Hugh Shelton

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H. Hugh Shelton
General Henry Shelton, official portrait 2.jpg
Shelton, U.S. Army
Born (1942-01-02) 2 January 1942 (age 79)
Tarboro, North Carolina, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1963–2001
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
United States Special Operations Command
XVIII Airborne Corps
82nd Airborne Division
Battles/warsVietnam War
Invasion of Panama
Gulf War
Operation Uphold Democracy
War on Terror
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (4, with "V" Device)
Purple Heart
Congressional Gold Medal

Henry Hugh Shelton (born 2 January 1942)[1] is a former United States Army officer who served as the 14th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Shelton was born in Tarboro, North Carolina.[2] Shelton attended North Carolina State University,[1] and was a member of Pershing Rifles. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in textile engineering[1] while earning his Army commission through Reserve Officers' Training Corps training. Shelton's further education includes a Master of Science degree in political science from Auburn University at Montgomery[1] in 1973 as well as studies at the Air Command and Staff College and the National War College.[3] Shelton married Carolyn L. Johnson in 1963; the pair have three sons together.[3]

Military service[edit]

Shelton served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War[1] with the 5th Special Forces Group, and with the 173rd Airborne Brigade,[4] followed by a series of command and staff assignments. Following the Gulf War, Shelton commanded the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg in his home state of North Carolina.[1] In 1993, he was given command of XVIII Airborne Corps.[1] Shelton led the Joint Task Force responsible for Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti in 1994.[4] In 1996, Shelton, a Special Forces soldier, was promoted to the rank of general and the position of Commander in Chief of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). He was the first Graduate of the U.S. Army Special Forces Program to command SOCOM.

Upon the retirement of John M. Shalikashvili, Shelton was appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President Bill Clinton and Secretary of Defense William Cohen on 1 October 1997.[5]

Shelton led the planning of the Kosovo War in 1999 during his time in office. Later he coined the phrase "Dover test", testing the support for a war based on the reaction of the people after seeing American casualties returning at the Dover Air Force Base.[6] During the events of 11 September 2001, Shelton was flying on-board Boeing C-135 Speckled Trout, traveling to a NATO meeting in Europe, but turned back and returned to Washington.[7][8] Upon entering the United States Airspace, the C-135 flew past the World Trade Center so Shelton was able to assess the situation following the attack.[7] Already scheduled to retire in October, Shelton spent his last weeks in office coordinating military plans to destroy al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan and helping to develop an interagency strategy to defeat, disrupt, and degrade terrorist activities around the world. These would form the basis of Operation Enduring Freedom and the global War on Terror.[8] Upon Shelton's end of term, President George W. Bush nominated then-Vice Chairman Air Force General Richard Myers, who was sworn in on 1 October 2001.

Post-military career[edit]

In 2002 Shelton founded the General Hugh Shelton Leadership Center at North Carolina State University. The center was created to "inspire, educate, and develop values-based leaders, both locally and globally, committed to personal integrity, professional ethics, and selfless service."

In his retirement, Shelton joined the Board of Directors of Red Hat in April 2003, and was elected that board's chairman in 2010.[9][10] He also holds directorships at Anheuser Busch, Anteon International and Protective Products of America. At his alma mater of North Carolina State University, the General Hugh Shelton Leadership Center was founded in 2002, which grants scholarships to people who are committed to personal integrity, professional ethics, and selfless service.[11]

Shelton also served as an advisor to Senator John Edwards' presidential campaign from 2003 to 2004.[12] Shelton created a minor controversy for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, a subordinate of Shelton's during the 1999 Kosovo military actions, when he stated: "I will tell you the reason [Clark] came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote," casting doubt upon Clark's candidacy.[12][13]

On 1 March 2008, Shelton announced his endorsement of Senator Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, stating, "I've been with Senator Clinton when she has been with our military men and women. I know from those experiences that she understands the demands and sacrifice of military life. I am confident she will always put the readiness and well being of our troops first. She is ready to be Commander-in-Chief." Shelton was the second Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to endorse Clinton, the first being General John Shalikashvili.[14]

On 12 October 2010, Shelton published his autobiography, Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior, along with coauthors Ron Levinson and Malcolm McConnell.[15] An excerpt tells the story of a high-ranking Clinton Cabinet member proposing that Shelton intentionally allow an American pilot to be killed by the Iraqis to have an excuse to retaliate and go to war.[16] The book also tells of Bill Clinton's tearful confession to Shelton;[17] a time during the Clinton administration when a close Clinton aide lost possession of the biscuit (top secret presidential nuclear launch authorization codes);[18] details of a contentious Camp David meeting among George W. Bush and his National Security Council immediately after 9/11, where internal battle lines were drawn.[19] His book also says there were multiple attempts to kill Osama bin Laden that were shot down by Madeleine Albright.

On 27 August 2010, a statue of Shelton was unveiled and dedicated at the Airborne Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, NC. The statue was commissioned and donated by H. Ross Perot.[20]

On 24 October 2010, Shelton appeared on This Week with Christiane Amanpour, on 6 December 2010, on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and on 30 December 2010, on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS and Bloomberg TV, to promote the publication of his memoir.[21]

On 20 October 2012, Shelton was honored at the 6th Annual Brian & Kendra's Bluegrass Party in Speed, North Carolina. He was presented with a Distinguished Achievements plaque and a roadside display at the entrance of Speed, honoring his hometown and acknowledging his achievements.

Shelton and his wife, Carolyn, established the Hugh and Carolyn Shelton Military Neurotrauma Foundation in 2005 to fund research into traumatic brain injury among military personnel.[22]

Dates of rank[edit]

Rank Date
US Army O1 shoulderboard rotated.svg Second lieutenant September 19, 1964*
US Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant January 7, 1965
US Army O3 shoulderboard rotated.svg Captain March 19, 1967
US Army O4 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major February 7, 1974
US Army O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel November 6, 1978
US Army O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel October 1, 1983
US Army O7 shoulderboard rotated.svg Brigadier general August 1, 1988
US Army O8 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major general October 1, 1991
US Army O9 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant general June 7, 1993
US Army O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General March 1, 1996

* - Date of rank adjusted for time not spent on active duty. Receipt of officer's commission in June 1963.


Decorations and badges[edit]

Shelton's decorations and medals include:

Combat Infantry Badge.svg
Master Parachutist badge (United States).svg
Einzelbild Special Forces (Special Forces Insignia).svg Ranger Tab.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oak leaf cluster
"V" device, brass.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Award numeral 2.png Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Pathfinder.gif USAF - Occupational Badge - High Altitude Low Opening.svg
Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg AirAssault.svg
United States Navy Parachutist Badge.png BW Sonderabzeichen Fallschirmspringer.png
Badge Combat Infantryman Badge
Badge Master Parachutist Badge
Badge Special Forces Tab Ranger Tab
1st Row Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 3 oak leaf clusters Distinguished Service Medal w/ 2 oak leaf clusters
2nd Row Awards Legion of Merit w/ 1 oak leaf clusters Bronze Star w valor device & 3 oak leaf clusters Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal w/ 2 oak leaf clusters
3rd Row Awards Air Medal w/ "2" device Army Commendation Medal w/ 3 oak leaf clusters National Defense Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
4th Row Awards Vietnam Service Medal w/ 4 bronze service star Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Army Service Ribbon Army Overseas Service Ribbon
5th Row Awards Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ bronze star Vietnam Campaign Medal Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal
Badge Pathfinder Badge Military Free Fall Parachute Badge
Badge Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge Air Assault Badge
Badge Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia German Parachutist Badge in bronze
Badge 504th Infantry Regiment Distinctive unit insignia
Unit Awards US Army Presidential Unit Citation US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Unit Awards Meritorious Unit Commendation Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation

Other Recognition[edit]

In 1998, Shelton received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council members General Colin L. Powell and General John M. Shalikashvili.[24][25]

2002 General Henry H. Shelton Congressional Gold Medal front.jpg

In 2002, Shelton received the Congressional Gold Medal. The citation says, "Throughout his 38 years of service to his country, his ascent through the ranks of the Army, two tours in Vietnam and duty in Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Shelton has carried with him the North Carolina values of service, sacrifice, love of family, faith in God and devotion to country."[26]

In 2011, The Command and General Staff College Foundation presented retired General Hugh Shelton with the Foundation's 2011 Distinguished Leadership Award.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Biography of Henry Hugh Shelton". Associated Press; The Dispatch. 21 September 1994. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Who Did That Sign Say?" p. 4 Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b Stout, David (17 September 1997). "Man in the News: Henry Hugh Shelton; General Who Sets Pace". NY Times. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Ex-Joint Chiefs chair undergoes spinal surgery". CNN. 29 May 2002. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  5. ^ Stout, David (17 September 1997). "Man in the News: Henry Hugh Shelton; General Who Sets Pace". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 November 2021. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Time to take the Dover test". CNN. 3 November 2003. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  7. ^ a b Shelton, Hugh (12 October 2010). Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312599058.
  8. ^ a b "Joint Chiefs of Staff > About > the Joint Staff > Chairman > General Henry Hugh Shelton".
  9. ^ "General Hugh Shelton Elected Chairman of Red Hat Board of Directors". Red Hat, INc. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  10. ^ Alan M. Wolf (30 August 2010). "Red Hat names Gen. Shelton as chairman". News & Observer (Raleigh). Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  11. ^ "About Us".
  12. ^ a b Arkin, William (7 December 2003). "The General Unease With Wesley Clark". LA Times. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Los Altos Town Crier – Gen. Shelton shocks Celebrity Forum, says he won't support Clark for president". 24 September 2003. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 2 March 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "General Hugh Shelton – News". 30 August 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  16. ^[bare URL]
  17. ^ "Bill Clinton Wept Over the Monica Lewinsky Scandal – Washington Whispers (". 4 October 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  18. ^ Lauren Frayer Contributor (7 December 1941). "General: Clinton Lost 'The Biscuit' – Nuclear Codes". Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  19. ^ Tencer, Daniel (13 October 2010). "Ex-top soldier: Iraq war 'fiasco' due to Rumsfeld's 'lies'". Raw Story. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  20. ^ "100827-02 Gen. Hugh Shelton statue dedicated at ASOM". 27 August 2010. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2010.
  21. ^ "Gen. Shelton on Jon Stewart: Extended Interview With Opinions on WikiLeaks, Iran, DADT". 7 December 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  22. ^ "The Hugh and Carolyn Shelton Military Neurotrauma Foundation". The Hugh and Carolyn Shelton Military Neurotrauma Foundation. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  23. ^ The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949-2016 (PDF) (3 ed.). Joint History Office. 21 June 2019. p. 205. ISBN 978-1075301711.
  24. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  25. ^ "Gen. Colin Powell Biography Photo". 1998. At the 1998 Achievement Summit in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, four Academy members and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: General John M. Shalikashvili, USA (the Academy's Class of 1994), General David C. Jones, USAF (Class of 1979), General Henry (Hugh) Shelton, USA (Class of 1998) and General Colin L. Powell, USA (Class of 1988).
  26. ^ DeNardo, Christina; Associated Press (20 September 2002). "Congressional Gold Medal: Patriotism embodied". The Fayetteville Observer.
  27. ^ "Throwback Thursday: Gen. Hugh Shelton receives CGSC Foundation's Distinguished Leadership Award". Command and General Staff College Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2020.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by