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Vernon A. Walters (January 3, 1917[1] – February 10, 2002) was a United States Army officer and a diplomat. Most notably, he served from 1972 to 1976 as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, from 1985 to 1989 as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and from 1989 to 1991 as Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany during the decisive phase of German Reunification. Walters rose to the rank of lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and is a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Vernon A. Walters
Ambassador Vernon A. Walters.jpg
United States Ambassador to Germany
In office
October 3, 1990 – August 18, 1991
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRichard Barkley (East Germany)
Himself (West Germany)
Succeeded byRobert M. Kimmitt
United States Ambassador to West Germany
In office
April 24, 1989 – October 3, 1990
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRichard Burt
Succeeded byHimself (Germany)
17th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
In office
May 22, 1985 – March 15, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byJeane Kirkpatrick
Succeeded byThomas R. Pickering
Director of Central Intelligence
Acting
In office
July 2, 1973 – September 4, 1973
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byJames R. Schlesinger
Succeeded byWilliam Colby
Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
In office
May 2, 1972 – July 2, 1976
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
DirectorRichard Helms
James R. Schlesinger
William Colby
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byRobert E. Cushman Jr.
Succeeded byE. Henry Knoche
Personal details
Born(1917-01-03)January 3, 1917
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 10, 2002(2002-02-10) (aged 85)
West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.

BackgroundEdit

Walters was born in New York City, his father being a British immigrant and insurance salesman. From age 6 he lived in Britain and France with his family. His formal education beyond elementary school consisted only of boarding school instruction at Stonyhurst College, a 400-year-old Jesuit school in Lancashire, England, and he did not attend university. At the age of sixteen he left school and returned to the United States to work for his father as an insurance claims adjuster and investigator.

In later years he seemed to enjoy reflecting on the fact that he had risen high and accomplished much despite a near-total lack of formal academic training.

He was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese as well as his native English. He also spoke German fluently, but, as he joked, inaccurately, and knew the basics of several other languages.[2] His simultaneous translation of a speech by United States President Richard Nixon in France prompted French President Charles de Gaulle to say to Nixon, "You gave a magnificent speech, but your interpreter was eloquent."[3]

Military careerEdit

1940s and 50sEdit

 
Walters in 1976 as Lieutenant General

Walters joined the Army in 1941 and was soon commissioned. He served in Africa and Italy during World War II. He served as a link between the commands of Brazilian Expeditionary Force and U.S. Fifth Army, earning medals for distinguished military and intelligence achievements.[4]

He served as an aide and interpreter for several Presidents. He was at President Harry S. Truman's side as an interpreter in key meetings with America's Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Latin American allies. His language skills helped him win Truman's confidence, and he accompanied the President to the Pacific in the early 1950s, serving as a key aide in Truman's unsuccessful effort to reach a reconciliation with an insubordinate General Douglas MacArthur, the Commander of United Nations forces in Korea.

In Europe in the 1950s, Walters served President Dwight Eisenhower and other top US officials as a translator and aide at a series of NATO summit conferences. During this period he participated in the famous visit of Eisenhower to General Franco. He also worked in Paris at Marshall Plan headquarters and helped set up the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe. He was with then-Vice President Richard Nixon in 1958 when an anti-American crowd stoned their car in Caracas, Venezuela. Walters suffered facial cuts from flying glass. The Vice President escaped injury.

1960sEdit

In the 1960s, Walters served as a U.S. military attaché in France, Italy, and Brazil. In 1961, he proposed an American military intervention in Italy if the Socialist Party had participated in the Government.[5]

While serving as a military attaché in Paris from 1967 to 1972, Walters played a role in secret peace talks with North Vietnam. He arranged to smuggle National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger into France for secret meetings with a senior North Vietnamese official, and then smuggle him out again. He accomplished this by borrowing a private airplane from an old friend, French President Georges Pompidou. He had previously been chosen by Richard Nixon to be their translator/interpreter during Pompidou's 1970 trip to the United States.

1970sEdit

 
Walters in 1972 as Deputy Director for Central Intelligence

President Richard Nixon appointed Walters as Deputy Director for Central Intelligence (DDCI) in 1972. (Walters also served as Acting DCI for two months in mid-1973.) During his four years as DDCI he worked closely with four successive Directors as the Agency and the nation confronted such major international developments as the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the subsequent oil crisis, the turbulent end of the Vietnam War, the Chilean military coup against the Allende government and the Letelier assassination. According to a close colleague, Walters also averted "a looming catastrophe" for the CIA in connection with the Watergate scandal:

Despite numerous importunings from on high, [Walters] flatly refused to ... cast a cloak of national security over the guilty parties. At the critical moment he ... refused to involve the Agency and bluntly informed the highest levels of the executive [branch] that further insistence from that quarter would result in his immediate resignation.

Walters himself reflected on those challenging days in his 1978 autobiography Silent Missions:

I told [President Nixon's White House counsel] that on the day I went to work at the CIA I had hung on the wall of my office a color photograph showing the view through the window of my home in Florida. When people asked me what it was, I told them [this] was what was waiting [for me] if anyone squeezed me too hard.

Diplomatic careerEdit

 
Walters in the Reagan Cabinet 1989 as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, back row, third from right
 
Walters as ambassador to Germany with Wolfgang Schäuble, 1991

Beginning in 1981 Walters served under Ronald Reagan as roving ambassador. Reagan used prominent Catholics in his government such as Walters to brief the pope during the Cold War.[6] Walters was then United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1985 to 1989 and ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany from 1989 to 1991,[7] being responsible on behalf of the United States for the preparations of the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany.

Retirement and deathEdit

During the 1990s, after he had retired from public life, Walters worked as a business consultant and was active on the lecture circuit. On November 18, 1991, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush. He wrote another book, The Mighty and the Meek[8] (published in 2001), which profiled famous people with whom he had worked during his life.

In popular cultureEdit

Walters was portrayed by Garrick Hagon in the 2002 BBC production of Ian Curteis's controversial The Falklands Play.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Nolan, Cathal J. (11 May 1997). "Notable U.S. Ambassadors Since 1775: A Biographical Dictionary". Greenwood Publishing Group – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Vernon A. Walters, Lieutenant General, United States Army". www.arlingtoncemetery.net.
  3. ^ Henry R. Appelbaum: Vernon Walters—Renaissance Man In Memoriam, Central Intelligence Agency, April 14, 2007
  4. ^ "The importance of foreign language studies [sound recording] / [lecture by] Vernon A. Walters :: West Point Distinguished Lecture Series". digital-library.usma.edu.
  5. ^ Guido Crainz, Autobiografia di una Repubblica. Le radici dell'Italia attuale (Donzelli, 2009), p. 54
  6. ^ Bono, Agostino (November 17, 2004), Officials say pope, Reagan shared Cold War data, but lacked alliance, Catholic News Service, archived from the original on January 18, 2013 Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Kelley, Tina (February 15, 2002), "Vernon Walters, Ex-Envoy And Deputy C.I.A. Chief, 85", The New York Times
  8. ^ The Mighty and the Meek on Amazon

External linksEdit