Gen. Andrew Jackson Goodpaster, Jr. was a combat veteran of World War II and a staff aide to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower after the war as well as an adviser to President Eisenhower when he was in The White House. In the 1960s, Goodpaster was a deputy commander of U.S. forces in Viet Nam. He later stepped into Ike's former post of commander of NATO and Supreme Commander Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) from 1969 to 1974. A winner of the Medal of Freedom, he came out of retirement in 1977 at the request of President Carter to return to active duty as the 51st Commandant of his alma mater, West Point.
Goodpaster was born on Feb. 12, 1915 in Granite City, Illinois. Granite City is in southwest Madison County near the Mississippi River and north of East St. Louis. His father worked for the railroad. Goodpaster graduated from Granite City High School with the class of 1931 when he was only 16. He wanted to be a math teacher and began studies at McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois in the fall of 1931. McKendree is a beautiful campus of 100 acres and is the oldest college in Illinois having been founded in 1828 by the United Methodist Church. But Goodpaster had to drop out of college due to financial hard times during the Depression.
In 1935 at the age of 20, Goodpaster won an appointment to West Point and he graduated with the Class of 1939. Among some of his major assignments and decorations as a soldier the following were included according to the web site of Arlington National Cemetery:
"In World War II he was twice wounded while leading a combat engineer battalion in North Africa and Italy. In addition to two Purple Hearts, he was awarded the Army's second-highest decoration for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for making a reconnaissance under heavy fire through a minefield, and a Silver Star."