American Valor Quarterly Issue 3 - Summer 2008 - Page 18

episode which illustrates how he brought to bear the full weight of his professional integrity in that difficult environment. Field commanders in Vietnam were continually vexed by what many viewed as unreasonable restrictions on conduct of the war. Besides what were known as “rules of engagement,” prescribing how the forces and their weaponry could be employed, there were the major geographical Andrew J. Goodpaster as a West Point cadet - 1939. restrictions which placed enemy sanctuaries across Vietnam’s borders with Laos and Cambodia off limits to allied forces. United States Military Academy MACV’s leadership was deter mined that, however disadvantageous, these orders would be scrupulously observed. At a given staff meeting another senior officer, in fact the MACV chief of staff, took the occasion to suggest some deviousness — deliberately keeping up border violations, which had thus far been infrequent accidental incursions, “until,” he proposed, “they become the norm.” General Goodpaster reacted very strongly to this suggestion of willful disobedience. “I don’t think our government can or will get into the Cambodian business by the by-products, side effects, of a pattern of violations,” he counseled. Persisted the other officer, a major general: “My thought is that this is what we would force by getting into accepting this as the norm.” General Goodpaster, this time in a harder tone: “I must say my reaction right now is that that’s an improper course on our part, it’s an improper thing to do, and we can’t be drawn into playing that kind of a game.” And they were not. sporting event for English ladies called the slow bicycle race. The object was, while riding one of those old-fashioned bicycles with a very large front wheel, to go as slowly as possible without being disqualified by going out of your lane or putting your feet down. This required extreme feats and gyrations of balance at near-immobility. It was an apt analogy. The personal relationships General Goodpaster established with NATO leaders, military and civilian alike, and the respect and admiration those officials had for him, were key elements in his considerable ability to influence the alliance during his tenure. General Goodpaster also brought to the command in Europe a realistic understanding of the multiple constituencies he served. At one point, when the Air Force offered to upgrade the aircraft assigned to him, his executive officer explained that the new model would not require refueling stops and would thus be able to get him to Washington much faster. Responded General Goodpaster, “I don’t want to get to Washington any faster.” At the heart of his strength as a leader was one fundamental trait, uncompromising integrity. This, and his unflagging willingness to serve, resulted in his being called out of retirement to become Superintendent at West Point in the wake of a very serious honor crisis. Moreover, he accepted the assignment even though it carried only three-star rank, this after he had served for many years wearing four stars. Here his essential modesty was on display, as was his customary placing of service before self. There are many stories from his days back at West Point that illustrate the kind of man General Goodpaster was, and the kind of example and influence he brought to bear — exactly, I might say, what was needed at that crucial juncture. I like one rather simple story about a stained glass window given by the West Point Class of 1944 as a thirtieth reunion gift to the Military Academy. The window was installed above the main entrance to the Cadet Mess, and featured powerful lights that shone through the glass at night, producing a dramatic display. Part of West Point’s agreement in accepting the gift was a commitment to turn General Goodpaster often spoke forthrightly of what officers on the lights and illuminate the window every night. should be like, and what we have a right to expect of them. The Association of the United States Army has a lecture program Three years later, when the nation faced an energy crisis, the named in honor of General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. I was present Department of the Army issued stringent conservation guidelines. on the evening of the inaugural presentation in that series, when At West Point the Post Engineer ordered an end to outdoor the speaker was General Goodpaster. He cited “wise and effective illumination — including the Class of 1944’s stained glass window. American leadership” as “the major reason for success in WWII In due course a member of that class saw what had happened and the Cold War,” and spoke of the essentiality of “respect for and complained to the Superintendent. General Goodpaster called American-style civil-military relationships” under both good and the appropriate staff member into his office, along with the Post not so good civilian leadership. Engineer. The conversation was brief. “Is it true that we promised to illuminate the 1944 window at night?” General Goodpaster Commanding the NATO armed forces was a task demanding asked. “Yes, sir, we did,” said the staff officer. “A promise is a principled leadership of a high order, along with well-honed promise,” General Goodpaster replied. “We will continue to diplomac K