William Hamilton " Dr. Kissinger: A tour-de-force
February 10, 2009
Writing in the Feb. 6 edition of the International Herald Tribune, Dr. Henry Kissinger opines that nuclear weapons remain the greatest threat to humankind. Specifically, he points to the burgeoning nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea as threats that must be confined to peaceful uses or eliminated. Dr. Kissinger is a man of many parts whom I first met in 1965.
In 1965, after completing the Infantry Officers Career Course that included such luminaries as Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins, chairman-to-be of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, and the first to win the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, Roger Donlon, yours truly was assigned to the Infantry School staff. One of my many duties was to arrange for the speakers for the Infantry School’s celebrated guest-speaker program.
The opportunity to speak to a large group of infantry captains, some of whom, like Dawkins and Powell, would rise to general officer rank and rise further to the highest levels of civilian service, was not taken lightly by the defense establishment’s movers and shakers. (Currently, the name of the Career Course has been changed to Maneuver Officers Career Course.)
My duties also required me to act as aide-de-camp to our most senior guest speakers. So, for the two years before I went to Vietnam, I was temporary aide-de-camp to every flag officer and to every cabinet officer whose visits I helped arrange.
One day, in 1965, my boss, Lt. Col. Don Lanier, told me to arrange for Dr. Henry Kissinger to speak to the Career Course captains about Professor Kissinger’s book: Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. When my calls to Dr. Kissinger’s Harvard office got nowhere, Col. Lanier suggested that I contact Kissinger’s mentor, Dr. Fritz G.A. Kraemer.
Back when Lt. Kraemer headed an intelligence team in Germany at the end of WW II, he discovered Private First Class Henry A. Kissinger. After the war, Kraemer got Kissinger enrolled at Harvard and the rest, as they say, is history.
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Fortunately, I already knew Dr. Kraemer. He offered a deal: If the Infantry School would pick up the tab, Dr. Kraemer, Dr. Kissinger and Dr. Helmut Sonnenfeld (a State Department expert on the USSR) would all come to Ft. Benning and spend three days lecturing to the Career Course captains. My cup runneth over.
Unfortunately, after the airline connections for the Drs. Kraemer, Kissinger and Sonnenfeld merged in Atlanta, their connecting flight to Columbus, Ga., was delayed. The threesome repaired to the bar. About midnight, when Col. Lanier and I met them at the Columbus Municipal Airport, all three had been celebrating the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the point that they could no longer speak English.
Fortunately, Col. Lanier (whose wife was German) and I (fairly recently back from three years in Germany) were up to task of getting the tipsy, Teutonic threesome to the VIP quarters at Marshall House.
Unfortunately, Dr. Kissinger had taken a shine to Col. Lanier and to me. He produced a bottle of Napoleon brandy. He insisted that we stay into the wee hours to hear their tales of the previous administration’s military misadventures. Kissinger could have had a brilliant career as a stand-up comedian.
More unfortunate was my task to get the three of them up and fed in time to be on the speaker’s platform at 0900 hours. Believe me, a hungover Henry Kissinger you don’t want to meet. I feared my well-laid plans were turning into a tour-de-farce.
Amazingly, the three of them put on three hours of absolutely brilliant discourse about the relationship between nuclear weapons and foreign policy. The Career Course captains were enthralled. That afternoon, the threesome split up to conduct individual seminars. They filled the next two mornings with more plenary sessions. In all, the three days were a tour-de-force. Whew.
During all those aide-de-camp experiences, I learned “the bigger they are, the nicer they are,” to include Henry Kissinger, but only after a few aspirin.
” William Hamilton is a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today. Dr. Hamilton is a retired Army officer who studied at Harvard’s JFK School of Government and was an assistant professor of history and political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University.
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