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Fighting the Cold War

A Soldier's Memoir

When four-star general John Rogers Galvin retired from the US Army after forty-four years of distinguished service in 1992, the Washington Post hailed him as a man "without peer among living generals." In Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier's Memoir, the celebrated soldier, scholar, and statesman recounts his active participation in more than sixty years of international history—from the onset of World War II through the fall of the Berlin Wall and the post–Cold War era.

Galvin's illustrious tenure included the rare opportunity to lead two different Department of Defense unified commands: United States Southern Command in Panama from 1985 to 1987 and United States European Command from 1987 to 1992. In his memoir, he recounts fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes about his interactions with world leaders, describing encounters such as his experience of watching President José Napoleón Duarte argue eloquently against US intervention in El Salvador; a private conversation with Pope John Paul II in which the pontiff spoke to him about what it means to be a man of peace; and his discussion with General William Westmoreland about soldiers' conduct in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition, Galvin recalls his complex negotiations with a number of often difficult foreign heads of state, including Manuel Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ratko Mladić.

As NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during the tumultuous five years that ended the Cold War, Galvin played a key role in shaping a new era. Fighting the Cold War illuminates his leadership and service as one of America's premier soldier-statesmen, revealing him to be not only a brilliant strategist and consummate diplomat but also a gifted historian and writer who taught and mentored generations of students.

About the Authors

General John R. Galvin, USA (Ret.), was dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and is the author of The Minute Men: The First Fight: Myths and Realities of the American Revolution; Air Assault: the Development of Airmobile Warfare; and Three Men of Boston: Leadership and Conflict at the Start of the American Revolution. He has received numerous awards, including the Legion of Merit and the Army Distinguished Service Medal.


"General Jack Galvin has given us an insightful, important analysis of one of history's mega events—the Cold War when the future of the planet was at stake. This soldier-statesman was an insider's insider and we should be very grateful for his service and wisdom."—Tom Brokaw

"Widely respected as a soldier, scholar, and statesman—who stood out in his generation as a brilliant strategic thinker—General Jack Galvin was also a voracious reader with a wonderfully inquiring mind and a keen intellect. The joy he takes in observing, commenting, and writing—with a wry sense of humor—on an extraordinary range of experiences emerges wonderfully in the pages of this book. Fighting the Cold War thus is an exceptional commentary not only on General Galvin's life and times, but also on timeless issues like leadership, strategic thinking, family, and relationships."—General David H. Petraeus, USA (Ret.), from the foreword

"The Cold War could not have been won, nor ended so peacefully, without individuals like Jack Galvin manning the front lines. Fighting the Cold War is a thoughtful record of service by a distinguished leader in a tumultuous period."—Henry Kissinger

"Galvin played a vital role in the Cold War, and his experiences spanned much of America's history from the 1960s to the 1990s—from Vietnam to Central America to Europe. In Fighting the Cold War he tells this important story with style and verve."—Lawrence S. Kaplan, author of The Conversion of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg: From Isolation to International Engagement

"During his more than forty-five years of service, during which he rose to become NATO Supreme Commander, General Jack Galvin was one of the brightest stars of his profession. Far more than just the memoir of one of the Army's finest, Fighting the Cold War is also the unusually candid, modest and insightful story of an exceptional teacher, scholar and diplomat whose dedication to the nation has made him a role model for us all. His book is a rare gem."—Carlo D'Este, Author of Patton: A Genius For War

"General Jack Galvin's career spans a critical period in American history, from before the start of Vietnam through the end of the Cold War. His memoir provides a keen personal perspective on all of those events, and reminds us of what we owe to those who have served as he has."—Francis Fukuyama, author of Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

"General 'Jack' Galvin's extraordinary service was marked by dedication, wisdom, and absolute integrity. In this appealing memoir he describes with modesty and candor the challenges he faced during eventful times for our Army and our nation. It is quite simply a very fine account by a very fine soldier."—General John W. Vessey Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (1982-1985)

"General Jack Galvin is one of the greatest soldiers this country ever had."—President George H.W. Bush

"I was a warrant officer helicopter pilot for General Galvin when he commanded a battalion in Vietnam. I worked decades in and for the Army and never served under or met another officer of his caliber. I would literally charge Hell with a bucket of ice water for him and am thrilled by this terrific book about soldiers and service and sacrifice."—Bruce James, Ghostrider 11 "Zorba"

"Gen. Jack Galvin was the kind of warrior intellectual the U.S. Army produces at its very best. This wonderful memoir distills what Galvin learned in his 44 years of service—building toward his role as Supreme Allied Commander when the Cold War ended. A moment that sums up this book is something Galvin says he told Henry Kissinger in 1988 about the darkest days of World War II. Watched young second lieutenants head off to their commands from the Anzio beachhead, an observer asked: "I wonder if they are well read?" Still the right question. Those who love the U.S. Army will want to add this volume to their shelves."—David Ignatius, Columnist, The Washington Post

"General Jack Galvin is a true Cold War hero. Few Americans combined the roles of soldier, scholar, and statesman during those decades, as ably as he. His leadership has been exemplary, and we are fortunate to have it reflected so clearly in this excellent memoir."—John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University

"From his early days in the atomic army of the 1950s, through two tours in Vietnam, to top commands in Europe and Panama, General John Galvin witnessed nearly half-a-century of American military history. Honest, insightful, reflective, and entertaining, his memoir is a fascinating insider's perspective of Cold War soldiering."—Brian McAllister Linn, author of The Army's Way of War

"Intriguing . . . A valuable read for anyone interested in the continuing evolvement of the American military."—Washington Times

"This engaging memoir of a solider's service is an altogether superb work. [He] is candid, lucid, meticulous in research, and writes with verve on a wide canvas."—Richard Halloran, US Army War College Parameters

"He has a unique perspective on many of the momentous events of the latter half of the twentieth century. It is not only his access, but also his perspicacity that gives this memoir its unique value. Young men and women considering military service will appreciate this book. Galvin recounts both the hardships and rewards that come with service."—Survival

"Students of military history will find much in the book about the Vietnam War, as well as about the American Cold War presence in Europe and Latin America."

"Superbly written memoir. . . .Galvin is a gifted writer and writes in a highly conversant style that allows him to tell a story very succinctly. It is unquestionably one of the most readable soldier's memoirs published in recent years."—On Point

"Galvin's memoir (introduced by an admiring Petraeus) is a characteristically modest, wry, and thoughtful account, not only of leadership but also of the rise, fall, and rise again of U.S. military power in the second half of the twentieth century. And it is, as well, a reminder that now and again, one comes across generals with the stuff of greatness in them."—Foreign Affairs

"He provides a unique perspective that includes candid thoughts on his personal engagements with leaders such as Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Colin Powell. Superbly written, highly detailed."—Military Review

"A delight to read. The real Galvin—son of Boston, family man, soldier-scholar, mensch—comes through on every page.

Galvin reveals the people and personalities behind the policy.

He artfully showed how the general-statesman navigated political-military issues, lined up the allies, openly consorted with ambassadors, and coordinated with multiple bosses, all while simultaneously developing new warfighting concepts and arms-control proposals. Worth every minute that you invest in it, whether you are a historian, a student of leadership, a NATO-phile, a USSOUTHCOM staffer, or just interested in the Cold War as seen through the eyes of a general raised in Boston's working class"—Joseph J Collins, Joint Forces Quarterly

"Galvin is a skilled raconteur, and his narrative holds a reader's attention as he moves from story to story.

Galvin's memoir is an entertaining endeavor full of fascinating observations on the personalities and events of the Cold War. It captures the feel of that epoch's waning years as East and West moved toward a wary rapprochement. Reading the book is time well spent for both military personnel and civilians interested in the career of one of the Army's most distinguished officers of the Cold War period, as well as the history of the era itself."—Army History

"His memoir is superbly written; it will be a treat for all who read it."—Army Magazine

"A highly interesting and informative autobiography."—VVA Veteran

"It is an intelligent, complete analysis untouched by the hubris and arrogance of so many other leadership biographies.

The colour and texture he provides makes the reader feel part of the discussion – a skill few writers manage with such effectiveness.

Not only was Galvin a most capable soldier, but he wrote engagingly, with breadth, perspective and humor."—RUSI Journal

"The rich detail emanates from [Galvin's] own copious notebooks and journals, supplemented by material from his wife and, most importantly, a series of letters to his father that extended over thirty-seven years.

[The book] offers insightful and compelling stories from the Cold War, told by a capable and engaging writer."—Journal of Military History

"General Jack Galvin has written a fascinating memoir that is both an important lesson in history and a tutorial in strategic leadership."—Prism

"Fighting the Cold War, which spans Galvin's life from youth to West Point to Vietnam to NATO command and beyond, is a free-roaming reflection on the events, people, and causes that made Gen. Galvin one of the key architects to the peaceful end of the Cold War.

The fine balance between thinking and acting is one of the consistent themes in Fighting the Cold War. Whether dealing with the paperwork headaches in the 101st or disarmament talks with his Soviet counterparts, Gen. Galvin's memoir reveals an astute and self-reflective leader who grasped the many dimensions of senior command. The book offers ideas and examples of how to be an effective commander and staff officer at all levels, how to deal with foreign forces, and how to deal with profound change. As we prepare for an uncertain future, Fighting the Cold War provides insights on how to approach change thoughtfully, with emphasis on self-reflection, teamwork, and communication."—Infantry

"This book presents a remarkable account of the impressive career of one of the foremost American soldier-scholars of the twentieth century. Fighting the Cold War is highly recommended."—The Journal of America's Military Past

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