Retired US General
John Shalikashvili, the former NATO supreme commander, died Saturday at the age of 75 in Tacoma, Washington, dpa reported.
Born to a Georgian father and a Russian mother, he gained US citizenship in 1958, the same year he was drafted into the army, before rising to the highest post in the US military as the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
President Barack Obama on Saturday called Shalikashvili "a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America and the limitless possibilities that are open to those who choose to serve it."
As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he "strengthened our alliances in Europe and in Asia, forged closer defense ties with Russia, and championed the Partnership for Peace with the former Soviet states," Obama said.
Shalikashvili was born in 1936 in Warsaw. After World War II, the family settled in Germany before emigrating in 1952 to the United States.
The teenaged Shalikashvili was reputed to have learned English from John Wayne movies.
During his nearly 40-year military career, Shalikashvili served in Vietnam and Korea before becoming NATO supreme commander in 1992.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed him as the first foreign-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs. In that post, Shalikashvili oversaw US military actions in places including Haiti and Bosnia, before his retirement in 1997.