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First Name: Henry

Last Name: Shelton

Birthplace: Tarboro, NC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Tarboro, NC
Middle Name: Hugh

Date of Birth: 02 January 1942

Rank: General

Years Served: 1963-2001
Henry Hugh Shelton

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
•  Gulf War (1990 - 1991)


Henry Hugh Shelton
General, U.S. Army

He served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001

Henry Hugh Shelton was born on 2 January 1942 in Tarboro, NC. He was raised just outside the small town of Speed, NC. Shelton attended North Carolina State University and was a member of the Pershing Rifles. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Textiles while earning his Army commission as a Second Lieutenant through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Shelton's additional education includes a Master's degree from Auburn University in 1973 as well as studies at the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College.

Shelton married Carolyn L. Johnson in 1963.

Military Service

Shelton served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group and with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, followed by a series of command and staff assignments. After the Gulf War, Shelton commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in his home state of North Carolina. In 1993, he was given command of XVIII Airborne Corps. He led the Joint Task Force responsible for Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994. In 1996, Shelton, a Special Forces soldier, was promoted to the rank of General and assigned as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

On 1 October 1997, upon the retirement of General John M. Shalikashvili, Shelton was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During his time in office, Shelton led the planning of the Kosovo War in 1999. He later coined the phrase "Dover test," testing the support for a war based on the reaction of the people after seeing American casualties returning at Dover Air Force Base. During the events of 11 September 2001, Shelton was on a plane enroute to London, England. Then-Vice Chairman Air Force General Richard Myers took charge and on 1 October 2001 became his successor after Shelton announced his retirement from the Army.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Distinguished Service Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Legion of Merit with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star with Valor Device & 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Air Medal with Award Numeral "2"
Army Commendation Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Bronze Stars
Southwest Asia Service Medal with 2 Bronze Stars
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star
Vietnam Campaign Medal with "60" Device
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Army Meritorious Unit Commendation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation

Badges, Tabs and Insignia

Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Military Free Fall Parachute Badge
Special Forces Tab
Ranger Tab
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
Air Assault Badge
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
German Parachutist Badge in Bronze


• On 27 August 2010, a statue of General Shelton was unveiled and dedicated at the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC. The statue was commissioned and donated by H. Ross Perot.

• North Carolina Highway 122, which runs through Speed to Hobgood, NC (right past the homestead he was raised on), was later named "General Henry Hugh Shelton Hwy" in his honor.

In Retirement

After retirement from the Army, Shelton joined the Board of Directors of Red Hat Corporation in April 2003, and was elected that board's chairman in 2010. He also holds directorships at Anheuser Busch, Anteon International and Protective Products of America.

Shelton created a minor controversy for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, a subordinate to Shelton during the 1999 Kosovo military actions, when he stated: "I will tell you the reason [Clark] came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. […] I'll just say Wes won't get my vote," casting doubt upon the presidential contender's legitimacy.

Shelton served as an advisor to Senator John Edwards' presidential campaign from 2003-04. He was considered a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina in 2008 against Republican Elizabeth Dole.

On 1 March 2008, General Shelton announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, stating, "I've been with Senator Clinton when she has been with our military men and women. I know from those experiences that she understands the demands and sacrifice of military life. I am confident she will always put the readiness and well-being of our troops first. She is ready to be Commander-in-Chief." General Shelton was the second Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to endorse Senator Clinton, the first being General John Shalikashvili.

On 12 October 2010, General Shelton published his autobiography, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior," along with co-authors Ron Levinson and Malcolm McConnell. An excerpt tells the story of a high-ranking Cabinet member proposing that General Shelton intentionally allow an American pilot to be killed by the Iraqis to have an excuse to retaliate and go to war (numerous media outlets speculated that this was Madeleine Albright). The book also tells of Bill Clinton's tearful confession to General Shelton; a time during the Clinton administration when a close Clinton aide lost possession of the "biscuit" (top secret presidential nuclear launch authorization codes); details of a contentious Camp David meeting among President George W. Bush and his National Security Council immediately after 9/11, where internal battle lines were drawn. His book also says there were multiple attempts to kill Osama bin Laden that were shot down by Madeleine Albright.

On 24 October 2010, General Shelton appeared on This Week with Christiane Amanpour; on 6 December 2010 appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; and on 30 December 2010 appeared on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS and Bloomberg TV, to promote the publication of his memoir Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.

Honoree ID: 327   Created by: MHOH




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