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Boy on the Bridge: The Story of John Shalikashvili's American Success

by Andrew Marble

Availablecloth$36.95 978-0-8131-7802-8
AUSA Books - American Warriors Series
416 pages  Pubdate: 10/15/2019  6 x 9  42 b&w photos, 2 maps, 1 figure

His life and career were the embodiment of the American dream. Born in Poland, John Shalikashvili (1936–2011) descended from aristocratic European families that served with distinction in both battle and government for centuries. After barely surviving the Warsaw Uprising, he and his family fled to Germany during World War II to escape advancing Soviet troops and emigrated to the United States in 1952. Shalikashvili was drafted into the army as a private in 1958 and rose steadily through the ranks, serving in every level of unit command from platoon to division. In 1993 Shalikashvili was tapped by President Bill Clinton to replace General Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the first immigrant, first draftee, and first Officer Candidate School graduate to hold the position.

This first-ever biography of Shalikashvili’s riches-to-rags-and-back-to-riches story reveals how his distinctive background helped him become one of the United States’s greatest military leaders. He exhibited a unique and unconventional leadership style—employing expertise, humility, straightforwardness, and empathy—that he adroitly used to resolve or prevent destructive conflict. His distinctive leadership style greatly benefited the United States, Europe, and beyond: as when he led the rescue of 500,000 Kurdish refugees in the first Gulf War’s aftermath; when he represented Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell in helping secure loose nukes in the former Soviet republics; as he joined forces with fellow immigrant Madeleine Albright on the Partnership for Peace initiative and NATO enlargement program in the 1990s; and in retirement, when he helped end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, thereby finally allowing gay servicemembers to serve openly without fear of dishonorable discharge.

Andrew Marble is a writer and editor who has worked in the fields of Chinese politics, Taiwan studies, US policy to Asia, and international food policy.

If you understand the life of General John Shalikashvili, you will better appreciate what is great about America. By holding up an insightful mirror to this former World War II refugee’s little-known but captivating immigrant success story, biographer Andrew Marble has allowed the bright side of our country to now shine even more widely. -- former member of the US House of Representatives Lee H. Hamilton

This is an astonishingly readable biography of one of the most remarkable leaders in American military history. If you don't know of John Shalikashvili's story, Andrew Marble's saga of an immigrant boy who, in the 1990s became the highest ranking leader at the Pentagon, will amaze and inspire. -- Claudia Dreifus, Columbia University

General John Shalikashvili was the American dream in living form. In telling his story for the first time, Andrew Marble masterfully weaves together how a man whose family fled war-torn Europe helped shape American foreign policy for decades and lived out the values of conscience and country. This isn’t just a must-read for military buffs—it’s a source of inspiration for every American and anyone who aspires to be one. -- Former US Secretary of State John Kerry

It was so wonderful to see the General Shali I worked for come alive in these pages! What a great American he was, and this book is a fine telling of his American story. Read it for inspiration, and remember that when we talk about immigrants, we are talking about the John Shalikashvili’s of this world. -- Kori Schake, Deputy Director-General, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Using evocative storytelling, Boy on the Bridge offers us a long-overdue look at an inspirational American soldier-statesman whose dramatic Old World roots helped him forge a post-Cold War environment in which European and Central Asian regions, long embroiled in conflict, achieved stability and eventual peace. He was a master in determining what needs to be done and what is doable. -- Nicholas Krawciw, Major General, US Army, Ret.

Andrew Marble's historical tour de force of a penniless European refugee who became the highest-ranking general officer in the US military is far more than a biography of one man. Rather, it's the story of a family of strong-willed people steeped in aristocratic traditions working to survive, as a unit, during one of the most turbulent times in world history. Boy on the Bridge is a story of good fortune, of misfortune, of human flaws, of opportunities taken as well as missed, and how all those factors combined to influence the development of one little boy and the extraordinary man he would become. -- Colonel Jon C. Schreyach, DivArty Operations Officer and Commander 6th Bn/14th FA, 1st Armored Division, USA (Ret.)