Admiral Crowe Dies at 82

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Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has died. He was 82. No cause of death was released. He served as the nation's top-ranking military officer under President Reagan during the waning days of the Cold War.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This morning we're remembering a military officer who won respect from Democrats and Republicans alike. Back in 1992, retired Admiral William Crowe endorsed Bill Clinton for president, despite questions about Clinton's lack of military service during Vietnam.

Years before that, his career was advanced when Crowe met a very different president, as NPR's defense correspondent Guy Raz reports.

GUY RAZ: In April 1984, President Ronald Reagan stopped off in Honolulu on his way to China. There he met the fairly obscure Admiral William Crowe. As legend has it, Reagan was so impressed by Crowe he told a colleague if we're ever going to need a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he's our man.

A year later, Crowe got the job and he launched a series of groundbreaking exchanges with his Soviet counterpart.

Admiral WILIAM CROWE (United States Navy): No American military leader wants war, and I suspect that that is true equally on the Soviet side.

RAZ: Crowe was a somewhat unlikely candidate to become chairman. He held three advanced degrees, and he once lamented what he called the anti-intellectual culture in the Navy. Indeed, he almost quit the Navy in the late 1960s when one of his superior officers accused him of engaging in original thinking. As chairman Crowe was widely respected, but his tenure was also marked by tragedy.

Unidentified Man: A message from Dubai air traffic control. An Iranian Airbus is presumed crashed.

RAZ: That day, July 3rd 1988, marked a low point in Crowe's career.

Adm. CROWE: We believe that the cruiser USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner over the Straits of Hormuz. The U.S. government deeply regrets this incident.

RAZ: Later in his life, Crowe would speak about that day and about the tragic error that killed all 290 passengers. After his retirement in 1989, Crowe went on to teach at the Naval Academy. He died Thursday, age 82, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Guy Raz, NPR News, Washington.

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Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Dead at 82

Retired Adm. William Crowe Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ambassador to Great Britain, died Thursday at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

Navy officials did not immediately release a cause of death for the 82-year-old.

"We lost a true hero last night ... a distinguished naval officer, diplomat, leader, mentor (who) served both Presidents Reagan and Bush," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, said at a Pentagon press conference.

At age 44, he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. Years later, as only the third admiral to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Crowe presided over the military conflict with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, the U.S. Navy's protection of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war and a groundbreaking series of meetings with his Soviet counterpart as the Cold War thawed in the late 1980s.

Born in La Grange, Ky, Crowe grew up in Oklahoma City, Okla.

In addition to having a degree from the naval academy, he had a master's degree in personnel administration from Stanford University and a masters and doctorate in politics from Princeton University.

President Reagan named him the 11th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1985. He turned down President George H.W. Bush's offer of a third two-year term and retired from the military in 1989.

But he did not stay in retirement. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him ambassador to Great Britain, where he served until 1997.

Crowe is survived by his wife, Shirley; his daughter, Bambi; and his sons, Brent and Blake.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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