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|Bernard William Rogers
longest-serving NATO Commander in history
Bernard William Rogers was born in Fairview, Kansas, on June 16, 1921. He spent a year at Kansas State University before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1940. He graduated from West Point in June 1943, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry, thus beginning what would be a long and very distinguished military career.
In June 1944, Rogers returned to West Point as an instructor in the Department of Economics, Government and History. Between 1945 and 1947, he served successively as Aide and Executive Officer to the Superintendent of West Point, to the U.S. High Commissioner for Austria, and to the Commander of the Sixth Army. He studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1947 to 1950, earning a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
After leaving Oxford, Rogers was assigned to Korea, where he assumed command of the 3rd Battalion, 9th Infantry, which was then engaged in active combat. During his tour, Rogers earned many honors for distinguished service, as well as numerous field promotions. From 1962 to 1964, he served as executive officer to Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1964.
Sent to Vietnam as an Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Infantry Division in 1966, Rogers earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star of Valor, and Air Medal with Valor Device before returning to the United States in 1967. After his return, Rogers was appointed to command the Corps of Cadets at West Point, in which capacity he served until 1969. During his tenure, Rogers reformed the cadet disciplinary system. He was promoted to full Colonel in 1968.
In 1969, Rogers took command of the 5th Infantry Division, Mechanized, at Fort Carson, Colorado. Although he only served in that capacity for a year, the programs he implemented to boost morale and readiness became the framework for the Volunteer Army Program. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1971. He was assigned to the Pentagon as Chief of Legislative Liaison and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel from 1972 to 1973, and was promoted to Major General in 1973.
As commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson from 1974 to 1976, Rogers stressed unit readiness, modernization, and sustainability. He also implemented changes to enhance the quality of life for individual soldiers and their families that were put in place at bases around the country.
As Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1979, Rogers focused on combat readiness and, under his guidance, the U.S. Army became a vital part of NATO's ability to face off against the Soviet Union. His accomplishments in this role got him elected Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in 1979, and he subsequently served a total of four 2-year terms, making him the longest-serving Supreme Commander in NATO history. During his tenure at NATO, he instituted an offensive strategy based on mobile, high-impact strikes, and that strategy has subsequently been used in every NATO operation since.
Rogers stepped down as NATO Commander in 1987, and retired from the Army that same year. He died in Fairfax, Virginia, on October 27, 2008, and is interred at West Point. He was survived by his wife, Ann, and three children.
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This page was last updated on 01/06/2019.