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The first-ever biography of a remarkably unconventional “riches to rags and then back to riches” American success story: how a European prince-turned-stateless-penniless-WWII refugee became the highest-ranking officer in the world's most powerful military by developing an unusual personal philosophy toward human interaction.

How did a stateless European WWII refugee become the 13th chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993-97), America's top general and principal military advisor to the president?


Andrew Marble's biography answers this question through lively character study. It first brings to life how the Poland-born John Shalikashvili (1936-2011) actually descended from aristocratic European bloodlines that served with distinction in both battle and government for centuries. Yet during WWII, after barely surviving the Warsaw Uprising, his family fled to Germany to live off the charity of relatives. Sheer luck then brought them to Peoria, Illinois, where he was drafted in the Army, and would face both golden opportunities and punishing obstacles.


Boy on the Bridge illuminates the ways Shalikashvili's Old and New World experiences would combine to create an unconventional leadership style—one based on expertise, humility, straightforwardness, empathy, and collaboration. This softer approach to human interaction surprisingly made him adept at resolving and especially preventing destructive conflict, thereby moving him steadily up the ranks.


By perfecting this leadership style, Shalikashvili was able to play a central role in guiding the US, Europe, and beyond safely through the chaos of the immediate post–Cold War world. Like how, while representing Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Colin Powell, he helped secure “loose nukes” in the former Soviet republics. Or how as a four star serving first as NATO's top military leader and then as the Joint Chiefs chairman himself, Shalikashvili played a central role in the Clinton administration's Partnership for Peace initiative and NATO enlargement program of the 1990s.


Written in an engaging narrative-non-fiction style that keeps names, dates, and jargon to a minimum and creatively uses flashbacks and jumpforwards to make important causal connections, this biography seeks first and foremost to “show” who he was, not “tell.” And given Shalikashvili was notoriously tight-lipped, it relies heavily on others to do the showing. By portraying the thoughts and actions of his parents, grandmother, and great aunt under the stress of wartime, for instance, it captures how genes, upbringing, and childhood experiences influenced his rise up the ranks.


The multiple Old and New World story lines that appear at different places throughout the book are drawn inexorably together at book's end. There, through a series of unexpected revelations that emerge around Shalikashvili's confirmation for the post, readers will discover the deepest motivators--both benevolent and malevolent--that spurred John Shalikashvili's underdog American success: becoming the first immigrant, first draftee, and first Officer Candidate School graduate to serve as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Shalikashvili and his biographer, four months before the general's passing. (March 2011)

"Using evocative storytelling, Boy on the Bridge offers us a long-overdue look at my long-time friend, fellow immigrant, and inspirational American soldier-statesman, John Shalikashvili.


Shali's dramatic Old World roots helped him forge a post-Cold War environment in which European and Central Asian regions, long embroiled in conflict, acheived stability and eventual peace. He was a master in determining what needs to be done and what is doable."



- Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Nicholas Krawciw

US Army


University Press of Kentucky

Assoc. of the United States Army American Warriors Series

ISBN 978-0-8131-7802-8

366 pages

Pubdate: 10/15/2019  

6 x 9  

42 b&w photos, 2 maps, 1 figure


for the latest on the biography and the author

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American Warrior Series

BOY ON THE BRIDGE

THE STORY OF JOHN SHALIKASHVILI'S AMERICAN SUCCESS

by ANDREW MARBLE, PhD

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