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General John Malchase David Shalikashvili ( ) (born June 27, 1936) is a retired officer of the United States Army who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997. He was born in Warsawmarker, Polandmarker to Georgianmarker refugee parents.

General Shalikashvili is the only immigrant to reach the rank of four-star General in the U.S. Army . He served in every level of unit command from platoon to division.

Early Life and Family

John Shalikashvili is a scion of the medieval Georgian noble house of Shalikashvili. His father, Prince Dimitri Shalikashvili, served in the army of Imperial Russiamarker. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he became a lieutenant-colonel in thearmy of the Democratic Republic of Georgiamarker. When the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Georgia in 1921, he was on diplomatic service in Turkeymarker. Dimitri then joined other Georgian exiles in Poland, where he met and married John's mother, Maria. They had three children: Othar, John, and Gale. Dimitri served in the Polish Army (along with other Georgian exiles) as a contract officer. In 1939, he fought against the German invasion of Poland. After the Polish defeat, Dimitri was demobilized. In 1941, he enlisted in the Georgian Legion, a force of ethnic Georgians recruited by Germany to fight against the Soviet Union The unit was later incorporated into the SS-Waffengruppe Georgien and transferred to Normandy. Dimitri surrendered to British forces and was a prisoner of war until after the war. A collection of Dimitri Shalikashvili's writings are on deposit at the Hoover Institution.

Meanwhile, Maria, John, and his two siblings lived through the destruction of Warsaw. As the Red Army approached Warsaw in 1944, the family fled to Pappenheimmarker, Germany where they were reunited with Dimitri. They stayed with relatives there for eight years.

In 1952, when John was 16, the family immigrated to Peoria, Illinoismarker. They were sponsored by Winifred Luthy, the wife of a local banker, who was previously married to Dimitri's cousin. The Luthys and the Episcopal Church helped the Shalikashvili family get started, finding jobs and a home for them. Dimitri worked for Ameren, and Maria was a file clerk at Commercial National Bank.

General Shalikashvili greets President Clinton
When John arrived in Peoria he spoke little English. He has recalled it this way:

Shalikashvili went to Peoria High School, where he was a long distance runner. He attended Bradley Universitymarker in Peoria, and received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1958. He is a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. He later received a master's degree in International Affairs from The George Washington Universitymarker.

In May 1958, Shalikashvili and his family became American citizens. It was the first citizenship he ever held. He had previously been classified as "stateless", since he had been born to parents who had been refugees.

Army career

After graduation he had planned to work for Hyster Lift Truck, but received a draft notice in July 1958. He entered the Army as a private, enjoyed it, and applied to Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1959.

Shalikashvili served in various Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery positions as a platoon leader, forward observer, instructor, and student, in various staff positions, and as a company commander. He was sent to Vietnam where he served as a senior district advisor for Advisory Team 19, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), from 1968 to 1969. Immediately after his Vietnam service, he attended the Naval War Collegemarker in Newport, Rhode Islandmarker.

In 1970, he became executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery at Fort Lewismarker, Washington. Later in 1975, he commanded 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. In 1977, he attended the U.S.marker Army War Collegemarker and served as the Commander of Division Artillery (DIVARTY) for the 1st Armored Division in Germany. He later became the assistant division commander. In 1987, Shalikashvili commanded the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis.

Shalikashvili achieved real distinction with his considerable success as the commander of Operation Provide Comfort, the peacekeeping and humanitarian activity in northern Iraq after the Gulf War. This assignment involved intense and complex negotiations with the Turkish government, and tough face-to-face meetings with the Iraqi military.

Shalikashvili was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993 by President Clinton, effective October 25. He retired from the Army in September 1997, after serving for 38 years.

Recent and current activities

John M.
Shalikashvili at his farewell ceremony on September 30, 1997.
He was an advisor to John Kerry's 2004 Presidential campaign. He is now a visiting professor at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford Universitymarker. He also serves as a director of Russell Investments, L-3 Communications, Inc., Plug Power Inc., United Defense, Inc., and the National Bureau of Asian Research.

He is married and has one son, Brant, a graduate of Washington State Universitymarker.

General Shalikashvili suffered a severe stroke on August 7, 2004.

In 2007, General Shalikashvili penned an Op-Ed in the New York Times calling for a reversal of Don't ask, don't tell A similar Op-Ed by him appeared in the June 19, 2009 Washington Post.

Decorations and Badges

Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak leaf clusters)
Distinguished Service Medal, Army
Legion of Merit (with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Bronze Star (with Valor device)
Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters)
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star in lieu of two campaigns
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with silver service star in lieu of five campaigns
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Overseas Service Ribbon with numeral 5 device


  1. Luttwak, " Why Clinton Called Upon Shalikashvili", Sacramento Bee, 22 August 1993
  2. [1][2]
  3. GOLDSTEIN, LYLE J. (Spring 2000) General John Shalikashvili and the Civil-Military Relations of Peacekeeping. In Armed Forces & Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 26, p387.
  4. Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military - New York Times
  5. Gays in the Military: Let the Evidence Speak - Washington Post

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