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General Frederick Kroesen Biography

Born in February 1923 in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Frederick Kroesen spent his boyhood and high-school years in that state. He had wanted to attend West Point, but was unable to secure a Congressional appointment, so he went to Rutgers University where he participated in its ROTC program. Called to active duty as an enlisted man in 1943, he went through six months of basic training. He then attended the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning and was commissioned a second lieutenant in August 1944. He soon found himself in Europe leading a platoon in the 63rd Division (“Blood and Fire”) and taking part in the campaigns that led to the final defeat of the German army.

It was the first of a long series of military assignments, a series that spanned four decades and that featured commands at all levels of the Army. After two company commands in Europe and the passage of a few years of peace, he found himself in Korea, where he commanded a battalion in the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. Fifteen years later he was serving his first of two tours in Vietnam in command of the 196th Infantry Brigade, part of the 23rd Infantry Division (“Americal”). During his second tour in Vietnam, General Kroesen commanded both that division and, later, the First Regional Assistance Command. During the post-Vietnam, Cold War years, he served as Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division in North Carolina, the VII Corps in Germany, and Forces Command in Georgia. Finally, after an assignment as Vice Chief off Staff of the Army, he took his last active-duty job, that of Commander in Chief, US Army, Europe (CINCUSAREUR) and Commander in Central Army Group (CENTAG), NATO.

He was wounded during each of the four wars in which he served, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. He sustained the last of these wounds in an assassination attempt in Heidelberg, Germany, by a Kommando of the Red Army Faction in September 1981. He was 59 years old.

General Kroesen’s style of leadership has inspired the respect and loyalty of thousands who have known him or served under him. His philosophy of command is simple and direct. In every assignment, from platoon leader to Army Commander, he issued mission orders and refused to “micromanage” his subordinates. Furthermore, he encouraged those below him in the chain of command, officers and NCOs alike, to lead in the same way.

During the more than two decades since retiring from active duty, General Kroesen has continued to serve. His speeches, including ones at the World War II Memorial and at the Holocaust Museum, have inspired listeners both in and out of uniform. His service for the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) is cited in the numerous awards he has received at the national and chapter level of that organization. His extensive writing on military subjects, especially for Army Magazine, has been insightful and wise.

He and his wife Rowene live in Alexandria, Virginia.