Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr., as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

June 21, 1982

Well, first, let me congratulate General Vessey, our nation's new and 10th Chairman -- I should have said ``10th'' and not just ``new'' -- 10th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And he's a ``10'' all right. [Laughter] When I announced General Vessey's appointment last March, I referred to him as a soldier's soldier. That characterization was on the mark, but it was also something of an understatement.

After being called to active duty in 1941, Jack Vessey received a battlefield commission at the Anzio beachhead in 1944. He commanded forces in the United States and Europe, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. And still, given the way things are in this town, I have a feeling his new assignment will be the most hair-raising of them all. [Laughter] General, with all the flak you'll be getting, it might be a good idea to start wearing a helmet again. [Laughter] But our new man possesses that unique blend of the seasoned combat leader and the perceptive strategist, a blend that makes him a true soldier-statesman and worthy of the title Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Vessey, in selecting a man of your caliber we also honor your profession and all those with whom you serve. And perhaps this is a good time to recognize General Bolte, who was your Division Commander in Italy during World War II and who is here. General, it's nice to have you here. General Bolte, thank you for turning out such a fine soldier as Jack Vessey.

In my speech at the United Nations last Thursday, I reminded the world of the words of a former Army Chief of Staff, Dwight Eisenhower, who said that ``our foreign policy is not difficult to state. We are for peace first, last, and always. . . .'' The truth of those words can't be challenged, but it's especially fitting for a former soldier to have said them. No one wants peace more than the soldier, for the soldier understands better than anyone the pain and destruction of war. And I know that General Vessey must carry inside him the sorrows of buddies lost on foreign fields and the memories of young men under his command who never returned home.

But as the general would tell you, peace cannot be secured by words or hopes alone. The United States has a dual approach to international stability. On the one hand, we're committed to strengthening our defense readiness and military capabilities. At the same time, we also hope to enhance our security through negotiations on intermediate-range missiles, on strategic nuclear weapons, on the prevention of accidental war, and on conventional force reductions. And I'm proud of that agenda for peace.

General Vessey, as my principal military adviser I'll look to you and the other members of the Joint Chiefs for counsel on how best to achieve our unselfish goals. But my additional command to you is, keep us strong, keep us ready, so that we may keep the peace. Good luck, and congratulations.

And I shall now turn you over to the Secretary.

Note: The President spoke at 3:35 p.m. at the ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. Following his remarks, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger administered the oath of office to General Vessey.