Top administration officials offered Gen. Paul F. Gorman, controversial commander of U.S. forces in Central America, the premier position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a vain effort to persuade him not to retire, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
The officials said that Gorman was offered a range of jobs, including the chairmanship, if he elected not to retire. One plan called for Gorman to command NATO forces in Europe for two years and then replace Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, when his second two-year term expires in 1986.
When Gorman, 57, insisted that he wanted to return to private life, the Pentagon asked Gen. Bernard W. Rogers, current NATO commander, to serve two more years in Europe. Lt. General John R. Galvin, 55, currently the commander of VII Corps in Germany, will be promoted to full general and sent to take Gorman's place.
Gorman's active stewardship of the Panama-based Southern Command irritated some State Department officials, who dubbed him the "proconsul" of Central America and accused him of carrying on military-to-military diplomacy without due respect for local U.S. ambassadors. But officials said there was no pressure from the State Department for Gorman to resign and President Reagan strongly urged him to stay on active duty, according to chief Pentagon spokesman Michael I. Burch.
Gorman, who never granted interviews during his stay in Panama, took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a statement to deny vehemently a report in The Washington Times that he resigned because of his "disgust" with State Department officials and their opposition to his policies. The statement said that Gorman "now as always . . . supports and admires the Department of State and its officers and regards his relationship with them as mutually supportive."
The Pentagon yesterday announced the promotion of another general, Lt. Gen. Fred K. Mahaffey, who will get his fourth star and take over the Readiness Command in Florida, replacing retiring Gen. Wallace H. Nutting. Mahaffey, who just turned 51, is regarded as a rising star in the Army and a possible future candidate for Army chief of staff.