The West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) has named the 1992 recipients of the Distinguished Graduate Award. This annual award has been bestowed upon those West Point graduates whose character, distinguished service, and stature draw wholesome comparison to the qualities for which West Point strives, in keeping with its motto: “Duty, Honor, Country.” The 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients are:
GEN James A. Van Fleet, USA (Ret.) ’15
As a military commander, educator. and statesman, James Alward Van Fleet has rendered a lifetime of extraordinary service to the United States, to the international community of freedom loving nations and to his fellow citizens. In successive positions of increasing responsibility in the national interest, General Van Fleet has exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy – Duty, Honor, Country.
General Van Fleet’s contributions to the security of the United States and the western world are without parallel among living American soldiers. His 38 years of military service are replete with extraordinary accomplishment. In World War I he was twice cited for gallantry as he led the 17th Machine Gun Battalion in the final Allied offensive that ended the war. In World War II he led his regiment in the D-Day assault of Utah Beach. Later in the Allied counter-offensive in the Ardennes, he commanded the 90th Division, spearheading the Third Army drive to relieve the embattled defenders of Bastogne. VE. Day found General Van Fleet commanding the III Corps in the final drive to destroy the German Army.
During the turbulent years immediately following World War II, President Truman called upon General Van Fleet to serve as the Chief United States Military Advisor to a beleaguered Greek nation, verging on collapse in its struggle against communist-led guerrillas. General Van Fleet’s unflagging energy, his superb military and political insight, and his ability to advise and influence a proud ally, led to the ultimate destruction of the communist insurgency and the salvation of Greece as a free nation.
During the Korean conflict, General Van Fleet again answered his nation’s call. Promoted to general, he was named commander of the Eighth Army. Under his dynamic and forceful leadership, United Nations forces halted the advancing enemy and in a brilliant campaign Or devastating offensive operations, forced the North Koreans and Chinese to the peace table.
In 1953, General Van Fleet retired from active military service. During his military career he was repeatedly recognized for his extraordinary accomplishments. His military decorations include: three Distinguished Service Crosses, four Distinguished Service Medals, three Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts. He has been decorated by eight foreign nations.
The full measure of General Van Fleet’s contribution to the nation is apparent in his continuing service to his fellow citizens. As a successful cattle rancher in Florida, in his literary contributions to the history of his era, as a founder and trustee of the George G. Marshall foundation and as advisor to Presidents his extraordinary services continue.
Throughout his lifetime of service to his country and to his fellow man, General Van Fleet has made lasting and invaluable contributions to the welfare and security of the United Stales and the nations of the free world. His life of selfless accomplishment exemplifies uncommon dedication and devotion to his country, is in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Army and clearly reflects the values expressed in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy hereby presents the 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award to General James A. Van Fleet.
GEN Matthew B. Ridgway, USA (Ret.) ’17
A distinguished soldier who has led American and Allied troops in every theatre of action and at every level of command in peace and in combat, Matthew Bunker Ridgway has served his country with courage, steadfast dedication to duty, and a high sense of honor over a career spanning 38 years and three major wars.
Less than two months after graduating from the Military Academy in April 1917, he commanded a company of the 3rd U.S. Infantry. Returning to West Point in 1918, Captain Ridgway taught Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, served as an instructor in the Department of Tactics, and held the appointment of Graduate Manager of Athletics for three years.
During the years between the world wars, Matthew Ridgway served in command and staff positions with the 15th, 9th, and 33rd Infantry Regiments, and with Second and Fourth Armies. His government also called on him to perform many key assignments in South and Central America, working with the American Electoral mission to Nicaragua and Secretary of the Nicaraguan National Board of Elections; as Secretary of the Commission of Inquiry and Conciliation for Bolivia and Paraguay; and accompanying the Chief of Staff designate, General George C. Marshall on a mission to Brazil in 1939.
From the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff in 1942, Matthew Ridgway joined the 82nd Infantry Division. He reorganized this unit as our first airborne division, and then commanded the division through some of the most difficult fighting in World War ll. General Ridgway’s dynamic and outstanding leadership of the 82nd Airborne Division, and later, of the XVIII Airborne Corps, enabled American airborne troops to establish an enviable record of success in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes, and Central Europe.
Always with his troops at the point of heaviest combat, he was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, twice awarded the Silver Star, twice the Legion of Merit, twice the Distinguished Service Medal, twice the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor, and he was also wounded in action.
At the end of the war, General Ridgway commanded the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations. He then served as the United States Army Representative to the United Nations Military Staff Commission and as Senior United States Delegate to the Inter-American Defense Board. These assignments were again followed by a command tour as Commander-in-Chief, Caribbean Command.
Recognized as the Army’s leading field commander, General Ridgway was relieved as Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Army and reassigned as Commanding General, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea in 1950. In 1951, he replaced General MacArthur as Commander in Chief, Far East Command and Supreme Commander for Allied Powers General Ridgway took command of an Army that has suffered serious reverses and whose morale was low. His inspired leadership and indomitable spirit brought hope where there had been none before; his vigor of mind and his presence at every critical action brought success to a revitalized Army.
A short tour as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe was followed by his final assignment on active duty, as Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
Following his retirement, General Ridgway worked tirelessly in the interests of a strong national defense; he has authored numerous articles and books that have alerted this nation to the dangers of military complacency.
General Matthew Ridgway’s life epitomizes the very finest qualities of the American soldier. He was steadfast in battle, dauntless and tough-minded in the face of adversity, and always honest and perceptive in performing his duty at the highest levels of command.
Throughout a military career that brought him to the pinnacle of his profession, he was dedicated to the principles and ideals that established this great nation. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes pride in presenting the 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award to Matthew Bunker Ridgway, Class of April 1917.
GEN Andrew J. Goodpaster, USA (Ret.) ’39
As a soldier, statesman, author on matters of National Defense, and respected advisor to four Presidents of the United States, Andrew Jackson Goodpaster has served his country with distinction during a career that began when he graduated from West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Engineers in 1939 In thirty-nine years of active military service, General Goodpaster was repeatedly called upon to fulfill positions of high responsibility and unparalleled importance to the Army and the nation.
Less than four years after graduation he commanded a Combat Engineer Battalion in North Africa and Italy in World War II. During this command assignment he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star and was twice wounded in action In 1944 he returned to the Joint War Plans Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he remained until 1947, when he left the Pentagon for three years at Princeton University. His studies resulted in the award of graduate degrees in civil engineering and political science, and a doctorate in international relations.
Four years of service with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe prepared him for a pivotal assignment as Staff Secretary and Defense Liaison Officer to the President of the United States. General Goodpaster’s seven years of service to President Eisenhower and President Kennedy gained him the trust and admiration of every member of the legislative and executive branches of the government with whom he came in contact. his diplomacy, his encyclopedic knowledge of military and Defense Department affairs, and his keen grasp of critical issues and international events significantly strengthened the Office of the Chief Executive during the height of the Cold War.
General Goodpaster returned to Europe to command the 8th Infantry Division before being recalled to the Pentagon to serve successively as Special Assistant (Policy) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of the Joint Staff.
His far-reaching knowledge of world affairs and his reputation as the Army’s most brilliant mind brought him assignments as the Senior U.S. Army Member, Military Staff Committee of the United Nations and as a member of the U.S. Delegation for Negotiations with North Vietnam in Paris. These additional duties occurred while he served full-time as Commandant of the National War College.
General Goodpaster was appointed Deputy Commander, U.S. MilitaryAssistance Command, Vietnam, a position he held for one year prior to his final active duty tour as Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. His five-year command of all allied forces in Europe came during a critical and unsettled period for the NATO alliance. Beset by internal problems and the threat of overwhelming superiority by Soviet and Eastern bloc ground forces, it was through General Goodpaster’s decisive leadership, organization skills, and unflagging dedication that NATO remained strong through the decade of the seventies.
In 1977, General Goodpaster was recalled to active duty to take the Superintendency of the United States Military Academy. Named by the Secretary of Defense and the Army as the one officer whose leadership ability and widely respected scholarship could solve the problems troubling the Military Academy, General Goodpaster once again answered his country’s call to duty. His four years as Superintendent at West Point were marked by a resurgence of the values that have ever maintained the U.S. Military Academy premier among universities and military colleges worldwide.
Among his many decorations, General Goodpaster was awarded the Army, Navy, and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals, two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, two Legion of Merits, and the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. In 1984, President Reagan presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to General Goodpaster.
The Association of Graduates echoes the words of President Reagan in stating that General Goodpaster’s work over a selfless career of public service has made a measurable contribution to the security and freedom of the United States and to the cause of peace. General Goodpaster’s professional life has epitomized the words of the West Point motto: “Duty, Honor, Country ” Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes pride in presenting the 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award to Andrew J Goodpaster, USMA Class of 1939.
Dr. Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. ’52
Throughout his forty years of public service, first as a lieutenant in the United States Army and then as one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons, Thoralf Mauritz Sundt, Jr. has consistently demonstrated his care and concern for his fellow man.
A 1952 graduate of the United States Military Academy, Dr. Sundt served as an engineer platoon leader and company commander with the 32nd Regimental Combat Team of the 7th Infantry Division in the Korean War, where he was decorated for valor. Two years later, when the Army refused his request for a leave of absence to attend medical school, he resigned from the service to pursue the study of medicine at the University of Tennessee-Memphis.
In 1964, Dr. Sundt completed his studies in the field of neurosurgery and neurology at the Mayo Clinic and embarked on his chosen profession, a course of action that would lead him to international prominence in the field of neurosurgery. In 1979, Dr. Sundt was named Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic.
A tireless and dedicated surgeon, Dr. Sundt has performed over 3,000 complicated neurological procedures and has also found time to author over 260 journal articles in the field of neurosurgery. His 1978 article, with Dr. Whisnant, in the New England Journal of Medicine is considered a classic in the field of open intracranial surgery on aneurysms.
In a career studded with honors, Dr. Sundt was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 1986 by the Mayo Fellow’s Association; he was named the outstanding alumnus of the University of Tennessee- Memphis College of Medicine in 1988; appointed Honorary President of the International Workshop on Intracranial Aneurysms in Atami, Japan in 1989, he received the Distinguished May Clinical Award in 1990; and he was awarded the Grass Prize Medal from the Society of Neurological Surgery in 1991. In 1989-1990 he served as Vice-Chairman of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, and also in 1989 he became editor of the Journal of Neurosurgery.
A creative and innovative thinker, Dr. Sundt has been lauded for his thoughtful devotion to patient care. He is one of the pioneers in the use of surgical microscopes in neurosurgery, and he has invented and designed numerous devices that have significantly reduced the dangers associated with delicate neurosurgical techniques.
As a soldier, as an outstanding surgeon, as a leader in advancing the frontiers of knowledge in neurosurgery, and as a humanitarian, Dr. Sundt has, by his every action and decision, upheld the motto of the Military Academy: “Duty, Honor, Country.”
For his extraordinary accomplishments in the field of medicine, for his courage and selfless dedication in the face of personal illness and pain, the Association of Graduates salutes Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. and is proud to award him the 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award.