Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Crowe Dies at 82

Story Number: NNS071018-06Release Date: 10/18/2007 5:56:00 PM
A  A  A   Email this story to a friend   Print this story
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William J. Crowe Jr. died Oct. 18 at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He was 82.

Crowe served as chairman from 1985 to 1989 under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

His Navy career spanned the entirety of the Cold War, from his entry to the service following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946 to his retirement as the highest-ranking officer in the military in 1989 as the Soviet Union began to crumble.

"Every man and woman of the U.S. military joins me in mourning the death of retired Admiral William Crowe, Vietnam and Cold War veteran and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," said Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We extend humbly to his family our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies in their time of grief and sorrow.

"As we mourn his passing, so too should we reflect on his contributions to our national security -- of the thousands of lives he guided, the careers he mentored, the difference he made simply by virtue of his leadership," Mullen continued. "We are a stronger, more capable military today in large part because of his efforts to make us so. We would all do well to remember that and to never forget the remarkable legacy of this truly humble, truly noble man."

The Soviet Union and terrorism dominated Crowe's tenure as chairman. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced perestroika and glasnost -- literally, "restructuring" and "openness" -- to his nation. Gorbachev meant for the policies to strengthen the Soviet Union and make the country economically competitive with the West.

The openness that Gorbachev wanted included military relations. Crowe was at the epicenter of these changes. The admiral hosted Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergei Akhromeyev during a visit to the Pentagon in 1987. Akhromeyev, the chief of the Soviet General Staff, even attended a meeting with the Joint Chiefs in "The Tank," the secure room the chiefs use to discuss military matters.

Crowe also confronted the plague of terrorism. Palestinian terrorists were active, with the most famous terrorist act being the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. Navy fighters intercepted an Egyptian airliner flying the terrorists to safety and forced the plane to land in Sicily, where Italian authorities took the men into custody.

In addition, Crowe confronted the threat posed by Libya's Muammar Qadhafi. The state sponsored terrorism and proclaimed a "Line of Death" in the Mediterranean's Gulf of Sidra. On April 5, 1986, the oil-rich nation sponsored terrorists who bombed a disco in West Berlin, killing two soldiers and a Turkish woman. Ten days later, U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft attacked military targets in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Crowe was a devotee of the TV show "Cheers," and played himself in a short appearance on the hit show.

A career submariner, Crowe was born in Kentucky and grew up in Oklahoma City. Following graduation from the Naval Academy, he served aboard the USS Carmick, USS Flying Fish and USS Clamagore. He was executive officer of the USS Wahoo and commanded the USS Trout from 1960 to 1962.

At 44, Crowe volunteered to serve in Vietnam as the senior advisor to the South Vietnamese Riverine Force from 1970 to 1971.

Crowe became a rear admiral in 1973 and held a number of staff jobs in the Pentagon before becoming the commander of the Middle East Force in Bahrain in 1976. After pinning on his fourth star, Crowe commanded Allied Forces Southern Europe from 1980 to 1983 and then served as commander in chief of U.S. Pacific Command in 1983.

Crowe was the first chairman to serve under the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act of 1986. The act made the chairman the principal military advisor to the president, defense secretary and the rest of the National Security Council.

Along the way, Crowe received a master's degree from Stanford University and a doctorate from Princeton.

After his retirement, Crowe served as U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom and on the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Crowe taught political science at the Naval Academy. His book "The Line of Fire" was a memoir of his time in the military.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Shirley, his daughter, Bambi, and his sons, Brent and Blake.

For more news from around the fleet, visit

Navy file photo of Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
071018-N-0000X-001 Navy file photo of Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Crowe served as chairman from 1985 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. He passed away Oct. 18 at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)
October 18, 2007
Navy Social Media
Sign up for email updates To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please click on the envelope icon in the page header above or click Subscribe to Navy News Service.