years later received the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Andrew Jackson Goodpaster Jr. was born Feb. 12, 1915, in Granite City, Ill., where his father worked for the railroad. Hoping to pursue a career as a math teacher, he enrolled at McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill., but he withdrew during the Depression when money was scant. To continue his education, he sought a West Point appointment and entered the Class of 1939.

During World War II, he led an engineering battalion over a minefield and under hostile fire, actions for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military award for valor after the Medal of Honor. His other decorations included the Silver Star, two awards of the Legion of Merit and two awards of the Purple Heart.

After doing war planning for the general staff in Washington, he entered Princeton University, where he received a master's degree in engineering as well as a master's degree and a doctorate in international relations.

His battlefield and academic credentials -- along with a regard for anonymity -- impressed a number of ranking officials. He became special assistant to the chief of staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe from 1950 to 1954 and a favorite of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the NATO commander for part of that time. He assisted Eisenhower in forming political and military guidelines for the new treaty organization and was Eisenhower's liaison among such diplomats and politicians as W. Averell Harriman of the United States, Jean Monnet of France and Hugh Gaitskell of the United Kingdom.

Later, President Eisenhower asked Gen. Goodpaster to serve as staff secretary in the White House. He became known as the president's alter ego for his ability to carry out orders in his wide-ranging national security portfolio with minimal need for instruction. His mandate included work on the so-called Solarium Conference to plan for the American role in a post-Stalin Soviet Union.

Some called him "the man with the briefcase" for his silent but essential backstage role in practically all military matters. Gen. Goodpaster, wrote one reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, "looks like a business executive and hides his White House importance behind a quiet facade that lends itself neither to anecdotes nor stuffiness."

In later years, Gen. Goodpaster related a rare scene of White House tensions. He told an interviewer that Eisenhower had trouble understanding why the Americans could not reduce their forces in Europe, as he had stated publicly and on which he now wanted action. The general said the matter depended on "the ability of the Europeans to fill the gap that's there, the gap we created."

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