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First Name: Eric

Last Name: Shinseki

Birthplace: Lihue, HI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Ken

Date of Birth: 28 November 1942

Rank: General

Years Served: 1965-2003
Eric Ken Shinseki

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1965

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
•  Kosovo War (1998 - 1999)


Eric Ken Shinseki
General, U.S. Army

Eric Ken Shinseki was born on 28 November 1942 in Lihue, Kauai, in what was then the Territory of Hawaii, to an American family of Japanese Ancestry. His grandparents immigrated from Hiroshima to Hawaii in 1901. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Duke University. He was also educated at the Armor Officer Advanced Course; the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; and the National War College.

Military Service

Shinseki served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the Continental U.S. and overseas, including two combat tours with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the Republic of Vietnam as an Artillery Forward Observer and as Commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment. During one of those tours, he stepped on a land mine, which blew off the front of one of his feet, leaving him with a maimed foot.

In Hawaii, he served at Schofield Barracks with Headquarters, U.S. Army Hawaii, and at Fort Shafter with Headquarters, U.S. Army Pacific. He has also taught at the U.S. Military Academy's Department of English. During duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, TX, he served as the Regimental Adjutant and as the Executive Officer of its 1st Squadron.

Shinseki's 10-plus years of service in Europe (mostly in West Germany) included assignments as Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt); Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen); Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, 3rd Infantry Division (Operations, Plans and Training) (W├╝rzburg); and Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt). The 3rd ID was organized at that time as a heavy mechanized division. He also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations, Plans and Training), VII Corps (Stuttgart). Shinseki served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Verona, Italy), an element of Allied Command Europe.

From March 1994 to July 1995, Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, TX. In July 1996, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, U.S. Army. In June 1997, Shinseki was appointed to the rank of General before assuming duties as Commanding General, Seventh U.S. Army; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Army Chief of Staff

Shinseki became the Army's 28th Vice Chief of Staff on 24 November 1998; he became its 34th Chief of Staff on 22 June 1999.

During his tenure as Army Chief of Staff, Shinseki initiated an innovative but controversial plan to make the Army more strategically deployable and mobile in urban terrain by creating Stryker Interim-Force Brigade Combat Teams. He conceived a long term strategic plan for the Army dubbed Objective Force, which included a program he designed, Future Combat Systems. One other controversial plan that Shinseki implemented was the wearing of the Black Beret for all Army personnel. Prior to Shinseki implementing this policy, only the U.S. Army Rangers could wear the black beret. When the black beret was given to all soldiers and officers, the Rangers moved to the tan beret.

Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the U.S. would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation. From then on, Shinseki's influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly waned. Critics of the Bush Administration alleged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement as Army Chief of Staff because of his comments on troop levels, but the claim is disputed.

General Shinseki retired from the Army on 11 June 2003 after 38 years of military service. Shinseki is the only Japanese American (or Asian American, more generally) to be promoted to the Army's top position and is the first four-star general of Asian descent in the U.S. military.


When the insurgency took hold in postwar Iraq, Shinseki's comments and their public rejection by the civilian leadership were often cited by those who felt the Bush administration deployed too few troops to Iraq. On 15 November 2006, in testimony before Congress, CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid said that General Shinseki had been correct that more troops were needed.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster)
Bronze Star Medal with "Valor" Device and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
Meritorious Service Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal

Badges and Tabs

Parachutist Badge
Ranger Tab
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

In Retirement

Shinseki has served as a director for several corporations: Honeywell International and Ducommun, military contractors; Grove Farm Corporation; First Hawaiian Bank; and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.

He is a member of the Advisory Boards at the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and to the U.S. Comptroller General. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council of the U.S., and the Association of the U.S. Army.

On 7 December 2008, then-President-elect Barack Obama announced at a Chicago press conference that once in office, he would nominate Shinseki to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on 20 January 2009 and sworn in the next day.

Honoree ID: 328   Created by: MHOH




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