Herbert McChrystal, Army major general, dies at 89

Posted Dec. 15, 2013, at 1:25 p.m.

Herbert McChrystal Jr., a retired Army major general who was a highly decorated combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, died Dec. 10 at his home in Kingsport, Tenn. He was 89.

He had heart and respiratory ailments, said his son Stanley McChrystal, a retired Army general who commanded U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan and also led the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.

The elder McChrystal grew up with a military legacy, as the son and grandson of Army officers, and was a 1945 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. All five of his sons went on to serve in the Army, and his daughter is married to a West Point graduate.

As a young soldier, McChrystal served with U.S. occupation forces in Germany after World War II. Later, while commanding combat units in the Korean and Vietnam wars, he was awarded the Silver Star four times for battlefield valor — once in Korea and three times in Vietnam.

During his second tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968, he was chief of staff for the 4th Infantry Division.

In the early 1970s, McChrystal served at the Pentagon as director of the Planning and Program Analysis Directorate, where he worked closely with a then-little-known officer named Colin Powell, who later became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state.

In his 1995 autobiography, “My American Journey,” Powell wrote that he had an undesirable Pentagon assignment until “I was rescued by an impressive officer, Major General Herbert J. McChrystal Jr.”

McChrystal’s final active-duty assignment was leading the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command at Fort Hood, Texas. He retired in 1974 as a two-star general. In addition to his Silver Stars, his decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two awards of the Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

Herbert Joseph McChrystal Jr. was born May 30, 1924, in the Panama Canal Zone and grew up on military bases where his father, an Army colonel, was posted. He completed high school in Pullman, Wash., before entering West Point in 1942. He graduated in three years as part of an accelerated wartime program.

McChrystal was based in the Washington area off and on from the late-1950s to the late-1970s and attended specialized military and diplomatic training programs. He was a consultant to the RAND Corp. for several years after his military retirement.

After moving to Florida in 1977, McChrystal taught computer courses at the Florida Institute of Technology, from which he received a master of business administration degree in 1981. He later operated a logistics consulting firm with his wife. He had been a resident of Kingsport since 2001.

His first wife, the former Mary Bright, died in 1971 after 23 years of marriage. A second marriage, to Gailey Smith, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 38 years, Nedra Rutledge McChrystal of Kingsport and six children from his first marriage, retired Army Col. Herbert “Scott” McChrystal III, a former infantry officer who later served for seven years as senior chaplain of the U.S. Military Academy, of Springfield, Mo.; Elizabeth “Betsy” Brinker of Eastover, N.C.; David McChrystal of Manassas; retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal of Alexandria, Va.; Peter McChrystal of Melbourne, Fla.; and William McChrystal of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Survivors also include a stepdaughter, Charlotte Oliver of Kingsport; a sister; 21 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

Four of McChrystal’s grandsons are West Point graduates. Three are serving with the Army in Afghanistan, and another grandson is working with a private organization in Afghanistan.

 

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