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2009 Distinguished Graduate Award

GEN (R) Donn Albert Starry '48

General Donn A. Starry’s service to our nation – as a soldier, leader, mentor, scholar, visionary, author and businessman – gives true meaning to the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. During 40 years of military service he was respected as a leader of limitless energy, great vision, and love for the American soldier. Excelling as a warrior, military intellectual, and trainer, General Starry personified character, competence, and commitment. Following military retirement he continued to serve the Army and the nation as a defense industry leader, mentor of rising officers, prolific author, and accomplished lecturer.

After graduating with the Class of 1948, Donn Starry was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Transportation Corps but successfully branch transferred to Armor. He initially served with the 63rd Heavy Tank Battalion, 1st Infantry Division in Germany from 1949 to 1952, and later as the Aide-de-Camp for the Commanding General of the 3rd Armored Division at Ft. Knox from 1952 to 1953. After attending the advanced course at The Armor School in 1954, he was assigned to the 8th Army in Korea from 1954 to 1955 as an intelligence officer. Following additional schooling and staff assignments, he commanded the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor, 3rd Armored Division from 1962 to 1964 with excellent results. He attended the Armed Forces Staff College in 1965 and the Army War College in 1966, where he also earned a Master of Science in Political Science from George Washington University.

From 1966 to 1967 LTC Starry served with distinction at Headquarters, United States Army, Vietnam where he earned the Legion of Merit and Army Commendation Medal. After a tour with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense in 1968, he returned to Vietnam in 1969 with the Headquarters, Military Assistant Command, Vietnam where he earned the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. In 1970 Colonel Starry assumed command of the 11th Armed Cavalry Regiment, the premier armored force in Vietnam. He led the Blackhorse Regiment on the historic Cambodian incursion where he proved to be tactically brilliant, inspiring to his subordinates, and courageous while leading from the front. Seriously wounded while saving the life of another officer, Colonel Starry was awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldiers Medal, Bronze Star Medal for Valor, Purple Heart, and nine Air Medals.

Following high level staff assignments with Department of the Army from 1970 to 1973, General Starry commanded The Armor School and Ft. Knox from 1973 to 1976. He subsequently commanded V Corps in Germany from 1976 to 1977, where his depth and breadth of strategic and tactical knowledge significantly contributed to the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

General Starry served as Commanding General of Training and Doctrine Command from 1977 to 1981. Perhaps first among his many contributions was his role as the architect of AirLand Battle – the doctrinal basis for the Army of today. In concert with that work, he directed the efforts to create the National Training Center where the tactics, techniques and procedures of AirLand Battle could be practiced against a well trained Opposing Force. General Starry was also instrumental in the fielding of the Abrams Tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, and the Patriot Missile System. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his tireless efforts.

In 1981 General Starry was assigned as Commander-in-Chief, US Readiness Command in Tampa, Florida. His leadership, vision, and mastery of modern warfare would earn him respect from all branches of the military. Upon his retirement in 1983, he was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. Having served with distinction in war and peace, his contributions made an indelible impact on virtually every facet of Army life.

Following military retirement General Starry served on the Defense Science Board and the Army Science Board, bringing his strategic and tactical acumen to bear on a wide range of problems confronting the nation. As vice president and, later, executive vice president of Ford Aerospace and Chairman of the Board of Maxwell Technologies and, later, Universal Voltronics, he pursued solutions to problems he had identified while on active duty. He was Chairman of the Board of the US Cavalry Association and was selected as one of the handful of those honored on the Armor Center’s International Commanders Wall at Fort Knox. General Starry was inducted into the Command and General Staff College Hall of Fame at Fort Leavenworth and the Joint Forces Staff College Hall of Fame at Norfolk.

Donn Starry’s legacy – demonstrated so vividly in the performance of America’s Army in some of the most daunting tactical challenges it has ever faced – will be felt for decades to come. His selfless and inspired service to the nation reflects the nature and value of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2009 Distinguished Graduate Award to Donn A. Starry.